World Media in 2005: Asia

Despite seeing more than their share of disasters and disease, Asian economies are growing at breakneck speed. Lucy Aitken reports on how media is taking advantage of the opportunities.

With South East Asia still reeling from the tsunami on 26 December, Asia's primary focus in 2005 is the momentous aid effort. Many of the affected countries are heavily reliant on tourism; they will be thinking about recovery and little else. Some beauty spots, though, are sadly beyond rescue, particularly in the Maldives and Southern Sri Lanka.

But Asia as a whole is adept at dealing with crises - earthquakes and epidemics being the everyday stuff of news there - and for most of the region it is business as usual. The impact on media is that budgets can be pulled at a moment's notice, and agencies and owners have to be flexible above all.

Yet there is optimism aplenty in this beleaguered part of the world.

The consensus among marketers, according to an annual survey by Synovate that interviewed 123 marketers at the end of 2004, suggests that budgets for 2005 are relatively secure compared with previous years. Just 7 per cent indicated that they may have to make cuts, while 52 per cent said they would maintain their budget and 41 per cent said they would increase it.

It is Asia's optimism and characteristic can-do attitude that has helped to make it the economic success story of the new century. The region's economies continue to grow at break-neck speed: China and India boast the most impressive GDP growth and ever-expanding middle classes. But the rest of Asia is catching up. ZenithOptimedia's top 20 countries by advertising expenditure includes more countries from Asia - seven - than from any other region.

Growth is rampant in Thailand, The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan and Malaysia, although Indonesia's growth will be hampered by the aftermath of the tsunami.

There are problems, though. China's boom has not been accompanied by political reform and the Communist Party still reigns supreme. Despite greater press freedoms, attacks on the Communist system are still unacceptable and lead one to ask if China will ever see democratic elections. What's more, as the Chinese enjoy greater personal freedoms, and the middle class gets richer (particularly in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai) the inequality between rural and urban China becomes more marked.

In media terms, pan-Asian media is growing in popularity as Western advertisers look to blitz the region with their brands. Pan-Asian TV is going great guns, with Discovery and Star leading the pack. Estimates agree that there will be 250 million multichannel homes in the region by 2010.

News Corporation's Star has been an incredible success. The channel, acquired by Rupert Murdoch in 1993, now reaches two-thirds of the world's population. Murdoch also met his wife, Wendi Deng, through Star: she was the vice-president, based in Hong Kong.

News Corp is the biggest US media owner in China. Back in 1993, Murdoch was quick to spot the potential and begin wooing the Chinese authorities.

Despite attracting criticism, he has raised the bar in terms of content.

Star, for instance, has a Mandarin-language TV channel that produces 750 hours of original content a year.

In print media, titles such as Time, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek, CFO Asia, the Financial Times, Newsweek, The Economist and the International Herald Tribune have dedicated readerships seeking informed opinion.

A few titles, including Dow Jones' 58-year-old Far Eastern Economic Review, have closed, proving that it's not easy to attract and maintain the attention of readers, even if you're one of the world's best-known media owners. The rapid uptake of digital technologies too, has implications for traditional media owners, especially in China, where almost one-third of the population has a mobile phone with internet access.

Western media owners can also find it hard to find a niche in the local print scene. Some enter joint ventures with local partners, particularly in China where the cultural differences between East and West can be baffling.

Agency-wise, MindShare and OMD are the strongest media networks in the region. The region is also becoming famous for powerful, quirky media ideas. In 2004, J. Walter Thompson Malaysia won the media Grand Prix at Cannes for "missile", promoting the TV station Channel 9. TBWA\Toyko's "vertical football" also got tongues wagging when it suspended two footballers from ropes.

Asia has shown it can more than pull off such big, brave ideas. The rest of the world is now waiting with bated breath to see more of them.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE

USdollars million at current prices.

*Estimated

News- Mag- Tele-

Total papers azines vision Radio Cinema Others Internet

1992 47,072 15,260 3,956 18,442 2,796 35 6,584 0

1993 46,364 15,112 3,810 18,414 2,689 36 6,303 0

1994 49,504 16,302 4,058 19,883 2,738 41 6,481 0

1995 53,603 17,648 4,401 21,814 2,954 45 6,740 0

1996 57,183 18,138 4,782 24,178 3,073 48 6,951 14

1997 61,300 19,965 5,253 25,736 3,140 65 7,090 52

1998 58,954 18,709 5,058 25,441 3,011 72 6,564 98

1999 60,851 19,706 5,177 26,174 3,011 73 6,408 302

2000 67,322 22,028 5,632 28,944 3,238 86 6,666 728

2001 65,793 21,317 5,418 28,239 3,226 83 6,683 827

2002 66,311 20,891 5,406 28,931 3,256 84 6,701 1,042

2003 69,646 21,728 5,616 30,471 3,412 98 6,856 1,464

2004 75,564 23,443 5,973 33,373 3,617 119 7,157 1,883

2005* 80,100 24,650 6,190 35,606 3,781 141 7,441 2,291

2006* 85,442 26,341 6,518 38,040 4,010 153 7,759 2,621

2007* 91,467 28,486 6,979 40,439 4,234 174 8,183 2,973

TOP 20 COUNTRIES BY ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE GROWTH

Rank Country Year-on-year Total spend Total spend

% change (est) 2004 (est) 2003 (current

USdollars m prices) USdollars m

1 Romania 43.2 192 153

2 Indonesia 29.8 2,364 1,821

3 Turkey 26.6 901 821

4 Venezuela 23.9 1,078 1,175

5 Lithuania 20.5 89 74

6 Russia 20.3 3,300 2,744

7 Panama 19.3 182 153

8 Hungary 17.0 1,741 1,488

9 Thailand 15.6 2,068 1,789

10 Philippines 15.0 638 554

11 China 14.0 8,538 7,489

12 Vietnam 13.1 208 184

13 Greece 12.5 2,324 2,065

14 Poland 11.2 3,027 2,721

15 Pakistan 11.0 156 140

16= Argentina 10.0 516 506

16= Chile 10.0 607 551

18 South Africa 8.7 1,324 1,218

19 Estonia 8.5 60 55

20 Malaysia 8.3 1,032 953

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