Former P&G China Media Head Asks: Do Marketers Need Media Directors?

Alfonso de Dios Says Too Many Skills Required in Fast-Changing Market, and China's Talent Shortage Makes It Worse

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As Procter & Gamble Co.'s associate director, media, Greater China, Alfonso de Dios controlled that market's largest media budget -- about $1 billion annually. He now questions whether companies like P&G should have a media director at all, at least in China.

Media directors are a "dying breed," said Mr. de Dios, better known as "Pon" in Chinese media circles. "Even within agencies, it's hard to get capable people who are well-rounded in the overall disciplines."

"Ideally you'd want a person [with] the hard technical aspects who knows the basics about media and media-planning and -buying operations. At the same time, [you want] somebody who can learn and has a knowledge of branding and, obviously, the consumer. All those three components have to work closely together," said Mr. de Dios, who left P&G in July 2009 and started a media consultancy, Telos Media Works.

As a result, companies are left to educate media technicians about branding -- or give brand experts a crash course on media buying. "But it's not an easy task to find someone who can qualify for those requirements," he said.

The Philippines native is addressing the size, complexity and fast pace of China's media environment, but the challenges are happening on a global scale, he said this week on "Thoughtful China," an online marketing affairs talk show produced in Shanghai.

Media directors everywhere are faced with three challenging roles -- buying negotiations, tactical planning with vendors and agency partners, and strategic planning based on understanding consumers. Companies are starting to wonder if it's realistic to look for all of these skills in one person, especially in China, where the rise of digital media and a severe talent shortage compound the problem.

P&G, for instance, has hired three people to succeed Mr. de Dios, rather than a single media director. His former job was split into media buying, strategic planning and tactical planning. Reflecting how complex those roles are, P&G works with over 300 TV stations nationwide.

Either way, there are problems with "the capability, or the lack thereof, among today's marcom and media professionals," Mr. de Dios said. "[We're not seeing] much investment, in terms of building capability and knowledge."

Normandy Madden is senior VP-content development, Asia/Pacific at Thoughtful China, and Ad Age 's former Asia Editor. See earlier episodes of Thoughtful China at www.thoughtfulchina.com.

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