CMO50 2016 #15: Leisa Bacon

  • Name Leisa Bacon
  • Title Director, audience and marketing
  • Company Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Commenced role March 2014
  • Reporting Line Managing director
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 125 people in audience and marketing, 9 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Media and entertainment
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    The ABC’s Leisa Bacon lists her proudest moment in the last 12 months as presenting the strategy for ‘Branding for a Digital Future’ to the board.

    “Not only was it the culmination of months of work by the whole team, but it positions the ABC strongly for the future, where our content will be found and accessed in completely different ways, and brands will increasingly act as signposts or quality marks, in third-party environments,” she tells CMO.

    It’s this transformative and disruptive thinking that Bacon has been seeking to bring to every aspect of marketing and audience leadership at Australia’s national broadcasting corporation over the past two-and-a-half years.

    Arguably, the biggest program of work has been around capturing and understanding increasingly fragmented audience activity and behaviours. To do this, Bacon has driven a ‘whole of audience’ measurement system to determine the impact the ABC on Australian lives.

    “One of the key pillars the ABC exec and board agreed on as shaping our future way of working is audience at the centre,” she explains.

    Live, interactive audience dashboards have been created to capture all data in one place, and look at every platform and relationship to see how audience journeys change throughout the day. All executives and teams now have access to real-time data on both their PC and mobile devices.

    An enormous project to push through, as data was traditionally kept separate between divisions, all executive teams are now on-board and have real-time data access. This has led to new KPIs to measure ABC impact and value, and it also saw the team build a community panel, ABC YourSpace, to stimulate ongoing feedback and generate input to products and content.

    “It is an important step in providing a dedicated place where audiences can have input on what they view or listen to across platforms and it provides the ‘small data’ to help make sense of the ‘big data’ we are collecting in the dashboards,” Bacon says.

    More from the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    Bacon points out that for many years, the ABC operated as a corporation with distinct business units, not leveraging the scale of a multi-platform broadcaster, who has the potential to reach 70 per cent of Australians in any single week. To overcome this, she’s led the development of tent pole marketing activities, a 12-month calendar of content collaborations which run across the ABC.

    “These enable us to leverage our significant media resources across TV, radio, news, regional, digital, commercial and international, against critical public initiatives, for the people of Australia,” she explains. “These showcase the breadth and depth of the ABC, and help to deliver our vision as the home of Australian stories, culture and conversations.”

    Bacon says this has been instrumental in changing the way teams work at the ABC, both operationally and culturally. Increasingly, staff operate in project teams working outside traditional silos, coming together around a common issue to build awareness and understanding.

    One of these initiatives was the ‘Mental As’ program of work, aimed at raising awareness of the prevalence of mental health within the broad population in order to destigmatise the issue, create more conversations and help raise money. Following a strong build up campaign, the ABC ran content devoted to the area of mental health across every one of its platforms, from triple j to Radio National, News, iView and TV, for an entire week. This resulted in over 65 per cent of all Australians being aware of the campaign, and more than 80 per cent learning something new about mental health. $2 million was raised as a result.

    “We also brought the mental health community together for the initiative, and were applauded by the industry for taking a stance on such an important issue, with a resoundingly positive impact, as measured across awareness, fundraising, and those seeking help,” Bacon says.

    Data-led approach

    Another example of a data-led approach from Bacon’s submission is work to prioritise engagement with the 18-49-year old audience. The challenge was to surface more content for lighter audiences, and talk to them beyond its own media, she says. To do this, the ABC needed to be actively present throughout their journeys in digital and off network.

    “By reprioritising staff across the team to focusona specific audience segment, we have been able to better achieve outcomes,” Bacon says.

    Two key strategies were used: Expanding existing linear audience to include ABC digital product and platform in the repertoire, involving ABC owned media; and introducing light and new audiences to the ABC via digital products and platforms, work that includes earned and paid digital media primarily.

    “Achieving this has required changes to how we work, for us to move outside of being straight brand/platform focused, and plan campaigns holistically across the audience journey, against specific audience segments,” Bacon says. “It also required better data and insights, and was underpinned by a segmentation analysis using Nielsen CMV, applied to our media segments, to size and track opportunities. We also worked with Neo to develop the journey insights which sat over the data - in particular around the use of multi-screening, search and social - across different day parts.”

    Fostering team capability and agility

    Through all of this work, Bacon is looking to foster her team’s ability to continually evolve and learn.

    “In media, the pace of change is rapid, and the ability to be on the leading edge of this is critical, so encouraging the team to try new things and adapt as they learn is a key part of the culture we are striving for,” she says.

    One of the advantages of coming into a new role is being able to set the vision, structure and expectation for ongoing change, and Bacon says marketing has set high standards on internal development around data and digital skillsets.

    This is being achieved through a combination of upskilling and team training using third-party online course, attending industry seminars, and inviting guests in to run workshops and talk to the team. The ABC has also brought in contractors in specific areas, such as data modelling and visualisation, and new team members for specific expertise in things like community building.

    Flexible working is the other aspect of the mix, and Bacon agrees all media organisations need to have agility in how they work to grow in the rapidly changing, news dominated landscape they’re now operating in.

    We have evolved all our marketing and creative teams to be increasingly project based, in order to foster the agility needed to move as priorities change/evolve/require different skill sets,” she says.

    One of the best examples is with her digital coordinators, a young and dynamic group of digital natives with skillsets across social,SEM and digital advertising. These individuals are increasingly able to work across ABC priorities throughout the year, sharing the leadership of digital marketing on our pan ABC content collaborations.


    A central pillar of team engagement is how to foster creativity and innovation across the whole audience and marketing team to ensure it is everyone’s responsibility, Bacon says. In the past year, three initiatives were introduced to aid in this quest.

    The first was adopting a 70:20:10 approach to campaign planning and budgets. Using this methodology, the ABC has built campaigns trialling new formats in Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram, resulting in one of its largest and most successful campaigns ever around the Australian Federal Election.

    “For the first time, ABC dominated social, digital and TV, with huge growth in audiences of greater than 40 per cent across all platforms,” Bacon says.

    In addition, creative workshops are being run on a quarterly basis, and the ABC strives to run its own creative awards internally. Around the election, these were themed around election topics.

    “They are as much about encouraging the team to recognise and foster creativity, as they are about the actual reward itself,”Bacon says.

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