ASIA: DISNEY GOES MEDIA BUYING IN CHINA - Western agencies find media buying in China a nightmare scenario; Walt Disney turned to a Hong Kong specialist for help

Talk to agencies about buying media time in China and you’re in for an orgy of eyeball rolling and teeth sucking as they mutter darkly about ads never appearing, or being shunted off schedules by higher bidders.

Talk to agencies about buying media time in China and you’re in for

an orgy of eyeball rolling and teeth sucking as they mutter darkly about

ads never appearing, or being shunted off schedules by higher

bidders.



For media buyers used to the well-oiled machinery of the US, China is

indeed daunting, but those on the spot stress that this is down to

inefficiency rather than conspiracy, and that the situation is improving

steadily.



’It is much better than it used to be,’ Soames Hines, managing director

of J. Walter Thompson in Shanghai, says. ’The administration is getting

more efficient, but there are problems, nothing clandestine, just

cock-ups. It had been all state owned and the media planners are still

using abacuses, so they can double book spots without realising it.’



The dream solution would be to take charge of fixing the length and

placement of slots yourself. Which is more or less what the Walt Disney

Corporation has chosen to do, wrapping ads in a complete programming

package that guarantees sponsors both a regular slot and the content

around it.



It’s a Small World, the first Disney radio programme, is a weekly

half-hour show produced by Disney and aired every Saturday at 3.30pm on

China National Radio (CNR). Five of those minutes are advertising slots

which are sold in advance to clients. In order to avoid the headache of

dealing with Chinese media planners; Disney chose to go with Beat Media,

a Hong Kong company. Beat (from Broadcast East Asia Territories) is a

joint venture between the Asian broadcaster, Craig Quick, and the

European radio arm of Hachette. ’We’re a specialist in radio, producing

our own programmes, buying airtime on national and local Chinese radio

and selling advertising,’ Michelle Mak, sales manager at Beat, explains.

’We charge up to dollars 130 for a 30-second slot - we charge a little

more than local (Chinese) agencies but, as an international promotion

company, major brands prefer to come to us to avoid the problems

involved with dealing with the Chinese market.’



The ads are put together in conjunction with Beat and then the whole

package is handed over to CNR for broadcast. It’s gratefully received,

too, because the programme is given free of charge to the station.



The benefit to the station is obvious, the benefit to Disney is that the

free deal goes a long way to overcoming traditional resistance to

foreign media, and guarantees nationwide airing to an audience estimated

(all figures in China are estimated) at more than 400 million. That, in

turn, makes for a convincing pitch to advertisers and marketing partners

which have so far included anything from North West Airlines to

Taiwanese record labels.



Disney receives brand awareness, the chance to promote the merchandising

of the Disney shops, and the opportunity for complex cross-marketing

deals. ’We are working with partners, providing entertainment with

sponsorship,’ Dan Riordan, the regional manager of Disney Consumer

Products, comments.



Sponsorable elements include Joke of the Week, Best Stories, and Songs

of the Past. Initiatives have included a deal with a Chinese bubble-gum

manufacturer, which resulted in Disney branded gum.



The marketing mix also includes a healthy dose of branding, with a

five-minute video ’interview’ of Mickey Mouse talking about the radio

programme. That was given to, and subsequently shown on, children’s TV

in a similar example of packaging the promotion with the content. Which

just goes to show that for some brands, advertising nationwide in China

can be true child’s play.



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