“Ninety-five percent of Chinese don’t strongly agree that marketers are doing a good job. They think ads running in China are dishonest, they are not world-class and the messages are coming from people who want to control their lives,” said Chris Beaumont, Grey Group’s chief strategy officer, Asia/Pacific.
The U.K. native leads Eye on Asia, which looks at the hopes, attitudes and value systems of consumers in 16 Asian countries, including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, India, New Zealand, Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Eye on Asia is compiled from in-person interviews with 500 respondents from each country. The fieldwork was handled for Grey by Research International, a WPP Group sibling.
Based in Tokyo, Mr. Beaumont is also president & CEO of Grey’s operation in Japan. He joined the agency in 2002, after working at global management consultancies like Coopers & Lybrand in Europe and North America. He also taught at the London Business School in the rea of decision sciences and market forecasting.
“Advertising content isn’t interesting to [Chinese] and neither is the creative,” asaid Mr. Beaumont. "Three out of four [Chinese] believe that most advertising and marketing is unattractive. In fact in this area, it is the country with the worst scorecard.”
That negative reaction, one of the attitudes identified in Grey’s latest Eye on Asia study, might be unsurprising in western countries, where consumers raised in a capitalist system have grown jaded by branding messages around them.
Coming from China, however, the results are surprising and differ from the opinions voiced by consumers in other parts of Asia, said Mr. Beaumont. Chinese are far more negative than Indians, for example, even though South Asia has greater experience with capitalism and advertising dating back to India's history with the U.K.
Asked whether advertising in their country is world class, Chinese respondents ranked their country the lowest in the survey. Only 5% agreed that Chinese advertising is world class and 23% strongly disagreed, the lowest and highest figures, respectively, across all countries. The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India expressed the most pride in their country's advertising.
Japan and Thailand, considered the strongest creative markets in the region based on their performance at international advertising festivals, ranked in the middle.
“The message across Asia, broadly speaking, is that people think advertisers are doing a good job. But not in China,” said Mr. Beaumont.
That doesn’t mean Chinese hate advertising, however.
Even the bad stuff “gives them an impression of something new, and gives them a window on a new world," said Mr. Beaumont. He said they aren't interested in products and services that will help them avoid advertising such as TiVo, a digital video recorder popular in the U.S. that lets viewers record and watch TV programming while skipping the commercials.
What explains the bad rap that advertisers have in China?
The whole notion of a brand is not understood in Asia, partly because there are so few strong Asian brands, he said. “One reason for the low level of creativity is the lack of understanding about brands.”
But Asians are becoming tech savvy in other ways, as the internet and mobile phones have become ubiquitous. China and India were the leading advocates for new technology they believe will make the world a better place.
Issues of privacy, information overload and censorship will come into play “as advertisers bombard users with marketing messages in an attempt to gain the short attention span of the average white-collar worker,” said Mr. Beaumont.
The survey indicates consumers are optimistic and respectful of traditional values across the region, but the optimism is especially pronounced in China. Constant change has been the overriding reality of Asian society, said Mr. Beaumont.
“Not only do people have to embrace change, they have to keep up with new developments or go obsolete. Generally there is a heightened optimism across Asia that the future is likely to be better than the past.”
This contrasts sharply with western society, where studies show that despite being more affluent, working less and living longer, people are less optimistic.
In China, he said the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing are “the tipping point for better advertising and understanding about brands. China is all about leadership and winning.”
Other appointment news in Greater China
[shanghai] Unisono Fieldmarketing, a Chinese field marketing company majority-owned by Omnicom Group, has appointed Lester Kahn as general manager, a new position based in Shanghai. Previously, he was the Beijing-based general manager of McCann Worldgroup’s Momentum operation in China, where he worked with advertisers such as Goodyear, Nestle, Intel, ExxonMobil and MasterCard.
[shanghai] BBDO Worldwide has appointed Lim Chiao Woon as exec creative director of its Guangzhou office and Danny Chan as group creative director in Beijing. Both are new positions at the agencies. Previously, Mr. Lim was associate creative director at Euro RSCG, Singapore. Mr. Chan’s last position was creative director, Grey Group, Hong Kong.
The Omnicom Group agency also promoted Almon Lam promoted to exec creative director from deputy ECD at BBDO, Shanghai. All three report to Leong Wai Foong, ECD, China, based in the agency’s Chinese headquarters in Shanghai.
[shanghai] Tribal DDB, the digital marketing arm of Omnicom’s DDB Group, has appointed Jit Hoong Ng as managing director, China, based in Shanghai. He succeeds Diana Jim, who left Tribal DDB about six months ago to pursue activities outside the ad industry. Previously, he was managing director of JWT’s relationship marketing arm RMG Connect in Beijing. Tribal DDB works on brands in China such as McDonald’s and Lipton. DDB Group has also appointed Naomi Allan as senior account manager at Rapp Collins. Before, she was an account manager at IMG in Shanghai. She succeeds Elinor Zhao, who has left the agency.
[hong kong] Nielsen Co. has promoted Justin Garrett as director, client solutions, financial services in Hong Kong, a new role created to grow the research company’s business in the finance and insurance sectors. Previously, he was associate director, financial services.