How IRI finds COVID is changing consumer behaviour

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

COVID-19 and the lockdowns have changed consumer behaviour. According to IRI, a world leading big data analytics business that works with many of the world's household brands, it has seen consumers focusing on wealth and wellness.

Sales of plant based products like soy milk and almond milk have gone through the roof. Consumers are also now focused on what’s good for the planet.

Alistair Leathwood, chief commercial officer for IRI across the Asia-Pacific region, said the changes brought on by the lockdowns and COVID were massive “and we can expect retailers and brands will respond”.

“It’s unprecedented, I think, in our lifetimes. A situation like that has shaped pretty much every aspect our lives and what we eat and drink,” Mr Leathwood told Talking Business

“I think you’ll see the health aisle in the supermarket get bigger and bigger. Now there’s two or three aisles devoted to healthy, to organic, to better for you, to sports nutrition. And even outside that aisle, you’ve got more and more products, even in the mainstream consumer packaged goods.

“If you look at the supermarket, you’ll see call outs on every box: 5 percent less sugar, 5 percent more protein, better for the environment, all of that good stuff.

“The companies that manage to hook into the trend will continue to do very well.”


Mr Leathwood said there was a big rise in people buying vitamins, minerals and supplements. And much of this, he said, was driven by people being concerned for their health during the pandemic.

“People were buying those sorts of things and frankly using them a lot more I think I the hope you boost your immune system, maybe you get to avoid getting ill,” Mr Leathwood said.

And instead of getting these goods from pharmacies, people were picking up these items in supermarkets. Which makes sense.

“I think it’s because when we were all nervous and concerned, we wanted to go to one place, get in and out, and stay home, so people bought things they might otherwise buy in the pharmacies,” Mr Leathwood said.

Consumer demand for sports drinks went down, with lockdowns stopping people getting out and doing sport, but demand for high protein drinks with vitamins went up.


The big lift in consumer demand was for plant-based alternatives like soy milk and almond milk.

Mr Leathwood said demand for these goods was growing way faster than anything else with 50-60 percent year-on-year growth rates.

He said the difference between this lockdown and the one last year was that people were now saying they not only have to look after themselves – they also need to look after the planet. This, he said, might be the driver for products for oat milk, which is being produced with less of a carbon footprint.

Mr Leathwood said companies needed to watch these trends and get on top of them which, he said, was a challenge for the big blue chip brands.

“If you’re one of the big carbonated soft drink companies and mostly what you do is sell fizzy sugary drinks, and all of a sudden nobody wants sugar, what’s your business model? So there’s a bunch of diversification, into waters, into Kombuchas, into functional drinks. And then there’s an attempt to reduce the bad ingredients, reduce the sugar, reduce the fat and make it more acceptable,” he said.

“You’ve got a real problem there, though, because one of the reasons you drank your Coke or you went to McDonald’s was because you like the sugar and the fat and the meaty taste.

“McDonald’s is really struggling to sell salads and healthy alternatives. You don’t go to Maccas for a salad. It’s hard for them to make that switch.”


Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


Aussie kickstarts G-rated social media app bhapi

By Leon Gettler >>

SOCIAL MEDIA abuse is a growing problem. The latest stats show that one in five girls and young women have abandoned or cut down on using a social media platform after being targeted.

And a study by Norton has revealed more Australian men than women report experiencing online abuse or harassment.

Over 60 percent have been harassed on social media and over 90 percent feel not safe using social media. Plus 50-60 percent are willing to pay not to have offensive material or be confronted with ads. Social media, while introducing platforms that bring people together, can also be used for abuse.

This why Australian tech expert Mick Esber has developed a new and innovative app, ‘bhapi’ (pronounced ‘be happy’) which rates, classifies, and blocks negative, fake, biased, hate, violent and explicit content on social media using best-in-class technology. 

It has been designed to deliver easy-to-use tools for people to manage what they send and receive, is completely ad-free, and does not sell personal data to third parties.


Mr Esber said he decided to develop the app after talking to his sisters, one a teacher and another who works with special needs people, last year when COVID was happening and discovered they were dealing with toxic social media comments and trolling. He developed it after looking around and finding there wasn’t a social media platform around that wasn’t toxic.

