Monthly Archives: October 2013

China: From cultural revolution to digital bang

Not for the faint-hearted, advertising in China is both thrilling and challenging, writes Tom Doctoroff

The most common reaction when people hear that I have lived in China since 1994, and in Shanghai since 1998, is: “You must have seen huge changes.” I respond: “Perhaps not quite as much as you might expect.”

Lifestyles, even attitudes, of mainland Chinese have evolved dramatically. However, the country’s inextricable cultural and commercial dynamics remain quintessentially Chinese. So does the communications industry.

When I arrived, China’s marketing seas were primordial. Media prices were cheap. Total spending was approximately US$5 billion. Although agencies have never suffered from excessively burdensome government regulation as advertising has never been considered a ‘strategic’ industry, we were not able to operate without a local joint venture partner. Executive power struggles were endemic, with the Chinese usually focused on fast cash and Westerners hoping to adopt a more long-term focus.

Creative was, of course, exclusively mass media or quick and dirty ‘below-the-line’, and the vast majority of ads were adapted from overseas, often to off-putting effect. As a result, the mainland was terra incognita for the vast majority of aspirating creative talent and business leaders. Marketing as a discipline barely existed.

It goes without saying that the nation has emerged. Its people are significant consumers of goods produced by multinationals and domestic companies alike. Deng Xiaoping’s proclamation that “To get rich is glorious” in 1992 was a sign that the People’s Republic was finally open for business. Since then, China’s middle class, negligible until after the turn of the 21st century, has achieved scaled mass, and now includes about 250 million individuals. In category after category, from cars and mobile phones to luxury goods and travel, mainlanders are the world’s most avid consumers. Their impact on everything from product design to global marketing strategy is a fact of life and will continue to grow.

Plenty of homework 

As a result, market entrants now finally do their homework before landing here. Corporate (and agency) marketing structures have been internationalised. Fewer foreign companies make egregious errors. Most realise global brands must be brought into alignment with a Chinese worldview. Back in 2000, eBay crashed and burned because it assumed the ‘thrill of the auction’, a distinctly American individualistic position, would drive consumers to e-commerce sites. In the process, it neglected the importance of dramatising product range and online security reassurance. In 2006, Best Buy entered the market and quickly failed. Its model of high-end in-store service and premium prices was flat wrong for China, perhaps the most price-sensitive market in the world. Today, retailers such as Uniqlo, Zara and H&M are all making profits. Quintessentially Western brands such as Starbucks, Häagen-Dazs and Nike have succeeded by bringing their products into alignment with Chinese cultural imperatives.

The country’s marketing landscape has experienced sweeping transformation. China’s digital big bang has been jaw-dropping. The country now boasts 600 million internet users and 300 million subscribers to WeChat. E-commerce has upended the power balance between retailers and consumers, particularly in lower-tier cities where bricks and mortar alternatives are less prevalent.

Greater sophistication 

The communications industry has also evolved dramatically. Local partners are no longer de rigeur, although the government still imposes random restrictions on some categories (for example, luxury billboards due to political sensitivities). In addition:

• Any agency without a digital creative capability struggles for relevance. I sometimes joke we are no longer advertising people. Instead, we engineer media-neutral, idea-centric participation platforms…

• Local companies now constitute major revenue sources for successful global agencies. Shops that neglect the growing importance of domestic clients remain also-rans or niche operations.

• Diverse revenue streams have multiplied. JWT’s field marketing operation, always, contributes more to revenue and profit than any of its creative agencies. The ability to manage scale is a uniquely Chinese competitive advantage.

• China has begun to sparkle at creative award shows with a few agencies bringing home gold. In 2011, JWT Shanghai won the mainland’s first Grand Prix at Cannes.

• Despite the flight of young TV viewers to cyber space, media costs have exploded, in both absolute and cost-per-thousand terms. This is due to both excessive demand and the monopolistic nature of media sales. As a result, the biggest challenge new marketers face is generating enough awareness to get out of the starting gate. For small and medium-sized consumer goods companies — entities without pockets deep enough to afford massive media investment — it may be too late to enter China.

Resistance to change

On the other hand, the Chinese communications industry has, in many ways, resisted change and, across several dimensions remains operationally challenging. Firstly, there is undeniably a talent crisis. The fact that foreigners, including expatriate Chinese from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore, are still reasonably represented at the higher levels of the industry is a disappointment. Of course, there will always be a need for individuals with an international outlook for clients with operations outside of the mainland, but the industry has had difficulty in developing senior local talent. It’s neither a question of salary nor a lack of intent on the part of agencies. The biggest challenge is that advertising is not respected as a career path for many locals. An adman’s key strength is the ability to articulate the abstract and lead clients to embrace what can’t be proven. The approach is largely conceptual and this doesn’t appeal to many Chinese, who tend to take refuge in the concrete. There are too many talented 35-year-olds who abandon the industry for a more ‘respectable’ career. The ones who stick with it and have the capacity to inspire, are worth their weight in gold.

We are also seeing vicious competition on price. There have always been, and still are, too many agencies — more than 100,000 of all shapes and sizes. This surfeit leads to cutthroat competition, low fees and plummeting profits. Client relationships with advertising ‘agents’ are a promiscuous series of affairs in which short-term contracts are awarded to the cheapest bidder. In 15 years, I have not seen a single local ad agency become a viable competitor to multinational shops, even though most multinationals are hobbled by underinvestment and a talent shortage. Local agencies have not evolved to address the long-term brand-building needs of large corporations, multinational or domestic. Their limitations are common to many industries in China, both manufacturing and services. There has been a chronic underinvestment in mid- and senior-level managers capable of abstract conceptualisation, leaders who have the courage to challenge clients. For every million dollars in revenue, there are usually 40 to 50 employees, compared with 15 in international shops, which means competitive strength is a question of quick turnaround and low price. Relationships with clients are reactive, not strategic, and most profit is derived from media kickbacks.

Then the size of the market is misleading. The ‘real’ China advertising market, now the second-largest in the world after the US, still isn’t as large as reports suggest. Official figures highlight adspend well above $140 billion, but the figure is grossly inflated because all advertisers enjoy hefty discounts, anywhere from 25 to 70 per cent off book rates. Furthermore, the accessible client base — local and multinational companies that will pay a premium to achieve deep brand equity — accounts for no more than 30 per cent of industry revenue. Although this market accounts for an increasingly large slice of the pie (and is served exclusively by multinational agencies), the potential of China is still relatively low by Western standards, and will remain so for years to come.

Any market’s potential ultimately hinges on the strength of its local brands, but the majority of state-owned enterprises are not structured to build equity. Mainland consumers actively prefer few Chinese labels. Most are regarded as, at best, ‘reliable’ commodities. This is because senior management is not market-driven and politically tethered corporate governance does not reward long-term shareholder growth; hierarchy impedes the flow of ideas between market-savvy young guns and CEOs, most of them imperial, self-protective Communist Party apparatchiks; marketing is subordinate to sales: the latter controls budgets, while the former churns out promotional ads; and a lack of understanding of how to measure the success and depth of brands. The result? Local clients are still relatively unprofitable and difficult to manage, despite their importance to the revenue base.

In summary, our work has become more professional and, on occasion, award-worthy. The major players, both on agency and client sides, grasp the fundamentals of consumer motivations here. But we test ourselves into mediocrity, particularly for ‘mass’ advertising that requires significant, and therefore risky, investment. There is much more adventurism in the digital realm, but unfortunately most companies are still not structured to harness the power of the technological revolution.

Sheer scale and dynamism makes China thrilling. But this is still a market for brave hearts.

Tom Doctoroff is CEO of JWT Asia-Pacific

Reflections by Vishnu Mohan: Asia comes out of the shadows

In which the author turns away from the oil industry for a career in advertising, picks his next employer out of a phone book and shares his perspectives from a 22-year career. 

Destiny has its own ways to take you to where it wants to, or else how would you explain an engineer taught to perform artificial recovery of oil from depleted reservoirs landing in the world of “Mad Men”. 

Blame it on a lazy Saturday, dragged by a friend to attend a pre-placement talk at my B-school campus. I was simply mesmerized by those 45 minutes of Ajit Balakrishnan (co-founder of Rediffusion Advertising in India and much later founder and chairman of ) who made the advertising world so meaningful away from the glamorous perception that my mind had held for years. I gave up everything and became a part of this industry, working at Rediffusion, in the summer of 1991. He was right and so was I. Have never looked back since then, 22 years gone and many more to come.

