In The Times this week, William Rees-Mogg details the astonishing
rate at which the Chinese population is becoming wired; the percentage
of the population online is doubling each year. By 2003 the total number
is expected to pass that of the US. Small wonder then that clients and
agencies alike look to that medium in that part of the world as a key
source of growth for the foreseeable future.
China is already the world’s second-largest mobile phone market, having
largely bypassed landline technology. The rewards for marketers and
agencies are immense, but the risks of failure through finding yourself
in bed with an untrustworthy partner are all too clear. Ask any China
watcher about Whirlpool.
Already the rise of the Indian software millionaire is a big story in
the West. The battle for the telecoms markets in both Singapore and Hong
Kong is already raging - an agency bonanza. Both cities are, along with
Shenzen in China and Bangalore in India, the centres for extraordinary
new high-tech businesses. Although Japan is stuttering, Korea is
powering back from recession. Taiwan never really suffered that badly in
the first place. Asia and its growth potential is again the focus of
For agencies, the region is more of a free for all than the mature,
largely aligned European and US markets where reputations
long-established for good and bad are difficult to transform. Some
mature networks - Publicis and DDB, for example - are still in start-up
Regional creative standings tell their own story. BBDO and Saatchi &
Saatchi are joined at the top of the tree by Leo Burnett and Ogilvy.
Although individual agencies such as Bates Singapore, Bates Hong Kong
and APL Bangkok can shine, there are few networks with real
The picture is sketchier still below the line. Only Ogilvy One and
Impiric (formerly Wunderman Cato Johnson) appear universally rated by
Ogilvy and Euro RSCG lead the way in the interactive sector.
BBDO is a good example of a network that scarcely existed just over
three years ago; Guillaume Levy-Lambert is building a Publicis network
at an astonishing rate, DDB is coming, and Dentsu is developing a
network of its own. Most of the major groups have their media
independents up and running remarkably fast.
It is a great time to be good in Asian marketing. Clients switch jobs
more regularly than Carlton Palmer does football clubs. The best
independent agencies, above and below the line, sit pretty in a buyer’s
Regional fortunes can be transformed in Asia far quicker than in the
West. Given a moment’s reflection it is clear that what happens in Asia
will affect all our lives. For now, business is aligned into Asia. When
it is aligned out of Asia, it will be too late to start paying