Western model stifles Asia


  • Business
  • Saturday, 12 Apr 2003

A LOT of frustrations that exist in Asia between ad agencies and their clients are due to Western business models being imposed on Asian markets, says Mediaedge:cia Asia Pacific's chief executive officer Mark Austin. 

“With perhaps the exception of South Korea and Japan, the top 10 ad agencies in most Asian markets are Western-owned, and the models of marketing communication process being used come out of Europe or the United States,” he says. 

Austin notes that the advertising budgets in Malaysia are much smaller than those in the US and therefore, agencies here earn much less based on the traditional agency commission system. 

“Plus, the way Asia thinks and the dynamics are very different here,” he goes on. 

Austin says he gets quite cross with a lot of people in the advertising industry in Asia who “don’t challenge things that really do need to be challenged”.  

“A lot of it is the expatriate syndrome – foreigners who come here on a three-year contract. They spend a year trying to understand what it’s all about. In the second year they kind of realise what they need to do, and then they realise they’ve only got a year left before they go back, so why bother?” 

To this, Jim Aitchison – his collaborator on Is Anybody Out There? – adds sarcastically: “And why rock the boat while I’m here because they may fire me and I’ll never get back to London?” 

(Incidentally, Aitchison and Austin, who hail from Australia and Britain respectively, have worked and lived in Asia for many years – Austin for about eight years while Aitchison for two decades.) 

According to Austin, Malaysians are more willing to listen to new ideas than those in the West. “I think there is opportunity for the Malaysian industry, from both the client and the agency sides, to take some risks and encourage the younger, more entrepreneurial people in the industry to develop the sort of idea we’re talking about (in the book),” he says.  

“There are great opportunities to leapfrog the old models.” 

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