I have been with Havas since 1995, purely by chance. Having applied to several known agencies and having heard only from a few, I thought of expanding the net and turned to yellow pages for the same. Ball Partnership (the erstwhile Euro RSCG in the pre-internet era and coming from India where it wasn’t present) was a complete stranger to me, and had it not been their appearance in a bold, large font, would not have been part of my history. I mailed the CV on Tuesday, received a call from them on Wednesday evening, got interviewed on Thursday and had an appointment letter on Friday. Hurray, ADVERTISING WORKS.


The author in the mid-1990s

In the last two decades I have had the fortune to work off many locations within the Asia Pacific region as well as be based in London for a while.  It is amazing, fascinating and heartening to move from being in the shadow to being in the spotlight. All eyes are on us, as suddenly we have moved from being implementers of set strategies borne in the West and caretakers for imported brands to originating and developing global practices and building Asian global brands.

Having been a suit, a strat planner, a media planner and a manager before being trusted with building the Havas Media network from scratch, I have had the fortune to meet, influence and be influenced by diversity of people and cultures.  In these years we have changed for the better and have become more meaningful both for the individual and for the society. Good work sells, but meaningful work sells even better. And at the heart of “meaningful disruptions”, my motto for future success, lies a piece of truth and my three words of wisdom: be simple, be honest, be yourself.

Vishnu Mohan is CEO of Havas Media Asia Pacific.

Faces to watch: The future looks bright with these talented individuals

Campaign Asia-Pacific looks ahead to the future of the industry, highlighting (in no particular order) 40 young people who have already achieved beyond the norm and are set to accomplish so much more. 

Hanyi Lee
Hanyi LeeChief creative officer, The Secret Little Agency
Chiew Ling Tan, director of operations at TSLA, calls Hanyi Lee “a rare, new breed of creative director who is intent on quietly bettering the level of creativity in Asia”. Lee oversees TSLA’s collective creative output from its teams in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The agency’s recent appointment as global creative agency of record by the Economic Development Board of Singapore will see Lee take on global creative output on the account in Asia, North America and Europe. She also led the team to create Social Services, TSLA’s not-for-profit, cultural incubator, including three highly acclaimed projects: Art-in-Film Festival at Dusk, The ABC Shop (an annual pop-up store focusing on Singapore’s endangered sundry stores) and a global tour guide How not to be a Tourist. Under Lee’s creative leadership, TSLA became the first Southeast Asian agency to be named by Campaign UK as one of the world’s leading independent agencies for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2013.

Mark Heap
Mark HeapCEO Asia-Pacific, MediaCom
While at PHD, Mark Heap revolutionised the agency in China, taking five years to turn it into a force to be reckoned with. As well as collecting numerous awards, he was also instrumental in winning and retaining Unilever in the market. He has been praised for building a culture of innovation and collaboration, and was behind the launch of Pathfinders, an internal think tank, which gives junior and mid-level staff the chance to work directly with the agency’s executive committee. Those attributes are now MediaCom’s, as Heap, just 38, has just stepped up to take on the regional role left vacant by Alex Crowther. The return to GroupM (he was previously at Mindshare China) puts him in charge of 1,500 people across 21 offices. MediaCom has been on a notable upward trajectory in recent years and that is certainly expected to continue under Heap. “Mark is one of the most talented media CEOs in the region, and has been recognised as such year after year,” said Stephen Allan, MediaCom’s worldwide CEO.

Jeff Cheong
Jeff CheongVice-president, Tribal Worldwide Asia, MD/ECD of Tribal Worldwide Singapore
Jeff Cheong has been recently named VP for Tribal Worldwide Asia, while retaining his position as head of Tribal DDB Singapore and chief digital officer of DDB Group Singapore. His new role sees him responsible for evolving, growing and guiding the network’s regional specialisms and capabilities with Patrick Rona (president of Tribal Worldwide Asia-Pacific and chief digital officer of DDB Group Asia-Pacific) and key Tribal Worldwide managers. Cheong has grown Tribal Worldwide Singapore from a four-person crew to a 95-person team over the past five years, developing its capabilities and service offerings to provide digital, integrated communication consultation as well as a specialist technology unit. He has worked on major clients including Unilever, Changi Airport Group, StarHub, Uniqlo, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s and DBS Bank, winning awards at The Effies, Cannes, Asian Marketing Effectiveness Awards, New York Festival and The One Show Interactive. He also led Tribal Worldwide to win Digital Agency of the Year for Southeast Asia at Campaign’s 2011 Agency of the Year Awards.

Naomi Troni
Naomi TroniCEO Havas Worldwide Southeast Asia
In her role, Troni oversees Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Previously the global CMO of Havas Worldwide—a role she took over at the age of 33—she was responsible for leading the network’s global new business and marketing across 316 offices, where the agency also saw major new business wins such as Credit Suisse, Pfizer, Danone, and Pernod Ricard, as well as digital wins that include IBM’s global digital and social media business and Unilever global digital roster. Troni was also responsible for the global rebranding of the Euro RSCG Worldwide network and its agencies as Havas Worldwide last year. As the Southeast Asia CEO, she launched specialist healthcare division Havas Life with a key focus in using digital technology as a functional intermediary between brands, patients, and physicians in the provision of care. She also made a series of appointment to strengthen the digital, integrated planning and channel communications expertise.

Camellia Tan
Camellia TanDirector of network development, Y&R Asia
Camellia Tan helped the network establish Y&R Yangon and an affiliation with Hancomm Korea. She also runs Zed Pod, an in-house digital initiative designed to capture the best local digital graduates to help jump-start digital capability in developing markets. Zed Pod is in its second year in Indonesia and Vietnam, and has just launched in China, in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Tan drives new business pitches in conjunction with markets across the region. She seeks out and develops relationships and strategic proposals for acquisition targets to support Y&R and its subsidiary VML in key markets such as China, Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam. “She has an innate ability to get to the heart of a client’s business challenge and will pull out all the stops to ensure the agency delivers the best marketing communications solution possible,” says Y&R Asia president Matthew Godfrey.

Elvis Chau
Elvis ChauECD, Anomaly Shanghai
A good degree of China’s rise in creative recognition in recent years has been down to Elvis Chau, the man behind the country’s first ever Cannes Grand Prix win. The much talked-about ‘Heaven and Hell’ campaign for Samsonite put Chau in the spotlight, but there is good reason to expect more from him. He told Campaign last year that China had not yet achieved a consistently high standard of creativity, but says the desire to produce great work was very high: “People here really want to do something groundbreaking.” Heavily influenced by the time he spent living in Thailand, Chau aims to continue to bring a fresh approach to his work in China. He does not lack confidence, recently moving from the security of JWT to Anomaly, a lesser-known agency that is all about deviation from the norm, where as a co-owner with MD Eric Lee he will have greater flexibility to shape things according to his design. “Anomaly is not just a creative company, it is a creative community,” Chau says.

Linda Wang
Linda WangGeneral manager, MediaVest Shanghai
The brains behind MediaVest’s long-term growth strategy in China, Linda Wang was charged with setting up the Chinese MediaVest operation in 2011. She led it on an aggressive business growth strategy that saw it achieve a more than 50 per cent increase in revenue last year, compared to 2011. Diversified revenue (from digital to branded content) also increased by 80 per cent. She was instrumental in winning domestic clients that accounted for 70 per cent of new business revenue, including the local Avon pitch. She was Campaign’s New Business Development Person of the Year for Greater China runner-up in 2012. “New and existing clients alike are won over by her ability to swiftly gain an insightful understanding of their real business context and needs, her deep knowledge of China’s complex media landscape and her decisive leadership,” says Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Bertilla Teo.

Timothy Paradise
Timothy ParadiseCreative director, Tribal Worldwide Beijing
Half-American, half-Vietnamese, Timothy Paradise chose the hard way to learn about his Asian roots: he went to Seoul. His positive, open-minded approach helped breathe new life into DDB, an agency in need of entrepreneurial vision. Still in his twenties, in the absence of an ECD, Paradise took the lead on a number of briefs with impressive results. He led his team to develop three Korea-first campaigns that went on to gain international recognition: McDonald’s ‘Big Mac Chant’ and a ballet-themed film for Levi’s Stretch to Fit jeans both won Lions at Cannes. Paradise’s talents have not gone unnoticed and he recently relocated to China to lead creative for Tribal Worldwide Beijing. Big things are expected.

