CMO50 2022 #12: Nikki Clarkson

  • Name Nikki Clarkson
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Southern Cross Austereo
  • Commenced role January 2019
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 42 staff, 7 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Media and entertainment
  • 2021 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    The launch of LiSTNR in February 2021 marked the biggest change in Southern Cross Austereo’s strategic direction from broadcast to personalised digital audio at scale.

    So it’s not surprising to hear the launch and realisation of the brand vision is both a golden marketing moment for the media company’s CMO, Nikki Clarkson, as well as one of her most confronting over the past 18 months.

    “The bravest call I’ve been a part of and leaned into is the launch of LiSTNR,” she tells CMO. “SCA’s digital transformation and development of its new known digital audience at scale is an ongoing focus. Working collaboratively with the wider business, in particular product, technology and content teams, the marketing team has had to transform overnight to a data-led function in order to successfully contribute to the exceptional growth of the LiSTNR platform.

    “It’s a milestone we are all proud of and one that’s a critical contributor to inform strategy in our business.”

    Innovative marketing

    Launched in February 2021, LiSTNR is SCA’s personalised Web and app platform and consolidates its depth of digital audio content behind a single-sign in.

    “No longer are we competing with Australian radio brands, we are now taking on global powerhouses such as Spotify, Apple and iHeart. We needed to start behaving like a technology brand. And since the launch of LiSTNR, we have done just that,” Clarkson says.

    Through her leadership, marketing has delivered a multi-faceted program of activity to launch and grow LiSTNR in its first 17 months. This has seen emphasis as a team shift from utilising predominantly above-the-line media to drive top-of-mind recall for SCA’s radio brands, to a progressive, data-led approach. Building this specialist muscle has also seen marketing influencing the success of the LiSTNR brand throughout the organisation, Clarkson says.

    The FY22 LiSTNR marketing strategy focused on digital acquisition to convert xM digital audio consumers. The FY23 marketing strategy continues to drive acquisition while also focusing on known audiences to re-activate and retain existing users. This has translated into a fully integrated calendar of consumer marketing activity including brand campaigns, content-led campaigns, always-on digital performance media activity, ongoing PR activity and shaping consistent messaging across all SCA owned media.

    In addition, a multi-tiered trade marketing strategy to educate SCA’s partners on the value of digital audio while positioning LiSTNR as a market leader has been executed. And an internal communications plan was pursued to drive understanding of digital audio’s role in SCA’s future and relevance across 60 offices nationally.

    As CMO, Clarkson has directly represented LiSTNR on panels and media events, with ‘Nikki Clarkson’ generating 12 per cent of SCA’s corporate coverage.  

    Results today include subscriber growth 160 per cent over target, retention at 130 per cent of target, an NPS score of +19.6, attributed app installs at 124 per cent of target, and prompted brand awareness 285 per cent against target.

    “LiSTNR exceeded all goals in FY22. Marketing was highly influential to the success. For a completely new brand, prompted and unprompted awareness exceeded benchmarks,” Clarkson says.

    Business smarts

    The cultural shift this kind of work reflects can’t be emphasised enough. Prior to the launch of LiSTNR, Clarkson says SCA was a traditional broadcast media company.

    “This mindset permeated all parts of the business, from how we thought about talent, content, live events, customer experience, promotions, technology, brand and marketing were all an extension of the broadcast,” she explains.

    “As part of the small working group that undertook many years of research and development to inform what became LiSTNR, I had a huge responsibility to not only transform the marketing function at SCA overnight, but also to ensure we all contributed to the cultural change within the organisation, putting digital technology at the heart of everything we do.

    “SCA was not just ‘adding’ an app to its suite of products, we were putting digital audio at the centre of our business.”

    A range of initiatives led by Clarkson ensued. One was leading a cross-functional Insights SteerCo to identify LiSTNR’s core growth segments including dynamic cohorts of known users and external segmentation and engagement strategies. She’s also led a cross-functional digital, product and marketing steering committee to encourage information sharing and build a customer-centric view of projects.

    “We’ve developed SCA’s first consumer engagement funnel strategy to drive and measure success across product, technology and marketing,” Clarkson continues. “We evolved this funnel strategy for year two from conversion and active users through to re-activation of known users. The conversion funnel developed from this strategy is used to visualise weekly and monthly reporting to the business and monthly reporting to the SCA Board.”

