TURKEY - Real Estate & Construction
Managing Partner & Chairman of the Board, Core Media
Umut Åženol began his career at PwC before working as a senior finance manager for multinational companies. He completed his undergraduate studies at Boğaziçi University, earned a master’s degree in professional leadership from Harvard Business School, and holds a CPA certificate. He has been a member of the Beşiktaş Congress since 2007 and was elected as a member of the board of directors of the Boğaziçi University Alumni Association in 2010, where is currently Vice President. Since 2018, he has been a board member of the Boğaziçi University Foundation and since 2013 a full member of the BJK Board of Auditors.
Core Media has undergone a number of restructurings since its creation over two decades ago. Can you outline the changes and reasons for them?
In 1994, the company was called Magic Advertising. Initially, we did advertising on municipality buses. Magic Advertising was acquired by Clear Channel, an international media company, in 1999 and became a strategic partner of Istanbul Municipality. Initially, it was one of the two big suppliers of bus shelter advertising around the city before expanding its business into Anatolia, winning tenders in cities like Antalya, which is the biggest tourist center in Turkey after Istanbul, and Kayseri, an industrial hub near Cappadocia. Between 2002 and 2013, Clear Channel was fairly successful in Turkey. Then, due to Clear Channel’s concerns with the global economy, it decided to exit some of its emerging markets. I was CFO when we acquired the business from Clear Channel. Now our firm is called Core Media.
How have Core Media’s operations changed since you acquired it from Clear Channel?
Clear Channel Turkey was a financially healthy company when I acquired it in 2016. When the coup attempt happened, it brought some instability to our business. The elections, referendum, presidential elections, and changes in the administrative and municipality systems all followed the failed coup, making the last three years difficult, especially since we were no longer backed by a multinational company. But having local knowledge and relationships has been more important than having multinational support. Our business is heavily dependent on local dynamics and experience both to sell advertising and win tenders. We have become leaner as a result of Clear Channel’s exit and have outsourced much of our operations, so we can focus on sales. We no longer have the quarterly financial reporting obligations of a listed company, so we have reduced the amount of bureaucracy in the company. We are able to make decisions faster. Core Media is a big company in our industry. Now we have gone from moving like an elephant, powerful but cumbersome, to moving like a cat, quick and crafty.
Across your markets around Turkey, what different revenue streams do you have?
Core Media has different types of revenue streams. In Istanbul, we have a bus advertising business, free-standing units in urban areas, and the metro bus line, which is the backbone of the city. These components complement each other, because in this industry you have to sell the units as networks. Therefore, the metro bus line and free-standing units together are becoming a good network for us. In the shopping malls, we run digital advertising units and have high end shopping malls in our portfolio. Among others, we operate in the top two malls in Istanbul—Zorlu and Kanyon—in addition to the Mall of Istanbul, where many tourists visit. We manage more than 300 digital advertising screens in malls, all from a central control point, so it is much more efficient than traditional forms of advertising. However, it is also more capital intensive initially, as you have to invest in the technology. We also run the advertising units for Yalıkavak, one of the top five marinas in Europe. Aside from Istanbul, we run billboards and all the bus stop advertisements in Antalya, Kayseri, Edirne, Kırklareli, and Kahramanmaraş. We provide advertising spaces in some shopping malls in Izmir and Ankara as well.
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