He built bhapi using artificial intelligence tools – essentially using Google’s Jigsaw program, which was created to help clean up the internet sector that helped moderate and curate conversations.

Mr Esber said bhapi was created as a G-rated broadcaster.

“We’ll follow those rules which are pretty consistent globally about G-rated content,” Mr Esber told Talking Business.

“We’ll use AI primarily to control it and then we’ll have humans behind it, which is a very important part, to manage the process so the machines aren’t on their own. There will be a process to moderate and adjust it.” 

The company has just launched a KickStarter campaign and is looking to raise $50,000. The campaign started on July 1 and will go until the end of the month with a view to bhapi launching in September.

Bhapi is an IOS and Android app which can operate on all phones and this will be released in September.


Bhapi moderates by monitoring abusive comments. Anything that is not G-rated is not deleted but sent into a private or draft area. The content is not censored. It can be passed on privately but it cannot be made public.

“How we do that is we use a range of AI tools, primarily from Google, and stuff based on Google,” Mr Esber said. “If you say something offensive, it will detect that, it will put it into drafts. We are going to police that environment to make sure it is a G-rated space.”

The material deemed to be not G-rated in the drafts area can be sent as an Instant message to the person concerned, but it cannot be made public.

“If it’s a personal conversation, we’re not going to censor that,” he said.

He uses the example of being at the football. When people use bad language, they are usually pulled up by others. The internet does not offer that and bhapi is designed to address that.

Mr Esber said bhapi was not designed to stop freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is really important but there’s a difference between freedom of speech and freedom of reach,” he said.

“If you have got something offensive to say, should I give you a megaphone to tell the whole world? If it’s a lie, if it’s offensive, if it’s sexist, if it’s anti-semitic, should these things be allowed for you to publically say?”

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at

Advertisers demand greater transparency

By Leon Gettler >>

TRANSPARENCY has become more relevant than ever before in the advertising and media industries, according to Dale Garvie, managing director of FirmDecisions.

FirmDecisions is regarded as the largest independent global marketing contract compliance specialist, providing advertisers with transparency into their marketing and media agencies.

Mr Garvie said the issue of transparency in contracts needed to be sorted out.

“When we talk about transparency in contracts, what we’re really referring to is full visibility of the supply chain relevant to advertising,” Mr Garvie told Talking Business. “So if you[re an advertiser and you have media partners, transparency expectations of those media partners are that you know where your purchasing is coming from, both in terms of cost disclosure and whether it’s valid media and not fake traffic.

“Transparency is a buzzword in the industry that’s widely used but it can mean many things to so many different people.”

It means a lot to so many different suppliers in the industry – sale promotion people, event management specialists, design experts, public relations practitioners, media agencies, ad tech and the media itself


Mr Garvie said media counts for the biggest proportion of ad spend by advertisers, taking up a large part of the $1 trillion ad spend budgets.

The problem is, it has become much more complicated. 

“Historically, advertising was relatively simple. Everyone was watching TV, reading newspapers, pretty straight forward,” Mr Garvie said.

“Fast-forward to today’s world with mobile and digital and there are a lot more media providers with advertising playing through the supply chain,” he said.

“With social influencers, for example, that form of marketing didn’t exist years but it’s on the rise now. As the industry changes, there are more players beyond media, and transparency of all those players, how they manage advertiser budgets is critically important.”

He said his business FirmDecisions specialises in auditing advertising agency contracts.

“It’ll tell you there are a lot of improvements to be made within those contracts. Periodically we find unspent funds that the advertiser has placed with these agencies and there’s a lack of reconciliation so these agencies may charge on estimate and the actual cost for that activity may come in a lot less and the balance may be retained on the agency side,” he said.


Mr Garvie said transparency was important for both sides, for the agencies and the advertisers and the clients they represent.

It becomes even more critical now with all the different marketing touchpoints and the growing power of third party influencer being brought in by agencies.

He said advertisers are now demanding transparency in this market and there is now some sort of standard that advertisers are adopting.

