Monday, December 18, 2006

Local brands, global brands

We’ve come very far with the Singapore Girl, a face for SIA which is Singapore’s contribution to the world of illustrious power brands. However, in this industry of hyperactive egos, there’s bound to be some dark points and one of them is the scarcity of such brands.

While Singapore advertising professionals talk a lot about creativity and spend significant amounts of time and money chasing awards, they seem to have forgotten that advertising is one of the pillars of brand building and a few posts ago I pointed to advertising also being a force in culture building.

I had tea with the grandfather of advertising and the man behind the Singapore Girl concept Ian Batey in November and if you ever have the chance to meet him, I recommend shutting up and listening.

He says there’s quite a number of opportunities not leveraged in the area of building a strong global brand – two of those that have the potential are Tiger Balm and Tiger Beer – but there hasn’t really been a significant development in the last five years, “what’s gonna happen over the next five years, will we see a surge?”, he asks.

Singapore needs more classy brands to take to the world stage. We seriously need to catch up with the Koreas and the Japanese who have for decades built successful, recognisable global businesses such as LG and Sony and made a name for Asia.

I’d like to report more on Ian’s views on advertising – we spoke for over two hours – but it’s been a long year and I’m looking forward to a break for these next two weeks. I’ll definitely come back to share more insights from our conversation in a short while.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A more powerful idiot box

Right now, tv watching habit wise, I’m pretty much a free to air (FTA) viewer – but that could soon change.

I had an interesting conversation with Craig Zimbulis, president and CEO of Anytime (a video on demand (VOD) channel) the other day. Just as the interview was winding down, we got to talking about the future of IPTV – and it was during this time that it really hit home how majorly tv viewing habits will be changing in just a few years time. I know the above sentence sounds really suaku, but this has to be placed in the context that I don’t have that funky StarHub time-shift thing-a-majig service, Tivo, or watched anything over IPTV – hell, I don’t even have cable TV at home.

Anyways, according to Craig, IPTV viewership is projected to reach 15-30 million by 2010, that just a little over three years away and not bad considering the figure stands at around one million at the moment. That’s also saying that in just over three years, IPTV will be a lot more ubiquitous, people will understand what it is and what it can do for you and you might see it deployed in many countries, if not in every country in Asia Pacific with multiple players in those countries. The advantages are obvious, it empowers consumers through offering them choices.

But where does FTA tv fit into all this? Does it at all? How about tv ad sales, and ads for that matter, because if clients aren’t buying spots, they don’t need to produce as many tv ads as before, if at all…?

According to Craig, if you look at FTA tv in any country, consumers are already easing off on their reliance on it, the advertising base is starting to erode, and the model of broadcast where you make money from ad supported revenue is changing dramatically. Eventually, programming line-ups might change where there’re less feature movies on TV because they’ve already been watched at the box-office, bought on DVD or shown on VOD or pay TV by the time they get to FTA so they can’t command the audiences they once commanded.

To survive, network operators are moving into interactive TV, and have an online presence as well as a broadcast presence – even the MediaCorp group is already getting into IPTV and VOD and communicating through the mobile device as well. It shows you just have to diversify in order to survive.

And as for advertising, there’ve been many who have/are predicting the end of the 30-sec commercial. Will the growth of IPTV push it off the cliff once and for all? I guess the real question is how effective were TV ads to start with? Is it more a prestige thing because if you’ve got the budget you can do a great production, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t cut through anymore, what’s the point? On the other hand just the other day, a GroupM study showed that TV is still the world's largest advertising medium, accounting for around half of all media investment, despite increasing audience fragmentation. So while it’s true that IPTV, VOD, Tivo and all the rest of these new media techonology things will change tv viewing habits, but I guess it’s not its time… yet.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A ‘difficult’ situation indeed

Everybody knows how important the customer service industry is to any economy. We’re all customers as much as we’re suppliers and we can’t stand shody service (which is a bit weird, I know, considering we live in Singapore, the land of bad service).

I just wanted to share with you a true life story on how NOT to treat your customer.

The following is a collection of emails from a lady, we’ll call her D for short, and the airline in question will be called VDA (short for Very Difficult Airline).

27 October 2006
My husband is a VDA Silver Frequent Flyer, and he has booked a flight to go to Syd at Christmas. Yesterday I went into the office to pay for the flight because the internet and/or your office would not take our Visa electron card (even though they say it is accepted everywhere that Visa is accepted).After paying for my husband’s flight, I came home and went to look for it on the internet. When I pulled up the booking under the evening contact info was the following SIN : ***VERY DIFFICULT PAX ****.Surely if your staff are to make comments on customers then they should be doing it in fields that cannot be viewed by clients!!!!!Regardless of how difficult a client might be - your staff need to remember that they only have jobs because people fly with your airline. If people stop flying with you, then they will not have a job. May I suggest that they think twice about putting comments on clients next time.If your staff thought he was difficult before - imagine what he would say if he saw that comment!I would appreciate if someone could get back to me on this matter.
Cheers, D

29 November 2006
Hi, Over a MONTH ago I sent an email to the Singapore VDA office regarding a situation that I find a little disturbing. I still to date do not have any answers regarding the below email, and the comment is still on my husband’s itinerary. Since Singapore could not be bothered to answer my questions, I was hoping that UK (head office) might have more respect for their customers!!!!!!!!!!! Can someone please get back to me regarding this, it is a little frustrating. Cheers D

29 November 2006
Dear D,

I am really sorry that you had such a poor experience of our customer service. I have forwarded your email to the relevant department who will reply as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience as different departments have varying response times. Thank you for taking the time to send us your feedback.
Regards, H