    Working with digital media agency, Resolution Digital, Clarkson has also looked to drive business-wide education around digital audio and digital acquisition and attribution measures.

    Data-driven maturity

    Then there’s the data involved. The FY23 LiSTNR strategy was informed by insights gleaned from a range of data sources from FY22. Personalisation at scale will be made possible by the onboarding of a new martech platform across the business.

    “We have taken a test-and-learn approach to determining the most insightful data sources and most effective technology partners for driving marketing and customer engagement,” Clarkson says.  

    SCA partner, NumberEight, identifies what listeners are doing when they are listening based on the accelerometer and other environmental factors determined by their smartphones. Segments have been derived from these activities, and SCA is testing highly targeted/timely instream audio campaigns to reflect their lifestyles, such as targeting runners with fitness playlists.

    “We have worked closely with Google on our Universal App Campaign optimisations,” Clarkson says. “And we are testing dynamic creative optimisation to determine how much efficiency we can gain by dynamically serving creative.”

    Commercial acumen

    Two trade marketing initiatives informed by data have been further drivers of commercial impact.

    The SCA Audio Reach Amplifier campaign was based on deep analysis of Nielsen reach data the trade marketing team commissioned from the internal insights team, SCAiQ. This analysis uncovered the incremental reach digital audio delivers to advertisers.

    “By quantifying this, it reinforced Australians are listening to more audio across more devices and positions SCA as leaders in the space, by bringing a commercial lens and reframing Nielsen data in a relevant way for our trade audiences,” Clarkson says. “The campaign amplified the benefits of an ‘all of audio’ approach to buying media in order to increase advertising reach and value.

    “The LiSTNR trade marketing campaign and immersive event showcased the 8 million consumers now active on the LiSTNR network and advanced adtech and targeting capabilities allowing us to reach them at the right place and right time for brands.”  

    Trade marketing campaigns including digital and social activity were complemented by an immersive event experience in Sydney in July 2022. This was about bringing live action, audio and vision together to demonstrate the depth of LiSTNR’s content slate and the personalisation at scale that is possible for brands, Clarkson says.

    More than 400 key stakeholders attended the event, with dozens of media articles reaching over 400,000 people in the trade advertising and media industry. This also triggered an incremental increase in advertiser briefs.

    Leadership impact

    It’s apparent the SCA marketing team’s remit has doubled since the launch of LiSTNR, prompting headcount increases and a dramatic change in skillsets. They’re not just responsible for SCA’s 99 radio brands, but for launching and growing LiSTNR incorporating 440 podcasts, 25 music stations and content from domestic and global partners.

    “The team’s ability to perform is evidenced by their over achievement of every marketing KPI set in FY22 and the contribution made to driving new audience growth and revenue,” Clarkson says.

    A number of initiatives are helping keep teams engaged and motivation. For example, ‘Rising Stars’ are receiving a 12-month program of one-to-one executive coaching, while ‘SCA Leads’ is a multi-year program for all managers to drive a collaborative culture based around communication styles.

    Clarkson’s direct reports participate in ‘Leading Teams’ training multiple times per year to uncover individual and team growth opportunities to drive high-performance. And there’s a focus on internal promotion. One-quarter of the team are participating in the SCA mentor program as mentors and mentees, and 100 per cent of the team are being upskilled across digital and data to enable SCA’s digital transformation.

    Today, the team boasts of skills from digital marketing strategy and digital campaign implementation to digital video best practice, global leadership in visualisation of audio products and animation, martech platforms, email marketing, SEO, SEM, A/B testing and optimisation tactics via dynamic creative optimisation, behavioural science insights and implementation and CX funnel strategy development and reporting.

    In turn, marketing is influencing across the business through martech integration committees, behavioural science workshops, and by sharing of insights and innovation from marketing partnerships, which benefit the broader business.

    “The success of LiSTNR is a result of over 200 people dedicated to its growth across every function at SCA,” Clarkson concludes. “Marketing is a unique contributor, collaborating with all key stakeholders within the business to drive cross-functional engagement across the business.”

    Share this article