“At the end of the day, the market place has to react,” Mr Garvie said. “If they want to compete for advertiser dollars and transparency is a key focus in building trust and confidence in where those dollars are spent, naturally agencies will comply and sign up to those terms.”

However, both sides need to vigilant because services and the market place are evolving.

He said  his firm now advises clients to review their contracts every year. It is no longer sufficient to review contracts as these are audited and tested annually.

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


Marketing ‘funnel’ now superseded by digital

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

MARKETING has changed completely because of the internet and the old ‘marketing funnel’ is no more, according to Lyndall Spooner, the founder and director of Sydney-based consultancy and advisory firm Fifth Dimension.

Ms Spooner said customers now have many more choices, so companies can no longer rely on the strength of their brand – and the companies that are the most challenged are the ones with the established business model.

She said the traditional marketing funnel, which was developed in 1898, has been completely disrupted by technology.

“Companies need to rethink where they are, how they talk and how they can connect with consumers,” Ms Spooner told Talking Business. “They need to be thinking not just about broad marketing strategies. 

“They need to think about the product or the purchase journey and they need to work out how they can get involved in that purchase journey.

“That becomes very difficult for companies that are used to living off the fact that they’ve got a big market share and they’re one of the top brands known in the market. They think their saliency is what’s going to get them into that consideration set when the reality is today, consumers can go online.

“No matter what we want, we can Google it and a whole lot of brands can come up that we’ve never ever heard of before, and it’s highly likely a consumer is going to consider those brands and potentially choose those brands if they’re better for their needs.”


Ms Spooner said when consumers are going through the purchase process, and looking at the brands, they are very specific in what they want – which means companies need to make sure they have a good offer, something that is compelling and stands up to whatever the competition has come out with.

“The second thing is you need to be present where the consumer is going to look for this information which is increasingly online,” Ms Spooner said.

“Twenty to 30 years ago when we were looking for brands, a lot of our decisions were really dictated by who we walked past, so it was all about physical presence. But today, it’s about having a very strong digital presence and a compelling offer,” she said.

Ms Spooner said it meant companies need to be there in various outlets, and not just social media.


Companies should also rely on what she called ‘trusted advisors’.

For example, Fifth Dimension does a lot of work with the health insurance fund HCF. When consumers are looking to make important decisions in complex areas like health insurance or superannuation, they reach out to third party sources. This means companies offering complex offers need to have relationships with third parties to be seen as a recommended brand by a number of different agencies. 

Ms Spooner said this was particularly important in such areas as financial services where the consumer faces some risk entering that relationship. Hence the growth of mortgage brokers as an industry.


For companies, this means going down the path where their offering is more competitive.

“So 20 years ago, you’d win a customer because you’re the bank on the high street,” Ms Spooner said.

“On the digital street, where people are looking now, any brand is within reach, so if you want to be recommended through a third party, you actually have to have a good compelling proposition.

“You just can’t avoid that today. So whether someone is going to go through a third party, or use social media, and where they are able to compare products very easily, they want something to stand up to say this is a good offer,” Ms Spooner said.

“And it doesn’t necessarily have to be the cheapest offer, but it’s the offer that will best meet their needs and ideally fits their budget.”

Ms Spooner said it means companies now need a network of marketing channels to reach their consumers.

“You can’t really rely on single channels,” she said. “You can’t really rely on your mass brand strategy any more.

“You really need to find out where your consumers are going in their decision process.”

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at



Mike Sneesby is new Nine CEO

MUMRELLA has reported in detail how Nine Entertainment Co has confirmed Stan boss, Mike Sneesby, will replace Hugh Marks as the media company’s CEO, effective April 1.

Mumbrella deputy editor for news and analysis wrote that Mr Sneesby “has been with Nine’s streaming platform since its inception, joining almost eight years ago from Cudo, the group buying website part-owned by Nine”.

“I am honoured to be entrusted with this important role, to be the custodian for many of Australia’s most important, valuable and iconic media brands,” Mr Sneesby told Mumbrella. He will earn $1.4 million a year including superannuation, with the chance to earn up to $1.75 million should he exceed targets.