Prashant Kumar
Prashant KumarPresident IPG Mediabrands Asia, World Markets
Kumar describes his childhood as ‘idyllic’ spent at a boading school set by the Damodar river in the midst of a national sanctuary. He graduated with a degree in mathematics from one of India’s oldest and most prestigious colleges, St Stephen’s College in Delhi but decided to switch to advertising at the Mudra Institute of Communications in Ahmedabad. His career with Mediabrands started when he moved to Malaysia in 2003 to helm its local UM office. During his tenure he built up the agency from a team of only 28 to more than 100, tripling revenue and quadrupling profits. Since then he has climbed steadily up the career ladder, rising to CEO of Mediabrands Malaysia in 2008 and was named president of Asian World Markets in 2011. A licensed pilot, he takes to the skies when his schedule affords him the chance.

Aruna Natarajan
Aruna NatarajanManaging Partner, OMD International
Aruna Natarjan has risen the agency ranks swiftly. In a span of six years she went from being regional business director on Johnson & Johnson to managing partner of OMD International, overseeing all global accounts in APAC. Natarajan, 26, has been instrumental in growing OMD’s regional team from four to 25 during the time. She was also responsible for consolidating the Visa regional business across APAC, MEA and Central and Eastern Europe. As a result, she now oversees the business across 27 markets. Having worked in India and China, Natrajan has strong market knowledge of the two largest and most diverse markets in the region. Her category knowledge is also commendable given her experience in automobile, financial services, FMCG, healthcare and pharmaceutical and technology. Natarajan is now focused on helping OMD build specialist capabilities in areas like digital, content integration and activation, analytics and research, and data management.

Marie Gruy
Marie GruyManaging partner, PHD Singapore
When Marie Gruy joined PHD in 2010 to lead Hewlett-Packard, it was their only client and the entire HP account team had resigned. She joined with no experience in HP, PHD, or APAC for that matter, but the former police intelligence officer helped turn around HP’s fortunes in the region. She helped develop its first branded content platform, consolidating China, India and Australia content. It saved HP about US$4 million and even bagged exclusive deals with Baidu. Consequently, HP’s agency tracker metrics went up significantly. In response, Gruy was promoted to managing partner. Her next goal was to translate the success of the account to the entire agency. Her success has been nothing short of exceptional. She doubled the headcount of the agency to 40, increased its billings by 200 per cent and saw profits soar 700 per cent. Client growth surged 45 per cent (worth $17.5 million) with 12 new clients including prized account, Unilever.

Stephanie Yu
Stephanie YuVice-president, head of China healthcare practice, Shanghai corporate practice lead, Weber Shandwick Shanghai
Stephanie Yu’s appointment as China healthcare leader in 2010, saw her having to deal with a sector that requires navigating daunting and ever-changing regulatory systems, educating millions of new patients and entering uncharted territory. Under her leadership, China’s revenue share for the healthcare practice increased to 20 per cent, from 8 per cent in 2010. Yu also identified digital as the critical element for change in the sector, where multimedia and online activities were virtually non-existent. Weber Shandwick China MD Darren Burns says Yu has added a new capability to the China operation. “Her creativity, drive and ability to seize opportunities have helped make many patients’ lives better — and enhanced clients’ business.” Her pioneering digital platforms have become vital, accessible resources for the patients and families, providing educational resources and life-saving information. Yu has also been appointed to head the Shanghai corporate practice and the social impact practice nationwide, steering CSR initiatives for major corporations.

Yeat Mung Koo
Yeat Mung KooGeneral manager, BBDO Beijing
Yeat Mung Koo’s 15 years of experience in brand communication come from both client and agency sides, including First Commercial Bank of Taiwan, Saatchi & Saatchi Guangzhou, JWT Shanghai, TBWA Shanghai, and now BBDO Beijing. As GM, she manages the overall operations of the agency, and leads Mars and Hewlett-Packard — the two key strategic accounts in BBDO Beijing. Under her leadership, the agency won China’s first Cannes Gold Lion for the adidas 2008 Olympic campaign. Koo values the importance of humility, believing it is the foundation of building trusting and enduring relationships. She also encourages constructive debate and leads by example to drive the team towards a common vision of creative excellence. “Through my partnership with her, I have seen how Yeat Mung has led cultural change within the agency, instigating a culture of learning and continuous improvement,” said Clarence Mak, general manager at Mars China. “Being open to tough feedback, she has changed the culture of the partnership to be more transparent, more focused and more future-looking.”

Gary Wise
Gary WiseSenior marketing manager, APAC/head of marketing, Australia, Puma
Gary Wise has travelled a fair distance since his days as communications planning director at ZenithOptimedia — to Melbourne, to be exact. He recently became head of marketing for Puma Australia, added to his role as senior marketing manager for the region. He joined the sportswear brand after a number of years as a collaborator on the agency side. Today he is responsible for marketing activities for lifestyle and running products in 12 markets, which includes communications planning, research and management of creative, media and research agencies. Adrian Toy, Puma’s regional head of marketing, describes Wise as “a future leader who I can depend on when it matters”. Toy credits him with having implemented a more rigorous approach to measurement. “He is not one to sit still; he is constantly challenging the status quo and coming up with initiatives that help the brand,” Toy says.

Luke Eid
Luke EidManaging partner and global innovation officer, TBWA Digital Arts Network Hong Kong
Luke Eid says he was ‘doomed’ to be a tech geek after tinkering with an XT computer in the eighties, in between surfing that is — this was Noosa, Australia after all. In his final year of a BFA in communication design Eid upped his geek cred by attempted to recreate Star Trek Jedi mind powers using gesture control and intuitive interface design. After graduation, he did what every good techie eventually does — launched his own startup. He then moved on to lead digital communications for Queensland Transport and transformed a pure digital publishing company into a full-service agency before developing TBWA’s digital agency in Australia, Tequila (now Digital Arts Network, DAN) into one of the country’s most awarded digital agencies. In 2011, he moved to Hong Kong to head its DAN offering, during which time he set up TBWA’s first social media arts lab (SmArts). Eid was promoted to his current role in June.

Joanne Wong
Joanne WongEVP & senior partner/Asia-Pacific MD, client service, FleishmanHillard
Joanne Wong has been at FleishmanHillard since 2000, when she joined the firm as a senior account executive. Since then, according to Asia-Pacific president Lynne Anne Davis: “She has tirelessly sailed through every door open to her with confidence and intelligence, embracing the pace, intensity and diversity of our business while coaching others to keep tempo with it too.” She is noted for building and leading the company’s financial services comms and public affairs capabilities across the region, from identifying and developing senior talent, to winning and counselling major accounts. In 2011, she became EVP — the youngest ever to be appointed at FleishmanHillard. In the same year, she played a key role in cultivating a large portfolio of clients for the agency’s newly launched global China practice. “Joanne is an inspirational role model to many women throughout our organisation who are becoming working mothers and seek balance to not only cope, but thrive in multiple roles,” Davis says.

Juhi Kalia
Juhi KaliaECD JWT Singapore
Having previously worked in Lowe, McCann, Ogilvy and JWT, Kalia is responsible for managing the worldwide brand development and creative for Unilever’s Lux and Friesland Campina’s Friso business. She was also involved in business wins for Sunsilk, HSBC, Panasonic and Listerine, Started as a writer 19 years ago, Kalia specialises in creative strategy, trans-media ideas, creative use of media, engagement, film, outdoor, cause marketing and activism, where she was credited for winning several international awards, including the first Cannes metal for Indonesia and the radio Grand Prix at Spikes for Lux. Kalia is also using her talent to make a difference, where she started for WWF that has since planted more than 10,000 trees in Sumatra. With a passion for mentoring, she has spoken at schools such as Award School Asia, Ngee Aan Poly. She also took part in a seminar on “Marketing to Women” last year at INSEAD.

