Despite Protests, Hong Kong Will Remain the World's Highest Per-Capita Ad Market

MediaCom Says the Media Market Has Been 'Relatively Unscathed'

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Demonstrators massed outside Hong Kong's Central Government Complex during a heavy rain storm.
Demonstrators massed outside Hong Kong's Central Government Complex during a heavy rain storm. Credit: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests appear to be winding down, leaving analysts to ponder how they might have affected the business climate in the Asian financial hub.

The retail sector will certainly suffer: The demonstrations came during a holiday in China, when many travelers from the mainland head to Hong Kong for shopping. ANZ bank predicted that Hong Kong's retail sector would lose 6% of October sales, or $280 million. (See related story here on how brands have been swept up in the Hong Kong protests).

How might the Umbrella Revolution be affecting the media industry? For now, all is well.

"The media market has been relatively unscathed locally and across northeast Asia, with no real revenue declines caused by advertisers pulling campaigns in the short- to mid-term," said Matthew Wigham, head of trading for WPP's MediaCom in Asia Pacific.

"The only minor shifts in audience volumes and profile that have been noticed are that these large newsworthy events can create, for example, increased TV news viewing, higher newspaper circulations and more social media chatter," he wrote in a statement to Ad Age. "If anything, campaigns have been delayed or creative has been adjusted to allow for any potential negative impacts on a relatively small number of brands."

Mr. Wigham said Hong Kong will remain the world's highest per-capita ad market at about $1,000 per person this year, and the overall market is still set to grow 9% to $7.8 billion this year. GroupM is not at this time changing its annual forecasts, he said.

Starting on Sept. 28, students and activists in Hong Kong took to the streets, demanding that the city's chief executive step down and insisting on Hong Kong's right to elect its leader in an election not controlled by Beijing. After nearly two weeks of demonstrations, with police using tear gas and with large parts of the city shut down, the protests appear to be easing.

Mr. Wigham said that "with the younger Hong Kong generation getting a taste for activism, it will be interesting to see what effect the protests will have over a longer period, if they're set to return. And with Beijing tightening its control on the city, how this could start to affect advertisers' longer-term ambitions and activity in the market."

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