“I have worked alongside by colleagues at Nine for many years and I look forward to building our future together as we embrace the opportunities presented in the emerging and growing digital future,” he said. 

“The Nine family is made up of journalists, technicians, producers and so many dedicated to their craft. It will be the honour of a lifetime to lead them.”

Mumbrella reported the appointment was lodged with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) ahead of an in-person media event at Nine’s new North Sydney headquarters at 10am, called just before 9am and fronted by chair Peter Costello, the former Federal Treasurer.

Mumbrella reported that the confirmation of Mr Marks’ successor came “days after the outgoing Marks delivered the company’s strong half year results, board member Patrick Allaway resigned, and Nine’s newspapers revealed deputy chair Nick Falloon is under investigation for the alleged misuse of a corporate golf membership”.

Mr Costello confirmed the decision to promote Mr Sneesby into the top job was made last week, and vehemently denied the suggestion that the board was fractured, asserting that the new CEO has the support of a united board.

“Under Mike’s leadership, Nine will be able to maintain the strong momentum it has built in audience, subscribers, content, revenue and earnings,” Mr Costello said at the news conference.

“Mike is well placed to continue to drive Nine’s transformation as a digitally led business which is actively adapting to meet the contemporary media consumption habits of Australians.”

Mumbrella reported that on Thursday of last week, Mr Marks delivered the company’s half year results for the six months ending in December: “net profit surged by 79 percent to $182 million, leading to a record-high share price and, for the first time, a market capitalisation of above $5 billion. In response to Sneesby’s appointment, Nine’s share price surged to a new record-high of $3.07, even higher than the $2.93 it reached last week”.

Last year, Mr Sneesby made the significant announcement that Stan would make its foray into the sports arena with Stan Sport, promptly brokering deals with Rugby Australia and various tennis events including Wimbledon and Roland Garros.

Just days after that announcement, Mr Marks handed in his shock resignation after five years at the helm, prompted by the admission of a relationship with former senior Nine executive, Alexi Baker. But last week, he told Mumbrella he was comfortable with the timing because “everything I set out to do is done”.

Mumbrella said that sparked an extensive search for his replacement, with the pool of candidates whittled down to a select few, including Mr Sneesby, chief publishing and digital officer Chris Janz, and former Endemol Shine boss Carl Fennessy.

Stan Sport, a monthly $10 add-on to a regular Stan subscription, launched just over a week ago in line with the rugby season. The first match attracted 200,000 viewers – triple the audience of last season’s corresponding game. 97,000 metro viewers tuned in on free to air multi-channel, 9Gem, and a reported 150,000 nationally, meaning the remaining 50,000 watched via Stan Sport.

Stan’s EBITDA jumped 161 percent for the half, according to Mumbrella, “and Marks said Stan Sport will only continue to drive up subscriber numbers”.


Adapted from an original report by Brittney Rigby, Mumbrella's deputy managing editor for news and analysis. She covers the media owners and media agencies rounds, and is admitted as a lawyer in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. She tweets @brittneyrigby


How localised cold calling is making a successful return

By Tate Zanner >>

THANKS to the rapid expansion of mobile technology, Australians are easier to get a hold of than they have been at any time in history.

We carry our phones everywhere we go, we even sleep with them beside us. According to a 2019 Deloitte study, 91 percent of Australians have a smartphone device.

This expansion has meant that cold calling is on the rise, with many businesses now seeing the practice as a reliable strategy for making sales and scoring leads. 

However, there’s one important distinction to make in this new age of cold calling: local centres are producing far greater results than their international counterparts.


Covid catastrophe

As JPMorgan, Amazon, Google, and Facebook now know, international call centres are a big risk in the middle of a pandemic. When the Philippines was placed into one of Asia’s strictest lockdowns, the aforementioned companies were faced with the reality of operating international customer service during the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t pretty.

Many of the world’s biggest companies are still dealing with the repercussions of increased call demand and a decreased workforce, as call centres across India and the Philippines struggle to transfer their employees to a sustainable, reliable working-from-home model.

The same is true with cold calling operations. Any businesses that do their cold calling internationally are facing the same issues as inbound services, and cannot be relied upon to meet the needs of Australian businesses in the current climate.

