Asian media deals get creative

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[hong kong] In international media sales, print and TV owners often struggle to compete with the cross-media potential of blockbuster global media empires such as Time Warner and Dow Jones & Co.

Now they're inching closer to matching the moguls. National Geographic Society has signed global deals with Toyota Motor Corp. and the Hong Kong Tourist Association starting next month that represent the first time an advertiser has bought National Geographic's fast-expanding TV, print and Internet properties around the world.

It's probably no coincidence that National Geographic's first major cross-title deals are with Asian advertisers. Although the Toyota negotiations were actually coordinated out of London, Asian-based media buyers often have to be more innovative at piecing together deals than their European and even North American counterparts.


"Asian regional budgets are relatively small vs. the other regions. To attract significant budgets from advertisers, the publications have to be more flexible and add value," said Caroline Foster, managing director of independent media specialist CIA, Hong Kong. "Plus, I think that the pan-regional media community here is a lot closer and tight knit, [so] there is a lot of interaction and integration among the media themselves."

Creative media solutions have developed by necessity. Asian economies are improving, but spending on regional print and TV grew just 3.4% to $296 million last year over 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting International.

In fact, comparatively small budgets and growing consolidation among media owners are leading to unlikely alliances among international media in Asia.

For example, Philips Consumer Electronics and Euro RSCG Worldwide, Singapore, are running an integrated campaign themed "In tune with you" this year as a package in five unrelated media: McGraw-Hill Cos.' Business Week; Washington Post Co.'s Newsweek; International Herald Tribune (co-owned by Washington Post Co. and New York Times Co.); Discovery Communications' Discovery Channel Asia; and the British Broadcasting Corp.'s BBC World.

Euro RSCG's Deputy Managing Director Vishnu Mohan spent five months putting the deal together with reps from each medium, all of whom had watched enviously as media conglomerates wooed major clients such as Philips with added-value extras.

"Looking at the individual merits of each title, they are very strong. But in the absence of volume and a cohesive strategy, they tended to lose out compared to Time Warner and Dow Jones," said Mr. Mohan, who also pulled off a 12% discount off the media cost for his efforts.

Dubbed "Team Carnegie" for their late-night bonding over beer at Carnegie's pub next door to Euro RSCG's Singapore office, the ad sales reps for the five media partners developed a $1.5 million campaign that broke in May to market five hi-tech Philips products, including plasma TV sets and CD recorders by comparing them to the five senses. The approach fit Philips' existing "human technology" strategy.


Each of the five products is linked to a different sense in page print advertorials written by Newsweek's special projects division in New York. A page ad always follows.

"We're a bunch of mavericks out here in Asia. I think in Europe the idea [of cobbling together such a deal] has potential, I don't see why it couldn't work there, but it is never going to happen in New York," said Richard Joyce, Newsweek's regional Southeast Asia & Australia advertising director in Singapore.

"We chose to work together; other media groups have it forced upon them. Certainly in Asia we think this will [lead to] the launch of other projects in the future" for Euro RSCG clients such as Volvo and Air France, he added.

Media that are not part of major groups "will potentially miss out in the future in terms of advertiser partnerships and revenue unless they build alignments and business partnerships with each other," added CIA's Ms. Foster. CIA Asia/Pacific is more accustomed to doing cross-title deals with Time Warner, for clients like LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in Asia and globally for Hong Kong-based Internet company Chinadotcom Corp.


In the case of National Geographic, new TV channels and local print editions make cross-title deals that cover most of the world possible for the first time. New print editions launch this week in Dutch, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.

Starting in October, TV spots for the Hong Kong Tourist Association created by FCB Worldwide, Hong Kong, will air alongside documentary vignettes of Hong Kong life shot by National Geographic photographers in Europe, Australia and Asia. Related print ads will run in English and local-language editions of National Geographic globally as well as National Geographic Traveler in North America. Banners and buttons on the site offer brochures by mail and link Web surfers to the site.


Toyota is sponsoring the new "Adventure Starts Here" series airing on every National Geographic channel worldwide. Although National Geographic claims a presence in 100 countries, the first channel in Latin America will be launched at the end of October, and the channel is still absent in the U.S. and some of the world's other biggest markets, including France, Germany and Japan.

The series will debut next month on the channel's existing feeds in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East, and will be rolled out to Canada, France, Latin America and the U.S. as the brand expands into those markets throughout 2001. Traditional on-screen credits, bumpers and billboards built into the programming will be supplemented by Toyota branding during on-air promotions, as well as off-air marketing and Web site promotions.

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