Jye Smith
Jye SmithVice-president of digital, APAC, Weber Shandwick
A musician at heart, Jye Smith found his calling when producing live gigs online in South Sydney, tying together his love of music, media and marketing. He then joined the National Office of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association as events manager, producing events and seminars for Google and Intel and growing his reputation as a speaker in all things digital. He moved on to roles with CBS Interactive and Double Star Media before joining Weber Shandwick Australia as digital strategist in 2010 and was made responsible for planning and leading all online capabilities for Australian clients. Last July, he moved to Hong Kong to take on his current regional role, working with clients and staff across the firm’s 18 offices in the region. During his career, he has worked with more than 30 brands in consumer, technology, corporate and healthcare industries in digital and social media, including Red Bull, Lenovo, Holiday Inn, Hyundai, ANZ bank and the Australian Federal Government.

Angela Spain
Angela SpainGeneral manager, PR & Activation, Draftfcb Auckland
As an astute businesswoman with 16 years of experience in the PR & Activation business, Spain has been with Draftfcb for three years, and this year, she has proudly brought back four Cannes Lions. Spain spent her early years in London where she worked in corporate and consumer PR on accounts such as South African Tourism, The Ryder Cup and Air Berlin. Returning to New Zealand in 2006, Spain joined Professional Public Relations, Australasia’s largest PR consultancy, and was soon promoted to general manager, becoming the youngest ever female to hold this position in the New Zealand market. As a member of the Marcomms Leadership Group (MLG) within the Communications Agencies Association of New Zealand (CAANZ), Spain currently advises clients including Vodafone, Tegel, Paper Plus, Electricity Authority, NZTA, Vodafone, BMW/MINI and the Health Promotion Agency. Spain is also an advocate for public relations and experiential marketing, and has trained students at the Auckland Business School, the Auckland University of Technology and Waikato University.

Catherine Williams
Catherine WilliamsPartner, Mindshare, Singapore
Catherine Williams has seamlessly transitioned from research to insights to account leadership to strategy, touching all fundamental bases of media. She leads the teams across Asia-Pacific to ensure that Mindshare’s strategic planning breaks conventions. Being a creative asset to the agency, Williams has helped to create the nationally successful television show Memberku Hawa for Kimberly-Clark. She is also the chief editor of Culture Vulture, Mindshare’s global trends report on how popular culture influences everything that begins and ends in media. Sitting on the global strategy counsel of Mindshare, Williams has driven the rollout of Mindshare’s strategic planning framework for developing adaptive marketing solutions throughout Asia. Mindshare Asia-Pacific chairman Ashutosh Srivastava commended Williams for “her ability to help develop highly relevant and effective in-market communications strategy, and simplify seemingly complicated ideas”. Over the course of her career in Asia-Pacific, Williams has contributed to over $1.65 billion in new business billings, including clients such as Unilever, IHG, Energizer, Nestlé and Kellogg’s.

Katie Rigg-Smith
Katie Rigg SmithCEO, Mindshare Australia
Promoted as the CEO for Mindshare Australia in April at the age of 34, Rigg-Smith is the youngest and the only female CEO in her industry. She was the chief strategy officer prior to the CEO appointment, where she grew the strategic team from four people to 28 and maintained a churn rate in her team at 7 per cent for 18 months. She has also been instrumental for the agency’s business wins. “She has a tenacity, intelligence and spirit that is unrivalled in the industry. She played a key role in all new business wins for Mindshare and is instrumental in mentoring teams around her,” Chairman/CEO at GroupM John Steedman says. Rigg-Smith is a regular speaker at conferences in Australia, as well as a guest lecturer at several universities including University of Technology, Sydney and Sydney University. She also runs workshops for ‘NGen’, an Australian Media initiative for all media people with less than five years experience.

Yoshihiro Yagi
Yoshihiro YagiCreative director, Dentsu
Hailing from Kyoto, Yoshihiro Yagi has always had a keen sense of individualism and an eye for good design. Even in kindergarten, the photographer’s son would often follow a different path to those of his peers, angering his teachers by colouring his birds black instead of, well, in colours. Though a talented basketball player, he decided to pursue a career in design because he did not want to end up as “a PE teacher or a salesman selling leg warmers”. As a ‘Design Ninja’ at Dentsu (a team comprised of top art directors and graphic designers in the Kansai region of Japan), he has gone on to win numerous awards at Cannes for work such as ‘Get back, Tohoku’ for JR East; ‘The Ultra Asian’ for the Yoshida Hideo Memorial Foundation; and ‘Life is electric’ for Panasonic. Yagi says his approach is defined by the pursuit of simplicity. “I don’t take clients’ briefs at face value,” he explains. “I listen to their briefs, then I delve in to find out their value systems and what their real intentions are.” He is also a highly inclusive leader. “I care very much that everyone on my team feels assured that he or she is part of the team, and that they have responsibility in coming up with the solutions they are asked to contribute to the project.”

Cindy Dai
Cindy DaiGeneral Manager, UM Shanghai
Dai is a key driver in UM’s new business wins. By bringing Chrysler, Jeep, Claire’s, Lindt, Q-Med and Sompo into the UM fold, she was responsible for a 57 per cent increase in new billings in 2012. In the same year, Chrysler and Supor named UM as their best business partner – a testament to her exceptional talent. She achieved this by raising the bar dramatically of the quality of service UM clients receive. Being a passionate advocate for developing talent, she has been spurring her teams toward higher levels of achievement. Her work includes introducing a management trainee program that coached university graduates and allowed them to grow professionally within the organisation in their own ways; and designing an ‘adaptable training’ program for employees of all tiers. The proof is in the pudding: a year-end survey showed training satisfaction levels rose from 48 to 88 per cent.

Nico Abbruzzese
Nico AbbruzzeseHead of digital Asia-Pacific, Maxus, Singapore
From a youth spent playing with computers in Italy, Nico Abbruzzese has built a solid career in the digital sphere. After moving from Europe to Australia in the early 2000s, he spent seven years with WPP agencies, including Y&R, Ogilvy, JWT and RMG. In 2008, he struck out on his own with Kineo, a strategic consulting group that combined design, technology, marketing and advertising. The agency worked with clients such as Vodafone and Commonwealth Bank and was eventually sold to STW group’s Campaign Palace. It was at this point that he was offered his current role at Maxus Singapore, a new field for a man without prior media experience. But embracing the chance to “make a difference”, Abbruzzese jumped right in. Since then he has built up Maxus’ digital capabilities across the region, a major part of which includes co-founding the network’s global technology research and development division Metalworks with director of technology Tom Kelshaw.

Debbie Aryandari
Debbie AryandariCEO, iProspect Indonesia
Debbie Aryandari is a big deal at Aegis Media. Originally from a multimedia background, Aryandari joined Carat as a freelancer in 2009 to help broaden its digital services. She quickly moved up the ranks, and when Carat won the Nokia account in 2012, she was entrusted with setting up the iProspect brand in Indonesia. As a one-person team, Aryandari doubled business year-on-year by winning account after account, building iProspect into one of the strongest performance marketing brands in Indonesia. Her most important wins for the company include Axis Telecommunications, GM, Nutricia, Bank Mandiri, Philips and AIG. Today, she oversees a team of nine in the fast-growing Indonesian market. It is hard to believe that this former graphic designer began her career with Femina, a lifestyle magazine in Indonesia.

Charlotta Lagerdahl-Gandolfo
Charlotta Lagerdahl GandolfoRegional business director Asia, MSLGroup
Taking on the role in February 2013, Lagerdahl-Gandolfo oversees reputation-building, employer branding, talent development, business strategy and planning for 38 offices and 1,675 employees. She led large assignments within crisis and change management for major MNCs, where she advised at the highest levels, leading the strategy for response far beyond PR. Lagerdahl-Gandolfo has supported the agency’s organic growth of more than 30 per cent, and outlined a strategic roadmap to increase the level of consultancy assignments in the region. Under her leadership, the agency has achieved zero unplanned staff turn-over. “Charlotta is highly trusted by her clients, her reports and her peers for her ability to perform while maintaining a ‘have heart attitude’,” said Glenn Osaki, Asia president of MSLGroup. “Her strategic, solutions-focused approach and steadfast commitment to those around her has been the reason that her star continues to rise. Charlotta’s ability to stay ahead of the ever-changing communications landscape, her flexibility and visionary outlook make her an asset to MSLGroup.”