Until things go back to ‘normal’ – which, by current estimates, will be a very long time – working with international call centres poses a risk to businesses.


Personal should mean local

Any business, especially those in the real estate or finance industries, should be aware that the products they’re selling can be incredibly personal.

Think getting your first home loan, building a decent savings account for the first time, or finally buying that product you’ve been saving up for.

In order for these businesses to make a potential customer feel comfortable discussing what at times can be very personal details, it helps to keep customer service local.

When Australians receive a call from an unknown number, they will feel immediately more at ease if they feel that the person on the other end of the phone can relate to how they think, talk, and act.

Phrases like ‘Australian-made’ and ‘proudly Australian’ are now commonplace in marketing materials, packaging, and adverts. There’s a clear reason behind this: Australians enjoy a more localised approach.

Cold calling is a challenge at the best of times, but if the conversation is hampered by miscommunication and misunderstandings, then it’s even less likely to succeed.


Defrosting cold calls

While all the above points make a clear case for localised calling versus international calls, the reality is, not many Australians want cold calls at all.

For businesses to truly succeed with a cold calling strategy, they should always ensure that calls are as relevant to the potential customer as possible.

For business-to-business (B2B) cold calling, the best way to do that is to filter businesses by financial size, location, and staff size.

For business-to-consumer (B2C) calls, potential leads can be sorted by postcode, wealth indicators, ownership status, recently sold, and recently rented. With all this information to hand, you can ensure that your call is genuinely useful.

Plus, by making your call centre staff local, you’ll be able to add an added level of relevancy to the conversation.

A cold call from Melbourne to a customer in Melbourne, for example, would have taken on even greater relevance during their recent strict lockdown. By revealing similarities and shared experiences, a cold call can feel far less cold.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, all call staff should be highly trained and experienced operatives who understand how people tick.

If you don’t get that part right, it won’t matter if they’re based in Australia or the Philippines – all you’ll get is the sound of someone hanging up on the other end of the line.



Tate Zanner is the founder of Insil, an award-winning marketing agency based in Sydney. Insil’s proven lead generation solution has proven to be a game-changer for clients including 12RND Fitness, Ray White and Toyota, and to date has helped over 730 clients achieve an average five-times return on investment and increase revenue by an average of 51 percent. Mr Zanner said Insil consistently challenges the perception of telemarketing, proving that it can be a sophisticated, successful approach for businesses who want to make a great first impression.


Four Corners war crimes expose Killing Field wins Gold Walkley

MARK WILLACY and the ABC Investigations-Four Corners Team have won Australian journalism’s highest honour, the Gold Walkley, for their six-month long investigation Killing Field.

The program, which also won the Walkley Award for Investigative Journalism, exposed alleged war crimes by Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan. 

Attempts to report on allegations of war crimes encounter extreme obstacles, yet Mark Willacy and the ABC Team's unflinching investigations continue to expose suspected cover-ups and deep cultural problems within Australia’s special forces. 

The judges said they were were impressed by Willacy’s compelling and brilliant investigation, which included shocking helmet-camera footage of special forces in action on the ground, sharp scripting and probing interviews.

Matthew Abbott was named the Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the Year for his work covering Australia’s unprecedented summer bushfires and Covid-19.

Lucie Morris-Marr’s Fallen (Allen & Unwin) won the Walkley Book Award.

Sarah Ferguson, Nial Fulton and Tony Jones’ haunting documentary Revelation (ABC and InFilms) won the Walkley Documentary Award.

The award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism went to Ross Gittins, for his 40-year commitment to making economics and public policy not only accessible but a must read. He was also honoured for his dedication to mentoring many generations of journalists.

The 65th Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism were presented in 30 categories.

Walkley Foundation chief executive, Louisa Graham said,  “The Walkley Foundation has a great deal to be proud of. The challenges of the last year have shown us that journalism is critical to keeping Australians accurately informed; this year’s list of finalists and winners is a testament to the outstanding journalism that is so critical to our democratic process.

“The Foundation remains strong and stable, enabling us to deliver on our mission to support and celebrate great Australian journalism.”

