Yesterday, we learned a little about Steve Vizard’s web of
interconnecting media/marketing companies. And anyone silly enough to
be watching TV at 1:30am this morning learned more about how they work.

First, some background. The nominal head of Vizard’s raft of companies is his old Artists Services mate, Shaun Levin, who told The Australian yesterday that the goal of the Communicate Group was to grow revenue by referring business between the companies.

One of the multiple Vizard vehicles is Communicate Productions which produces a show aimed at small business called Bread.
This exercise in infotainment kicked off with a mid-morning Saturday
slot – but has sunk back to TV’s early morning twilight zone.

Watching this morning’s episode, it’s not hard to see why. The show is
a cross-promotion vehicle designed to shamelessly leverage maximum airtime for Vizard and Levin’s clients. In the case of Bread,
this means flogging NAB and Sensis at every opportunity. You will
recall in yesterday’s Crikey that another Vizard-associated company,
See, won the bulk of the NAB’s $20 million advertising account last

This morning’s Bread was full of goodies for NAB. Take Robyn and
Leigh, whose children’s parties business was in trouble, until a white
knight came to the rescue: “If it wasn’t for the National Bank loan –
their dreams would have ended months ago.”

Next up is a five-minute plug for the AFL’s financial white elephant, the Hall of Fame theme park. Or, as Bread describes it: “Slap bang in the middle of Melbourne is the AFL Hall of Fame Sensation. It’s a magical place for kids…”

The focus is on a small trader who works inside the theme park, and
needs some cash. And who best to explain the handy finance options
available for small business? Why, one Paul Cunningham – relationship
manager, NAB. Then we cut to the voice-over: “As a strong supporter of
small business, The National is offering you the opportunity to win a
$10,000 National account for your small business.”

We get an idea of the philosophy behind this show by reading the Bread launch speech – not by Vizard, but by Sensis CEO Andrew Day. Day lays out the aims for Sensis in sponsoring the show: “(Bread
is a) journey that culminates in three ways. First, with stronger
small businesses who see Sensis, and our products and services, as an
integral part of their success; second, a more high profile,
experienced and content-rich Sensis that will cement its position as
Australia’s leading and most valued SME advocate; and third, a company
that has taken significant strides towards its vision of being the
leader in local, Australian advertising and media. In short, a company
that owns the SME.”

A television show aimed at cross-promoting Steve Vizard’s business
interests? You bet. Yet Ten doesn’t label it as paid
advertising. At the very least, this mendacious cr*p should
carry a health warning: “Infomercial – property of Steve Vizard.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey