Hung Sorts Through the Growing Pains of New Affluence in China

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[Beijing] when hung huang relocated from New York to her native Beijing in 1991, she had no idea a nascent career in investment consulting would lead her to the helm of a Chinese media company.

As CEO of China Interactive Media Group, Ms. Hung, 44, now connects advertisers, particularly luxury marketers like Bulgari and Tiffany, with local consumers through print, TV, online and mobile content. At the same time, she's helping newly affluent Chinese find their footing with unfamiliar designer fashion brands, five-star hotels and fine wines.

CIMG's transformation into a major media operation happened almost by accident in 1996, when Ms. Hung, then a partner at Standard International, and colleagues were approached by the owner of Look, a struggling high-end fashion title.

They took over the magazine and relaunched it as iLook, to make a clear distinction between CIMG's Chinese-language magazine and the old U.S. Look and Hachette's failed revival of that title. By balancing the integrity of iLook's editorial content with advertisers' desire to reach consumers in sophisticated, compelling ways, the fashion magazine has reached a BPA-audited circulation of 50,000.


And audited circulation is key. Ms. Hung noted that one of the biggest problems in China's magazine industry is the lack of audited figures. Magazines' circulation numbers often "are a gross exaggeration to a point that would be criminal in any other country," she said.

ILook caters to China's most affluent consumers, with average monthly incomes of $2,500-more than most Chinese earn in a year-in all major cities, "anywhere that has a Louis Vuitton store," said Ms. Hung, who was born in Beijing and moved to the U.S. as a teenager.

"We do challenge them. Our clients are picky, but we keep going back to [CIMG]. ILook is one of the few local fashion titles we use, because they are very innovative and open-minded," said Charley Kan, managing director-Beijing and national creative director-China at Mediaedge:cia.

The WPP Group-owned media agency took over all the ad space in iLook's August 2004 issue, for example, to launch Chanel's fall/winter collection, including a 40-page branded content insert that told the fashion house's history.

"It was quite a smart way to engage consumers and introduce Chanel to a Chinese audience with genuine content, not through advertorial or a typical promotion," he said.

CIMG expanded into TV with "iLook Cafe," a weekly luxury lifestyle program airing on China's Travel Satellite TV network in 62 cities. It's the network's second-highest rated program, with regular viewership topping 1 million.

What a difference a generation makes for the Vassar College alumna as she guides Chinese consumers in the ways of Western-style luxury. Ms. Hung's mother was for a time the personal English tutor of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong. Both her parents spoke English. Ms. Hung, a U.S. citizen, now lives in Beijing with her partner; he's an interior designer who specializes in celebrity homes.

"People here want to know why they should buy certain brands of clothing, wine or watches," she said. "The stories behind the brands are very important to these consumers. ... Our content provides the cultural context."

Just Asking

Hung Huang

Where’s your favorite spot in Bejing to hang out?

Definitely the 798 art district; Pause serves tapas, wine and Illycafe.

Favorite restaurant?

My Humble House in Oriental Plaza. The owner is Singaporean. He pays great detail to ingredients.

What about China TV?

There’s a market here for American-style late-night comedy.

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