Walkley Judging Board chair, Lenore Taylor, praised the range and depth of this year’s winners.

“During last summer’s fires factual information at times made the difference between life and death,” Ms Taylor said. “Likewise, facts have been the most important tool for limiting the spread of the coronavirus, and our audiences have had a seemingly insatiable thirst for information.  

“It was the role of journalists to go out and bring us reliable information – because facts are what we do. I am always heartened, if slightly overwhelmed, when I see the array of excellent reporting and writing in contention for a Walkley Award – and the journalistic skill and determination evident in every entry.”


2020 Walkley Award Winners

Award Partner Media Super

Award Partner Sydney Airport

Award Partner Google News Initiative

Award Partner Qantas

  • Anthony De Ceglie, The West Australian, ‘The Royal Formerly Known As Prince’, ‘Bridget Over Troubled Rorters’ and ‘You Had One JobKeeper’. 

Award Partner UQ

Award Partner The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

Award Partner PwC Indigenous Consulting

Award Partner BHP

  • Matthew Kelly, Helen Gregory, Anita Beaumont and Donna Page, Newcastle Herald, ‘Your Right to Know’.


  • David Rowe, The Australian Financial Review, ‘Thoughts and Prayers’.


Award Partner Nikon

  • Sam Ruttyn, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, ‘UFC 243’.

Award Partner ABC

  • Dr Norman Swan, Tegan Taylor and Will Ockenden, ABC, ‘Coronacast’.


  • Rachael Brown, Josie Taylor, Tim Roxburgh, Marty Peralta and Trace Team, ABC, ‘Trace: The Informer’.

Award Partner Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

Award Partner Nine News

Award Partner Facebook

Award Partner Nikon

  • Matthew Abbott, The New York Times and Oculi, ‘A kangaroo rushes past a burning house in Lake Conjola’.

Award Partner ING

Award Partner Nikon

  • Nick Moir, The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Firestorm’.

Award Partner Australian Super

Award Partner Seven

Award Partner SBS

Award Partner TEN

  • Nick McKenzie, Joel Tozer and Sumeyya Ilanbey, 60 Minutes, Nine, ‘The Faceless Man’.


  • Mark Willacy and the ABC Investigations-Four Corners Team, Four Corners, ABC, ‘Killing Field’.


Award Partner NSW Government 

  • Sarah Ferguson, Nial Fulton and Tony Jones, ABC and In Films, Revelation.


  • Lucie Morris-Marr, Fallen, Allen & Unwin.

Award Partner Nikon

  • Matthew Abbott, The New York Times and Oculi.

Award Partner News Corp Australia

  • Ross Gittins, The Sydney Morning Herald.


  • Mark Willacy and the ABC Investigations-Four Corners Team, Four Corners, ABC, ‘Killing Field’.

The 2020 Walkley Judging Board

  • Chair: Lenore Taylor, editor, Guardian Australia
  • Deputy Chair: Claire Harvey, editorial director, The Australian
  • Natalie Ahmat, presenter/producer, NITV News
  • Michael Bachelard, investigations editor, The Age
  • Michael Brissenden, reporter, Four Corners, ABC
  • Patricia Karvelas, presenter, ABC Radio National Drive (abstained from judging in 2020)
  • Mags King, managing photographic editor, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review
  • Deborah Knight, presenter, 2GB
  • Stella Lauri, network news director, WIN Television
  • John Lehmann, commercial director and managing editor, The Australian
  • Hamish Macdonald, host, Q&A, ABC
  • Mark Mallabone, deputy editor, The West Australian
  • Heidi Murphy, senior producer, Mornings with Neil Mitchell, 3AW693 (abstained from judging in 2020)
  • Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, editor, ABC Life
  • Tory Shepherd, columnist, The Advertiser



Winners of the Walkley Awards are selected by the Walkley Judging Board. The Walkley Foundation has a mechanism for dealing with any conflict of interest, actual or perceived, that may arise during the judging process. The guidelines are based on the principle that all actual conflicts of interest are to be avoided and that even a perceived conflict may be damaging to all parties. You can read more about the conflict guidelines here.


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