Q&A - Ovato's newly appointed NZ head Paul Gardiner

Ovato’s newly appointed NZ head Paul Gardiner has years of magazine experience in NZ, and more recently, Australia. We talk to him about the new gig and bringing the family back across the ditch. 

Why are you making the move now?

There was always a two-year window we were working to as a family. I feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to do here as commercial director with Bauer in Australia: the business will finish 2019 in the best position for a number of years.  I’m ready for a new challenge!  

It’ll be a big change heading a publicly listed company. What do you think the hardest bits will be?

I don’t feel like the fundamentals of running a business will be that different, but you have to be mindful that you have outside shareholders that own the company with you. You have to make decisions with customers, employees, and shareholders in mind.

What have you learned from your 30 years in media and marketing that you can use in the new job?

The industry I’m coming from has experienced massive disruption, particularly over the past 5 or 10 years. We’ve had to adapt and change as the traditional revenue streams of circulation and advertising aren’t enough for a sustainable publishing business.  So I’ve been focusing on new revenue streams, essentially making more out of what we have as a business. That’s the thinking I can bring to Ovato.

New bosses sometimes say they plan to spend the first few months just listening. Will you do that?  

I created change really quickly when I joined Bauer Australia but I had the luxury of coming from a very similar business in New Zealand. I have some goals I want to kick early on but it’s really important to listen and understand the relatively new industry that I’ll be in.  I’m really lucky to have an experienced  senior management team at Ovato NZ.

What’s the best thing a company can do to look after the health and wellbeing of its staff?

This is really important. When employees enjoy a happy, healthy work environment, you start seeing exciting innovations. It’s the difference between an organisation that’s simply functioning and an organisation capable of making huge leaps. That’s when the magic happens.  There needs to be strategies around mitigating stress and mental health. For example, here at Bauer I don’t encourage late-night emails. Also, I place a big importance on creating more “meaningfulness” in the workplace, tapping into what the team care about.

What are the biggest challenges facing the print and publishing industries?

Where do I start? Facebook and Google have had the biggest impact on not just magazines but most traditional media channels.  Digital natives (millennials) have grown up never reading a magazine and are now potentially the new CMO’s of the future – that’s a concern as they’ll be naturally biased around channel selection for their marketing spend.

It’s not all bad though. Words like “trust” and “engagement” seem to coming back into the marketing conversation and magazine brands deliver that in spades. The digital space has become so cluttered that advertisers are potentially everywhere but nowhere. The letterbox channel will become even more important for brands to get cut through and reach the consumer.   

How do you handle stress? 

You have to learn to switch off. I think physical activity is a good way of doing that. In the weekends you will find me riding around the Northern Beaches of Sydney. It’s potentially a different kind stress though as I spend a lot of time trying not to get run over!

Are your girls happy to be making the move?

My daughters are nearly 16, 12 and 11 and along with my wife, Melissa, they’ve been amazingly supportive while in Sydney. They have made some fantastic friends. The thing about social media is that world is a much smaller place now, so they will leave with lifelong friends here in Sydney.  

What will you miss about Sydney?

You have to say the weather, which allows you to get the most out of the outdoors. I won’t miss the wildlife (spiders, ticks, snakes, bull ants etc). It’s like Jurassic Park at times!  

Plans for Christmas?

We are going to spend one more Christmas in Sydney in Manly on the Northern Beaches before we head back. Put another shrimp on the barbie!