ASIA REPORT: THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE - David Droga advises any creatives thinking of heading East to throw away the European rule book Instead, they should take the pulse of the local economy and heed local customs if they want to succeed.

Anyone with an ounce of business sense or a valid subscription to CNN will rea-dily confess that within Asia lies the future of global economics.

Anyone with an ounce of business sense or a valid subscription to

CNN will rea-dily confess that within Asia lies the future of global

economics.



Yet if you actually ask the average American what they really know about

Asia, they’ll tell you it seems like a fine country. Ask a Brit and you

may hear about the good old days or about the joys of cheap back-packing

holidays. As for Australians, they know it’s there but are too cautious

to take a proper look.



But while the rest of the world dips its toe into the Asia of today,

Asia is quietly taking on the world. Everyone knows the Japanese make

great television sets, but did you realise they also create some of the

world’s funniest TV ads (if not the strangest)? You’ve probably driven a

Korean car - but have you ever seen their ads?



And, if I could think of any products that they had actually

manufactured in the region, I’d ease my way into mentioning some of the

great ads coming out of Singapore.



Spend just a short time in Asia and you’ll almost certainly be struck by

two overwhelming truths.



First, the region is more culturally diverse than Europe and offers at

least twice as many opportunities as North America. To compare India

with China or Thailand with Vietnam is pointless. In London, an art

director’s biggest challenge is to hide the client’s hideous logo on

their layouts. In Vietnam, the art director’s biggest challenge is to

hide from the police during one of their random and frequent raids.

Advertising is deemed propaganda in Vietnam and is therefore illegal.

(Is this a sign of things to come?)



In China, consumer research takes on a whole new dimension. With a

population of around 1.2 billion, there are more than 350 million people

in the middle classes. If these numbers aren’t daunting enough, the

countless dialects they speak should be. Although for every headache you

endure you can be sure someone else is battling a migraine.



Apparently, at a recent car launch, the city streets were lined with

billboards proclaiming: ’It’s even better than before.’ The locals’

reaction must have exceeded the client’s expectations. It turns out that

when it was translated they read: ’It’s even better than a piece of

shit.’ And who says that truth in advertising is a thing of the

past?



In Japan, the largest single agency has billings in the vicinity of

USdollars 11 billion - and it just happens to handle three of the

largest car accounts out of the same office. Seemingly, ’client

conflict’ is an English problem.



Now, while you and I may be living in 1998, in Thailand they enjoyed

their millennium celebration years ago and they are currently in the

year 2556. As hard as it is to book media, imagine trying to get refills

for your Filofax.



In Singapore, both chewing gum and oral sex are strictly forbidden (not

necessarily in that order). I know that this last example has nothing to

do with advertising but I thought it worth a mention ...



Some of these examples may seem like little more than dinner party

trivia, but they do serve as a reminder that countries across Asia each

operate with their own unique rules.



John Naisbett, the author of Mega Trends Asia, wrote: ’Asia isn’t

becoming westernised, it’s modernising.’ This is true - and it’s

happening at a breakneck pace. And, despite recent economic turmoils in

South-east Asia, it will continue.



For example, there are currently more construction cranes in Shanghai

city than there are across the entire United States. And, of course, for

every new building that goes up in the city, in moves a prospective

client.



This could be a client that needs an ad on air in three months - a

client that doesn’t yet have the layers of red tape found in the more

mature markets. They simply want to get an ad on air before their

competitors.



In the UK, teams usually have up to three months to work on a single

brief, sometimes longer. In Singapore and Hong Kong, the average

creative teams work on up to five new briefs a week, with deadlines

anywhere between two days and three weeks.



Certainly, this pace is unrealistic but, on the other hand, with each

new brief comes a fresh opportunity.



The standard of advertising across Asia might not yet be at the level of

the UK, but the margin is narrowing. Flick through Archive or fast

forward through your next Shots and you’ll see more and more ads

creeping in from Asia.



Gone are the days of Third World production values and one-off ads for

hair salons. Instead, you’ll find agencies forging their own identities

with large multi-national clients. If advertising is a genuine

reflection of society and culture then it’s really only a matter of time

before people look to the East for creative inspiration and, if I’m

right, Westerners such as myself will be looking for new jobs some time

soon.



IN VIETNAM



The art director’s biggest challenge is to hide from the police during

one of their random and frequent raids



IN CHINA



For every headache you endure,you can be sure someone else is battling a

migraine



IN JAPAN



The largest single agency just happens to handle three of the largest

car accounts out of the same office



IN SINGAPORE



Both chewing gum and oral sex are forbidden and creative teams work on

up to five new briefs a week.



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