Lizzie Nolan
Lizzie NolanHead of planning, APAC, MediaCom
With nine years at the agency under her belt, Lizzie Nolan can be called a MediaCom veteran. She spent her first five years at the agency in London running communications planning for United Kingdom-based clients. She later moved to Singapore to join the regional team to support the Asia-Pacific strategy for Procter & Gamble (P&G). There she quickly recognised an opportunity to fundamentally change the way that the American multinational company’s prestige business operates. First, she set up a team of luxury mindset partners in the Lion City and throughout the region, tapping into analytics and end-to-end digital capabilities to grow the business for both the client and the agency. She then went on to win the P&G prestige business for Southeast Asia. MediaCom was invited to pitch for the rest of the Asia-Pacific P&G business a year later. The organisational intervention that Lizzie designed for the premium part of the business was reapplied across another five categories spanning 30 brands and 10 markets, and was worth $2 billion. Nolan was recently promoted to head of planning for her efforts. Nihar Das, MediaCom’s regional managing partner for the Asia-Pacific P&G team, describes Nolan as “extremely idea-centric yet organised”. “She always strives to do more for people around her, delivering above and beyond for her clients and inspiring her team,” he says. “It is no wonder that she has always had a loyal fellowship, and is my personal inspiration.”

Saurabh Sharma
Saurabh SharmaPlanning partner, Ogilvy & Mather Beijing
Saurabh Sharma is a planner who believes that creativity is something that should not be limited to ‘creatives’. This should obviously be self-evident, but for all the talk, not everyone in the agency world puts this sort of thinking into practice. Sharma is different — his positive approach has had a big impact on the agency since he arrived from Mumbai seven years ago. Mickey Chak, chief planning officer at Ogilvy China, credits Sharma with inspiring a more creative approach in the planning department all round. Sharma has won WPP’s Atticus award for original thinking in marketing services four times. “If I don’t create something new for 48 hours, I feel uncomfortable and think I’m wasting life,” he told Campaign earlier this year. Another of his passions is language, and he recently published the book Turbo Chinese, an account of his mastery of Chinese characters that explains visual processing techniques that anyone can use to achieve surprising results.

Mazuin Zin
Mazuin ZinManaging director, Lowe Malaysia
As one of the youngest managing directors in the business, Zin led Lowe Malaysia’s transformation from a conventional advertising agency to a distinct specialist. Under her leadship, the agency introduced Shopper Marketing & Engagement platform services for Danone Dumex’s Growing up Milk, and launched a Digital & Social Engagement Practice to help Unilever’s Rexona drive deeper conversation with Malaysians. In addition, the launch of Marketing Consultancy services has generated business wins like Burger King Malaysia, KLIA-Gateway, BIC Shaver, Jotun Paints, and Paramount Property. At age 35, Zin was appointed group GM for Leo Burnett Malaysia and ARC Worldwide. She has led the accounts including Petronas, Malaysian Airlines, Philip Morris, Proton and McDonald’s to name a few. Calling Zin a “proven business leader”, Rupen Desai, regional president at Lowe Asia-Pacific, said Zin has the foresight and skills to lead the agency in today’s dynamic environment, making a marked difference in the time she has been with Lowe Malaysia.

Amar Urhekar
Amar UrhekarExecutive vice-president, Asia-Pacific, McCann Health
To say that Urhekar’s 13-year career at McCann Health has been impressive would be an understatement. Having joined as the division’s first employee in India, he proceeded to turn operations in that market, China and Japan into profit centres, one by one. His efforts were recognised with his promotion to McCann Health’s youngest regional head. Last year, he led the network’s fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth, pulling in nearly 330 new business wins. Known for challenging norms, he also managed to engineer the Interpublic Group’s first acquisition in its 50-year history in Japan — that of MDS, which was fully integrated with McCann Health in just three months. That he has described the achievement as akin to “dental proctology” is testament to his tenacity. McCann Health has already been awarded Specialist Network of the Year multiple times, and it does not expect this year to be the last.

Sapna Nemani
SapnaHead of strategy P&G Asia, Starcom (China)
Terms like ‘strategic powerhouse’ and ‘indispensible’ are often used to describe 37 year old Sapna Nemani, head of Strategy P&G Asia for Starcom MediaVest (China) by her peers. Indeed with 15 years of experience and strong insight driven expertise, Nemani is a key figure at SMG. She is known to combine left brain and right brain thinking for seamless impact and action. In fact, she is considered the only person in the agency across Asia to head the ‘Human experience strategy and data & analytics expertise’. She is an active contributor to the global network and is driving disruptive innovation in China that is being recognized as best in class across the world. Nemani’s strong experience across media and creative agencies also gives her a distinct advantage. She has also worked in almost every key market in Asia including India, Southeast Asia, Japan, Korea and China.

Kana Nakano
Kana NakanoCommunication planner, future communication department, communication design centre, Dentsu
Through her works, Nakano has showcased her outstanding creativity, from ‘iButterfly’, an AR coupon application that won the 2012 World Summit Award for Mobile, to a prototype of a ‘neuro-tagging map’, a smartphone app that allows users to target locations and share their ‘feelings’ by analysing their brain waves. As one of the founding members of ‘neurowear’, a project team focusing on creating communication through bio-sensing technologies, Nakano helped invent Necomimi, a cat ear-shaped communication neuro headset, which picked up a Bronze Lion in the Mobile category of Cannes Lions 2013. “By making the most of her avid curiosity and comprehension of digital technology, as well as the sensitivity and good taste that she has cultivated as a consumer, wife and mother, Kana has developed her forte in translating and converting complicated ‘hard’ technology into easy-to-understand and accessible ‘soft’ ideas,” says Masataka Hosogane, head of future communication department, communication design centre at Dentsu.

Intan Mokhnar
IntanGeneral Manager, BBDO Singapore
Intan Mokhnar joined BBDO/Proximity Singapore as account director in 2006 and within five years she took on the role of general manager. Mokhnar is responsible for BBDO’s strategic direction and overall direction while also handling the Blackberry account regionally. Under Mokhnar, BBDO Singapore has seen a 25 per cent growth, primarily driven by BlackBerry, Exxon, Visa and HP. She is also responsible for maintaining core client relationships. This includes on boarding APAC regional clients as part of global wins, specifically for Johnson & Johnson, BlackBerry, Exxon and Visa where she was the transition director for three months. She was also responsible for building BBDO’s below-the-line capabilities as a separate division that would allow rapid turnover of work. Clients including BlackBerry, SingTel, HP, Fonterra, J&J and Guinness have benefitted from this. Mokhnar also champions numerous cultural initiatives in the organizations. Most noteworthy of these was the CSR project, where BBDO Singapore helped build homes in Batam by raising over SGD40,000.

Angello Dias/Santosh Padhi
Angello DiasFounder/ECD, Taproot
A little philosophy can go a long way. Dias (right) has described himself as someone without much vision beyond the willingness to improvise and try new things. Since founding Taproot four years ago with Padhi (left), that approach seems to have paid off. The agency has become one of India’s most celebrated agencies and counts iconic brands such as The Times of India among its clients. The Santosh Padhiduo sold the agency to Dentsu last year but show little sign of losing their independence. In many ways, it is the happy-go-lucky approach that Dias and Padhi take to their existence as copywriter/art director entrepreneurs that suggests that they will continue to enjoy considerable success. One advantage is that they are not set in their ways, and so are more than ready to evolve according to client needs. According to Dias, “you can’t have an iron-clad belief system because often when you come to implement something, you find that it is no longer valid”.

Eva Ng
Eva NgPlanning director, Publicis and Publicis Modem, Hong Kong
Ng’s approach to strategy is strongly grounded in the management of ‘brand’ as a corporate balance sheet asset that drives business. Since she joined Publicis Hong Kong in 2011, Ng has overhauled the planning process and spearheaded the adoption and application of the new global Publicis strategic process with many locally developed elements. Ng works with key clients including Citibank, Tempo, the Nestlé portfolio of coffee and infant nutrition brand as well as APAC/ regional planning for clients such as Marriott International and AXA. “As a planner, Eva is both intuitive and data driven. As an advertising mind, she understands the business and the creative, and is a valued contributor to every major pitch. As a brand guardian, she constantly refocuses the team through lens of the consumer,” said Sue McCusker, CEO, Publicis Hong Kong. “The most telling measure of her success is the ability to win a pitch on strategy alone – something quite unexpected for a creative agency.

Sascha Engel
sascha_engelDeputy Head of Digital, China; National Director, Digital Lab, Ogilvy & Mather, China
Six years ago, Sascha Engel started his career in digital advertising and marketing as a manager of Emerging Platforms at Ogilvy & Mather China. He spotted a trend in technology that would combine creativity and tact to reach business goals, adopted it and took it to the next level. Not surprisingly, in those six years Engel has gone on to head O&M China’s Innovation Practice and to oversee the first-ever in-agency Digital Lab in China. His clients include Philips, Red Bull, LensCrafters, Tsingtao Beer, Cerebos and e-commerce website Yihaodian, in which he created the world’s first GPS location tagged augmented reality virtual stores app that has generated lots of usage and press coverage last year. He is also the principal architect behind location-based game Buick that has garnered more than half a million downloads and increased the company’s Weibo followers by 30 per cent. At 30 years old, he is now also the agency’s deputy head of digital, leading the planning, guidance, coordination and implementation of O&M China’s digital development strategy and growth across its disciplines and offices across China.

Michel de Rijk
Michel_de_Rijk_XaxisManaging director, Asia-Pacific, Xaxis
A child of entrepreneurs, Michel de Rijk worked from childhood in his mother’s computer shop while growing up in The Netherlands. His early encounters with computers and the internet stamped him for life. “From day one, I was sold,” he recalls. Following in his parents’ footsteps, he founded his own company Reactor Events & Bookings, which organised dance events in the Netherlands that were promoted through digital advertising and online publications. “It combined my two passions: digital advertising and music,” he says. Three years later, De Rijk joined De Tele­foongids, a leading search engine in the Netherlands, managing their online sales team and in 2008, he moved to EyeWonder, a rich-media adserver. While helming the tech company’s Dutch office, EyeWonder started to field requests from the Middle East. De Rijk coaxed his chief executive into letting him fly over and a week later, contract signed, he launched the company’s MENA division in Dubai — and two years later went on to launch its Asia-Pacific operations. After DG Mediamind acquired the server, De Rijk opted for a travel break, but was contacted by Xaxis New York to launch its Asia-Pacific network. “Best move of my career,” says de Rijk.

Meg Chen
Meg ChenEVP, digital investment, Aegis Media China
Joined Aegis early last year at the age of 38, Chen spent the past 12 months focusing on digital resource consolidation within the group including the newly-acquired digital companies CatchStone and OMP, where the consolidations resulted in a threefold growth on digital volume and more than 15 new business wins in just the last six months. “She demonstrates her excellent capabilities in effectively consolidating group investment resources and proactively responding to the new opportunities through close observation and understanding of the industry and market,” KF Lee, CEO at Aegis Media China, says. With the aim to become a leading digital group in China in volume, innovation and leadership, Aegis launched various valuable reports and research to the industry under Meg’s leadership, such as “online video effectiveness research” with video sites as well as monthly “dual-screen report” with iResearch. Under her supervision, the agency also launched three workshops with different media including Youku/Tudou, Tencent, and Baidu early this year.

Wong Tse San
Tse San WongHead of communications planning, Vizeum Malaysia
As head of communications planning based in Kuala Lumpur, Wong Tse San has been instrumental in retaining and winning key accounts for Vizeum Malaysia. She has helped the agency hold onto four of its most important clients that went into pitch mode this year. She believes that retaining clients can often be just as challenging as winning new ones. Her ideas have helped challenger brands such as Nippon Paint and Perodua emerge as category leaders. Wong’s compatriots say that her work with these two clients not only won awards across categories, but more importantly has significantly helped profitability and brand equity. Andy Miller, chief executive of Vizeum, describes her as a “team player of the highest calibre”. Prior to leading communications planning at Vizeum Malaysia, Wong was client services director, a role in which she helped grow unit billings from $9.14 million to $22.8 million, clinching the accounts of CIMB Group and Uniqlo.

Accelerating disruption: The changing role of Asian media

Media platforms have undergone massive disruption in recent decades, but advertisers are turning the interactive shift to their advantage. By Susie Sell


Outdoor: From shabby to sleek
TV: A personalised experience
Digital: Making up for lost time
Print: Down, but not out
Opinion: Advertisers must come to terms with a multi-screen world


A lot can change in 40 years, but it appears even more can change in 10. Since Media celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2003, the industry has changed beyond recognition—and in ways that could never have been predicted.

As we celebrated our last milestone, we talked of the “frenzied technological developments” that had taken place when we welcomed the new millennium—a phrase that, with the benefit of hindsight, now appears more than a slight overestimation. Even the most prescient soothsayer in 2003 could not have predicted the sheer scale of technological developments that were to come, or the irrevocable impact the likes of Facebook, Twitter or YouTube would have on the media world. Any technological advances that came before have now been completely overshadowed, and so furious has been the pace of change that it is now generally acknowledged that the shifts we have seen in the past 10 years have been more pronounced than those in the past 50 years put together.

“It’s the difference between Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt,” says Havas Media Asia-Pacific CEO Vishnu Mohan. “I guess the best way to put the difference is that the former was evolution, the latter revolution.”

No media platform has remained immune to the technology juggernaut; all have had to adapt. For some this transition has been proactive, for others it has been a desperate reactive scramble to catch up with the immense pace of technological innovation. The big story of the decade has been the rise and rise of digital, and the impact this has had on the stalwarts across the region, notably the print sector. It was their first experience for many in the industry of such a transformation. “We have probably not seen this kind of change in media since the time TV went mass,” says Harpreet Kaintel, ZenithOptimedia’s APAC chief strategy officer. “[But] now it is happening in multiple directions, at the same time. It’s a multifaceted change happening at nuclear speed.”

Shifts have been recorded in all Asia-Pacific markets. A decade of healthy economic growth and the resultant swelling of middle class populations, literacy rates and urbanisation have combined with the technological advances to create a perfect storm of change. However, it is China that has seen some of the most dramatic shifts. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) data shows China’s media and entertainment market more than doubled between 2008 and 2013 alone, with large shifts seen particularly in the digital space. “China is on fire [when it comes to digital],” says OMG Asia Pacific CEO of platforms Lee Smith. “Scale will do that, and the reality is that there is plenty of inventory on both sides of the industry—massive amounts of content (therefore ad space) and plenty of big budgets to do very big, very cool and very profitable work across all platforms.”

India and Indonesia are also bright spots, recording huge overall growth in the media and entertainment sectors over recent years. But gains have largely been concentrated in the more traditional spheres of TV and newspaper advertising, with heady demographics, strong economic growth and a lack of broadband penetration allowing these sectors to thrive. Meanwhile, the more-established markets such as Japan and Australia are recording more conservative overall growth and, in contrast to other markets in the region, are beginning to see very real declines in print advertising.

Clearly, then, while Asia continues to deliver impressive growth, it is not entirely protected from the challenges faced in Europe and North America. Although demographics and economics are in its favour now, there is no doubt the sector will need to continue to adapt and evolve if it is to continue to deliver growth over the next 40 years.

Outdoor: From shabby to sleek

The out-of-home sector has seen something of a turnaround over the past decade. A better managed and maintained sector has coincided with sweeping urbanisation across the region. As Asia has become richer, shopping malls have mushroomed, while public transport networks and airports have expanded to deal with the growing mobility across the region. Asian consumers, flush with cash, are also spending more time outdoors. This presents a key opportunity for out-of-home as advertisers continue chasing eyeballs.

But it is the sector’s ability to keep pace with the digital revolution that has allowed it to maintain its share of the advertising pie. It has certainly come a long way since the early 2000s when Bluetooth mobile technology provided the first means of interactivity for the traditionally one-directional sector. The more recent rise of smartphones and the spread of QR codes outside of Japan are now providing more sophisticated means of engagement and, crucially, better data with which to measure effectiveness.

“It’s now almost standard for sites to have some element of immediate interactivity, which is driving effectiveness and engagement,” explains Rachelle Berges, managing partner at Maxus Asia-Pacific. “Out-of-home now features as one of two key mediums in low-budget campaigns. It’s not uncommon for ad campaigns to be made up of just digital and out-of-home media.”

And it’s not just interaction that is providing a boon for out-of-home. Creaking billboards are being replaced by sleek dynamic digital displays. It is this transition that Starcom MediaVest Group’s global network client regional director for APAC Hanley King believes is a key reason why the sector continues to attract advertising dollars. “You are moving from old, static billboards to what is basically a screen now; they are dynamic forms of advertising. And so it is now looked at as somewhat of a different medium,” he says.

