ASIA: DISPARATE ASIAN YOUTH MARKETS WANT MORE MEDIA CHOICE - Its teenage population may be huge, but the potential for youth titles in South-east Asia has yet to be realised, Steve Shipside believes

By STEVE SHIPSIDE, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 09 May 1997 12:00AM

John McClure, the senior-vice president of media at Dentsu Young and Rubicam Hong Kong, contemplates the demographics of South-east Asia with some relish. ’If you look at how the youth population breaks down across Asia, the number of people under 34 is vast. In some of the countries in the Asia Pacific region it is 50 per cent or more,’ he says. ’The disposable income and spending levels may be lower compared with the US or the UK, but you have to look at the numbers to realise the potential.’

John McClure, the senior-vice president of media at Dentsu Young

and Rubicam Hong Kong, contemplates the demographics of South-east Asia

with some relish. ’If you look at how the youth population breaks down

across Asia, the number of people under 34 is vast. In some of the

countries in the Asia Pacific region it is 50 per cent or more,’ he

says. ’The disposable income and spending levels may be lower compared

with the US or the UK, but you have to look at the numbers to realise

the potential.’



The best way to reach that lucrative youth market, however, is less

clear.



Youth publishing is, by nature, fast changing, with new music and gossip

titles being launched all the time. One popular magazine, D’Core, is

distributed free every fortnight in sports shops in ten countries across

South-east Asia.



Even so, the life expectancy and success of these titles is limited.



Young Asians, it seems, are less likely to spend time flicking through

teen magazines than their Western counterparts. Even established titles

like Singapore’s Teen, and its rival Teenage Magazine, manage

circulation figures of only around 30,000. More than two years on from

its launch, Hong Kong’s leading youth monthly, Amoeba, claims a

circulation of just 25,000 - despite being in Chinese. The leading

Chinese-language weekly, Yes!, claims a circulation of 100,000. Without

independent auditing even these figures are open to dispute.



The limited penetration of print magazines is often blamed on the boom

in TV channels, but a recent dip in TV adspend indicates that

advertisers are questioning the effectiveness of the small screen.



’While it may be true that TV has not been doing as well as in previous

years, this cannot be attributed directly to the number of new youth

titles,’ McClure says. ’In light of the handover to China, advertisers

in Hong Kong have been taking a wait-and-see attitude and have been

spending more prudently.



’I believe TV spending is still generally on the increase in Hong Kong,’

McClure adds. ’But what is driving the media explosion here is regional

TV, not regional print. Look at the highest circulation title in the

region; out of 13 or 14 countries it’s Reader’s Digest with a less than

two million circulation. With a population of 2.9 billion in the Asia

Pacific region, that’s not exactly huge.’



Instead, McClure cites the demands of electronic media on the attentions

of youth. ’More and more people are surfing the Net, who would otherwise

be vegging out in front of the TV. There’s no real measurement of

Internet growth, but computer growth out here is predicted to outstrip

that of TV by 1998 - even in China you see countless people with Sony

Discmans and mobile phones.’



The Internet, in Asia, as anywhere else, is a slippery medium for

clients, agencies and media buyers to get to grips with. Hit rates on

pages give little indication of the impact of a site on customers, and

without any reliable system of page rates, estimates of adspend are more

like guestimates.



’In Hong Kong the Net has yet to make a serious impact,’ Wilson Lam, an

account director at McCann-Erickson Guanming says. ’This may change, but

with the regional accounts I handle it is not yet a serious option.’



Soames Hines, the managing director of J. Walter Thomson Shanghai, is

also far from impressed. ’The problem is that the Asia Pacific markets

are developing at such different stages that it is meaningless to

cluster them as one market,’ he says. ’Japan is very advanced, then

there’s Hong Kong and Singapore with well-developed youth cultures, but

I don’t know about the youth magazine market. There is the cluster of

Malaysia, Thailand, and Korea, then the Philippines and Indonesia, and

then China.’



It’s China that is potentially the most exciting of all the Asian

markets for advertisers, but while this is already recognised by Hong

Kong agencies, the necessary media operations and buying points are far

from ready to deal with the burgeoning opportunities of the country.



’The youth magazine market in China is virtually non-existent,’ Hines

says. ’Until recently all titles were printed on poor-quality news

stock.



You can’t print web offset here for large runs and import duties on

material printed outside China has impeded Chinese editions of overseas

magazines.



But that is changing as large printing companies and the Hong Kong media

companies move in.’



But Hines is positive. ’Disposable income is not a problem, and there is

a vast population here - 20 million in Shanghai alone - so we are going

to see dramatic changes,’ he explains.



The media planners at JWT Shanghai confirm that the leading teenage

title in Shanghai is the Soccer Post, read by both sexes. If publishers

and media buyers play their cards right, this relatively naive media

environment should create new opportunities for the youth magazine

publishers of Hong Kong.



But there are difficulties ahead.



Advertising and media law is strict in China, with edicts that children

cannot rebel against their parents, they must not laugh at others’

misfortunes, they must respect their elders and show good manners. Take

these elements out of Western teen magazines - and there’s little

left.



The factor that McClure cites as a problem elsewhere - the threat from

the Net - should, ideally, work in favour of magazine publishers

here.



China may be opening up, but for now the decadent dangers of the World

Wide Web means Net access is strictly limited.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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