ASIAN ECONOMIC WOES STILL PLAGUE AD FIELD: AGENCIES, MEDIA IN SINGAPORE, HONG KONG SEE SPENDING SLACKEN

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[hong kong] A new round of agency layoffs and media closures hit Hong Kong and Singapore this month as the Asian ad industry continues to suffer fallout from the region's economic crisis.

Many clients have cut back ad spending due to their own economic straits, while other market-ers are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

The regional economic hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore, though outwardly quite stable, are being directly affected by events in the rest of Asia.

Hong Kong has maintained a strong currency and agencies can rely on expected growth in China to the north. But Hong Kong is hurting from declines in tourism and property prices that contribute greatly to its economy.

Leo Burnett Co. recently laid off 21 employees in Hong Kong, while D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles cut 20 staffers.

Steve Gatfield, Burnett's Hong Kong-based regional managing director, said his agency's decision was "led by the economic forecast for Hong Kong." He pointed out that the retail and leisure industries had both been hit hard.

MEDIA HIT HARD

So have the media. The Chinese-language Express News in Hong Kong printed its last issue March 15, then fired its staff of 200. The daily announced on its last front

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