King adds that agencies are now carrying out “video-neutral planning”, where out-of-home is considered to be another screen, much in the same way as YouTube is. “As it keeps adapting, and the cost of doing these things comes down as small-scale initiatives become more ubiquitous, it will take a bigger share of the dollar. Screen-neutral planning will only result in more money heading outdoor’s way.”

TV: A personalised experience

Television has been the darling of the advertising world for decades, and while the past 10 years have presented some of the most significant challenges yet, the sector has shown that it is not ready to give up its golden status anytime soon. Data from PwC shows that TV remains the most popular form of advertising in markets such as Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, where it makes up more than half of total advertising revenue.

The viral uptake of new technology and the proliferation of smartphone and tablet devices over the past 10 years has also meant people are no longer just watching programmes when they are scheduled, nor just through the TV set.

“The whole experience of watching TV has changed,” says Carat Asia-Pacific chief executive Sean O’Brien. “It’s more interactive, with links to additional and supplementary content across platforms. It is more mobile, watched on the move on a smartphone or tablet, just as much as in the home on a TV.”

This fragmentation of audiences is creating new challenges, but TV has shown it is able to continue to meet them and reinvent itself to keep pace with changing viewing habits. Media owners are increasingly allowing multi-device access to subscribers in order to retain revenue, as well as driving interaction by facilitating social sharing and creating communities by extending their content to digital platforms.

Guy Hearn, director of communication insights for Asia-Pacific at Ominicom Media Group, adds that while advertisers are facing threats from ad skipping and over-the-top services, there are still plenty of opportunities, including branded or integrated content. “And as connected TVs come into more common use, advertisers have the opportunity to understand more about individual consumer viewing habits and interests and to tailor ever more personalised messages,” he adds. “So rather than being in decline, TV is in a state of transition to a more viewer-driven and more connected future. It’s an exciting time.”

Digital: Making up for lost time

After a number of false starts, the digital advertising sector has made rapid progress over recent years. Back in 2003, a digital strategy largely consisted of tentatively putting money behind display, and even less behind paid search. It has been a long, sometimes arduous, journey to the position it now enjoys, where there is now little doubt in advertisers’ minds about the importance of a comprehensive digital strategy. “Advertisers are now sinking their teeth into it and trying to [maximise] the advantages that the media can offer for them as a business enabler, not just as an advertising medium,” says Mohan.

The change has been borne from an explosion in the options available, whether through the advent of Facebook or YouTube, or the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets. This shift has seen advertisers firmly focused on the value-added services like apps that can help boost their bottom line. As such, display advertising has become a much less important element, with Magna Global figures showing that display advertising accounts for around a third of internet spend, compared to the approximate three-quarters it enjoyed in 2003.

“Asia has taken an unacceptably long time to evolve compared to other developed regions, but digital is making up for slow progress in the past with several leapfrogging instances,” says Smith. He points out that search, RTB, video and social are all now aligned to be hugely successful. “The future is blindingly bright for digital,” he adds. “It isn’t even about digital media anymore. It’s about bigger ideas getting off the ground because technology, data and return are giving big ideas credibility and increasingly more opportunities to succeed commercially.”

Print: Down, but not out

While print newspapers in Europe and America limp toward their long-heralded deathbeds, increasing affluence in Asia-Pacific and its associated gains in literacy has allowed circulation levels to remain largely unscathed, at least for now. PwC goes as far as describing the region as the “engine room” of continuing growth in the global newspaper business. India remains particularly buoyant, where print still commands around half of all advertising dollars. Japan is also home to two of the world’s best selling newspapers, with The Yomiuri Shimbun attracting a readership of around 25 million, while The Asahi Shimbun has more than 19 million.

But there is no denying the sector has become increasingly strained over the past decade, with Magna Global showing newspaper’s share of ad spend declining from 31 per cent in 2003 to 20 per cent in 2012.

“I don’t see any reasons as to why Asia will be any different [to the US or Europe],” says Mohan. “It’s only a matter of time. You might see some of these survive the next five years without problem, and they might see the impact happening a little later. But not for long: the trend is universal, it’s omnipresent and it’s going to happen.”

Out of a necessity to survive, the past decade has seen newspapers diversify, building their online offerings, complete with video, blogs, citizen journalism and digital apps. But it’s not just a question of moving online. King says print’s future importance depends on how the sector goes after niche audiences, how it adapts through digital apps, and how it generates higher returns per reader. To this end, he believes big data and programmatic buying will provide a boost to the sector. “It is not going to die, because it will get much better at this as they harness technology to allow much better targeting,” he says. “Some will fall by the wayside, and some will do very well.”

And to ensure that Asian publishers don’t follow their Western counterparts, they too will have to find a completely different, locally appropriate business model. “It will be quite difficult for these big houses, which are so used to massive revenues, with thousands of people working for them, to find solutions very easily,” warns Kaintel. “We will have the odd Huffington Post, which will probably find a niche in there and create an online news service, but not necessarily the newspaper that we now know.”

While print has clearly been the biggest victim of the digital revolution, other media platforms are not in a completely safe position either. As much as it was impossible to predict the changes that have taken place over the past 10 years, the next 10 look set to be equally disruptive; and all media will have to continue to adapt.

“All media which have been the traditional play are going to be questioned as we see more and more data and accountability,” says Kaintel. “Every media is going to be questioned, be it TV, outdoor, radio or cinema. Everyone will have to answer with numbers to productivity questions.”

Marcel_bwOpinion: Advertisers must come to terms with a multi-screen world

By Marcel Fenez, global leader, entertainment and media, PwC

The media consumption experience of a decade ago is best described as static and linear, dominated by appointment viewing and content aggregation determined by media owners and distributors. This is transforming into a world where the internet, mobility and the device revolution are allowing greater choice as to when, where and how content is consumed.

The concept of ‘prime time’ has been eroded to ‘my time’ (where people enjoy content at their convenience through the use of recording or time shifting) and is migrating to ‘shared time’ (where they share content experiences through their second screen). Never in the history of the industry has consumption of content been at such an intense level, with multitasking, interactivity with content and sharing becoming commonplace. The emphasis now and in the future will be on understanding multi-screen behaviour, and increasingly monetisation will be along content verticals as this provides the most options for a compelling experience.

While many of the trends that we are seeing today were being mooted 10 years ago, such as the increased relevance of mobile, it is only in the past three years, with mass adoption of smart devices with which consumers are showing increased willingness to consume rich media, that the mobile story has become a reality.

The share of global adspend on digital will grow from about one in five now, to one in three by 2017 and likely one in two in 10 years, as advertisers exploit the opportunities provided by enhanced data analytics and measurement.


Reflections by John Smurthwaite and Chris Riquier: Getting to know the Asian consumer

In which the authors share anecdotes about the research employed to understand consumers (and mosquitos) from the 1970s through to today.

When TNS (or Frank Small Associates as it was then) took our first foray into Asia 40 years ago, it was to set up shop in Singapore. One intrepid director set off with AUS$15,000 and a credit card, with the remit to bring in business before the money ran out.

Some six months later the funds were indeed drying up when we secured our first project, with Reckitt Benckiser (or Reckitt & Colman as they were in the 1970s)—a company we’re still proud to work with today. With a client on the books, TNS Singapore was up and running. Our work in those early days was very straightforward research: understanding people’s usage of and attitudes toward products and brands. There was virtually no segmentation, no cross-media analysis and none of the sophisticated research tools we have in place today. Our clients’ priority was sample design and whether we were able to reach representative numbers of Singaporeans—an issue that would hardly be discussed these days.

Getting to know the Singaporean consumer presented challenges and surprises. It was a fascinating place to be a researcher. The answers to a client’s specific business challenge were far from obvious.

For example, when working on a brief for the French liquor Bénédictine, we were looking to define the profile of those who were drinking it. But Singapore was not like most global markets, where the drink was enjoyed as a digestif. In Singapore, almost 100 per cent of consumption was by new mothers in ‘confinement’. Our client struggled to believe the result, even when we demonstrated that the reason for this pattern was that the drink had become established in the market as a gift for women who had just given birth, to help replenish vitamins lost in the blood during delivery.