01 December 2006
Dear Ms M,

Thank you very much for contacting us.To be sure you have an answer from us as swiftly as possible, I would be grateful if you will speak to our customer support team. They deal with all pre-travel enquiries and they'll be happy to give you individual assistance. Please phone them on 0870 xxx x xxx and give your booking reference number when you call.I'm sorry not to be more immediately helpful, but do please phone our customer support team. They'll do all they can to help you at once.
Best regards, A. B.
Customer Relations

01 December 2006
Hi H,

I just received this email - obviously from the UK (pasted above). Is this the response from the 'relevant department', who by the way cant even get my name right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cheers, D

01 December 2006
Dear D,

I am sorry you were addressed incorrectly, in future you will be addressed correctly.Thank you for contacting us about this and I hope you will travel with VDA soon.
Regards, J

01 December 2006
Hi J,
Are you SERIOUS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Have you even read my email - someone at VDA has put on my husband’s itinerary that he is a difficult person - and this is what I am getting back? No phone call, no emails except one asking me to call you in the UK - that could not even get my name correct - because Singapore have not responded to my email in 4 weeks.....and to date - the comment is still on my husbands explanations - no APOLOGIES....NOTHING.
Is this what you call customer service?
I would really appreciate someone to look into this matter and not just get fobbed off with all these preprepared emails.
Cheers, D

The husband’s itinerary still says ***VERY DIFFICULT PAX **** and D has not heard back from VDA.

Turns out, the reason why the husband became difficult in the first place was because he tried to use a Visa Electron card to pay for the air ticket but the airline refused to accept Electrons, despite the husband’s protest that Electrons are accepted anywhere Visa is accepted.

Oh boy, no points for guessing what category D has now been placed under too.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Update on the LEGO/Saatchis China story

This went up on on Friday night in place of the ads that were previously there. Turns out the two who created the ads have been given the boot.

What a price to pay man... shows so starkly the immediacy and the power of the internet to rally people together and how strongly companies view a bunch of negative comments as damaging to their reputations.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Saatchi & Saatchi China's kicks up a controversy

Ooh, look what the lego cat dragged in... Ouch.

And check out some of the comments on Ads of the

Note at 5.50pm: Oh my, looks like the YouTube video has been made private and the Ads of the World link is dead too. Somebody's in trouble...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Going off about online

I couldn’t help but notice that recently, all the signs around me point to online being the big hitter in 2007.

For one, multiple news articles that I’ve been reading are all reporting that there will be a significant growth spurt in online advertising, if the (forecasted) growth rates from recently released GroupM, ZenithOptimedia and Universal McCann studies are anything to go by.

When I hopped over the have a read of TK’s blog, The Pitch HK, there it was again (If these guys are convinced then you’d better be).

Even the emails I’ve been receiving from PR people pitching stories all tout the strength, and importance, of online advertising.

But is it any wonder that online advertising is going to be the next big thing? For a long time now we’ve been reading that companies have been gradually shifting ad budgets online. Much of this I guess, stems from the fact that that’s the ‘place’ where advertisers can reach that most lucrative of demographics, the youth. A Synovate study found young Asians between the age of 15 to 24 are a digital generation plugged into new media, and more financially savvy than ever before. The youth are the future, it’s been commonly said. Well, youth also quite literally drive the future of a brand. Witness Sony Ericsson, Samsung and StarHub’s attempt to engage with youths. A mobile industry insider told me that even though it’s true youths don’t have earning power now, they are the high power earning adults of the future. Quite simply, if they can hook teenagers/youth today, there’s a high chance those same youths will follow the brand as they age into adulthood, thereby assuring the brand’s longevity.

Just some stats to consider:
Brand Republic states a GroupM report that shows online advertising activity is set to grow by 27% this year and 28% in 2007. This corresponds to a ZenithOptimedia report which forecasts that online activity will increase its share from 5.8% during 2006 to 8.6% in 2009, “when it will for the first time outstrip radio advertising globally”.

MediaPost Publications reports online advertising opportunities is keeping the rate of ad expansion in check, according to the results of the GroupM study, which said “one thing stopping this (the increase in media growth) is the growth of the internet in developed economies. Its audience is growing even faster than its incoming tide of advertiser money, so it is actually getting cheaper. At the same time it is attracting cash from the big but fragmenting and hence inherently inflationary media, whose valuable reach is in shortening supply." MediaPost writes that the report also indicates TV remains the “number one growth driver for the global advertising marketplace, but the internet has become the second biggest contributor”, with the internet accounting for 21% of the world's ad spend increases in 2006 as opposed to 52% for TV.

If you’re a marketer, are you ready to bring your product to the online market/if you have already, is it working out for you and will you shift more of your budget online; and if you’re an agency, are you ready to catch the wave?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Early Resolutions

December is upon us – time to sit back and reflect on the passing year. Ok now that’s over with lets look forward to something ‘big’ happening in 2007. How about the rise of social networking sites in the Asian market?

Social networking sites are becoming big money and more importantly for marketers, it is a new form of communication for the youth and marketers can’t afford to miss that ship. A new eMarketer report forecasts U.S ad spending on social networking sites ballooning up to US$2.2 billion ($3.4 billion) by 2010. In Asia, the figure would be much less and so 2007 could be the year where the Asian market gets comfortable with social networking sites.

Developments in the coming year should kick start this process and a key player in this appears to be News Corp and its Fox Interactive Media division – which has My Space, the second largest site on the Web in its arsenal.

MySpace can already distribute newly released DVDs and even lets users sell their own music over the site – and in the coming weeks an announcement is expected for a deal allowing millions of additional users access to their accounts from mobile phones.

The potential is there but the environment is far from perfect and many advertisers will be turned away by the some times raunchy content on the sites but in my opinion, once advertisers see the plus sides to the social networking sites, and jump on for the ride – more and more will follow suit, especially if their competitor is already there.

Wouldn’t you?