Defining these basics about who the consumers actually were—and what motivated them—was much of our business in those days. Reckitt Benckiser needed to understand why half of the employees in government departments used mosquito repellent and half didn’t. What we eventually uncovered was that government buildings were typically high-rises  and the reason 50 percent of people working there didn’t use repellent is because mosquitoes can’t fly above a certain number of floors!   

There’s no doubt that our industry today would be unrecognisable to a researcher of the 1970s. Whilst surveys and primary research are still important, they are no longer the only way to build insights into people’s attitudes, behaviours and motivations. With access to thousands of data sources—driven largely by people across Asia leap-frogging their way to mass internet adoption—our job is more about integrating and interrogating the most relevant data to identify opportunities for our clients to grow their businesses.

In 1973, research in Asia was about performance measurement or understanding consumers. Today it is a vital decision-making tool, which needs to be delivered quickly to guide short-term tactical decisions that will support a client’s bottom-line growth and inform long-term investment. As our industry continues to develop, we will see this speed increase further with real-time reporting, more technology integration and an increased ability to forecast with precision.

We are reaching the stage where we can predict when customers are likely to book a holiday, when they will start researching a new car purchase and the impact of social media on a brand’s health. We still search for those counter-intuitive insights that so surprised our Benedictine client, but today we have far more places to look. 

John Smurthwaite joined TNS in 1971 and opened many of the TNS Asian offices in the 1970s and 1980s. He is based in Kuala Lumpur and is the company’s chairman for Asia-Pacific. Chris Riquier joined TNS in 1997 and has been CEO of TNS Asia-Pacific since 2011.

Reflections by Greg Paull: Huge changes, but only the beginning

In which the author recounts a memorable pitch won by a bluff involving George Lucas and looks forward to the massive changes on the way.

I’ve been very lucky to see most of the last twenty years of change in Asia from the client side and the agency side of the fence, and now sitting on it as the consultant. I often wonder if I was based in the US or Europe through much of that time, the life experiences I would have missed: watching China leapfrog, seeing India and Indonesia’s rise, watching the bags under Chris Jaques’ eyes extend downwards.

I would say the industry has gone through massive changes in Asia in that time, but far more are to come. In the future when big data hits digital, the whole nature of how marketing is created, modified and measured will impact us all. If the data shows your campaign is failing after a week , a day or even an hour, why wouldn’t you change it? The pressure on all sides is going to be enormous.

One of my favourite stories goes back 20 years to a global pitch we were working on at Bates for Malaysia Airlines. In those days, before China emerged, Southeast Asia was the focus, and the budget for this account was large. Two days before the pitch we had nothing: just some futuristic spot based on the fact Malaysia Airlines fleet was so new. Terrible ad.

Our Australian CEO, Ian Elliot, had an idea: Let’s call George Lucas and get him to direct it. Well, surprise surprise, we were unable to get to anyone in his company before the pitch. Some junior monkey told us he was very busy. The pitch day arrived. Ian stood up and said “And we’ve personally spoken to George Lucas and he’s very, very excited about making this spot. Very excited.”

So we won. But just one small catch—find that Star Wars guy. US$3 million and a trip to California later, the client got to shake George Lucas’ hand (George’s only involvement in the project) and we had a happy customer. Impossible is nothing!

Through the 40 years, we have been very fortunate to have Campaign / Media there as a voice, reporting and celebrating the wins and the falls. The industry needs more independent views to bring maturity and quality. Here’s to the next 40.

Greg Paull is principal with R3.

Book excerpt: Advertising Rocks, And Invariably Rolls

Simon Pounds is a “convivial, self-proclaimed scribomaniac and rock-and-roll fanatic” who spent 20 years in the Asian advertising industry as a “copywriter and frustrated art director”.

He has given simon_poundsCampaign Asia-Pacific  permission to share Chapter One of his first book, Advertising Rocks. And Invariably Rolls, which “draws on a trail of hilarious incidents he witnessed (and in some cases instigated)” during six years of his career in Asia.

Chapter One begins in 1984, just as Pounds has made the decision to strike out on his own after several years working with agencies in Hong Kong and Singapore. It continues with his somewhat mad plan to get the upper hand in negotiating for expense payments from a former employer and also includes a near encounter with David Abbot and David Ogilvy.

Read Chapter One of Advertising Rocks, And Invariably Rolls (PDF)

Pounds lives in the UK with his “long-suffering Australian wife”. His second book, Advertising Blues. With a Hint of Rhythm is slated for release in 2015.

Reflections by Ken Mandel: Booms, busts and booms

In which the author arrives too early for his own good in Myanmar and (later) in the digital revolution.

In a lot of ways things of come full circle for me since I entered the region in 1994 to join the ranks of Thailand’s first dedicated PR agency PRESKO, where I met my first industry mentor, the “father” of modern public relations in Thailand and Chairman of PRESKO, Esko Pajasalmi. 

Esko was the one who encouraged and inspired me to move to Myanmar in 1996. Esko had settled in Thailand in 1951 as a missionary before building up the largest PR firm in the Kingdom, which he later sold to Shandwick, and he filled me with stories about the very early agency days in Bangkok. I told him I wanted a similar experience, but it seemed too late. He looked at me in that wise way he had and said, “Ken you should move to Myanmar. They are 30 years behind, so it is not too late”.

A few months later I was in Yangon working for my next mentor, Serge Pun, chairman and founder of SPA & Associates. A year later I went on to work at Bates Advertising while Myanmar opened up and brands and marketers rushed into the market—only to be very disappointed when the market abruptly closed again under the Burmese military régime.

It was just too early for Myanmar, and I was ahead of my time, but I suppose Myanmar was a good prelude to my next “too early” adventure, which was entering the digital industry with XM in 1999.

Like so many other naïve agency youngsters, I had seen the light and was done with ‘traditional advertising’ because the old farts ‘just didn’t get it’.

At XM we enjoyed a very short gold rush until it all came crashing down with the Nasdaq in 2000. Again, I was too early. And evangelizing digital in those early days was like being a Jehovah’s Witness: Nobody answered the door!

After the crash, the old farts were back on top, and the digital kids were in the dog house. The hope for digital in Asia was no better than the hope for Myanmar (see “Upturn a distant hope for digital operators“, Media, July 16, 2004, by Atifa Hargrave-Silk).

The author circa 2005

The author circa 2001

By 2006 digital was hot again, but so many folks had left the industry during the crash that digital talent was a very scarce commodity. That slowed the industry’s growth potential, but there was no turning back and everyone knew digital was here to stay.

And now in 2013 it appears that Myanmar is here to stay too. So this now ‘older fart’ can luckily say he was part of two booms, two busts and two re-booms.

Ken Mandel is the managing director for Hootsuite in Asia-Pacific. 

Ads of the Future Competition: Winning vision of a branded world

The brief was deceptively simple: Show us what advertising will look like 40 years from now. The winning entry to Campaign Asia-Pacific’s competition, ‘Flags’ by Sie Macha and Kevin Mayuga of DDB DM9 JaymeSyfu, did just that. Its premise is that brands will be such an integral part of people’s lives in a globalised world that they will become part of the world’s national flags.

The contest received 32 entries, from which the judges shortlisted four (the winner plus three others). See all four below, and click any of the images for a larger version.

Our thanks to those who entered and especially the judges: Graham Fink, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather China; David Guerrero, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO Guerrero Proximity; and Thierry Halbroth, executive creative director of McCann Worldgroup subsidiary Commonwealth.

WINNER –  ‘Flags’ by Sie Macha and Kevin Mayuga of DDB DM9 JaymeSyfu:

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Judges’ comments on ‘Flags’:

Fink: “Very clever.  A strong message and very nicely crafted.”

Guerrero:  “Frightening but accurate. The one that works the best. It’s an elegant statement of the rise of brands and the decline of geographies—trends that have been evident over the past 40 years and will surely continue for the next 40.”

Halbroth: “This is the one that will provoke the most debate. It’s controversial, borderline creepy, really disturbing.”


SHORTLISTED ENTRY – ‘Dreamy’ by Prasad Venkatraman and Ashish Kadam:

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SHORTLISTED ENTRY – ‘Reincarnation’ by Komal Ranjan and Vinod Sivan:

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SHORTLISTED ENTRY – ‘Bikini Destinations’ by Ashok Giri and Alan Rego:

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