Confusion, conclusions and contradictions!

  • Business
  • Saturday, 30 May 2009

LAST week, I spoke to some media pundits who manage the billions that go into the plethora of media choices in our marketplace. These “gatekeepers” know best because they have a pulse on what’s going through the “pipeline”.

Contrasting views abound, just as official advertising expenditure (adex) figures are yoyo-ing to give any decent reading worthy of a realistic picture. Media owners naturally spin every latest finding to their advantage and understandably so. Which makes my life sometimes difficult, as the source of the figures and the interpreter of the figures take me to task, when I make a conclusion of sorts, choosing not to confront each other but me. I don’t mind, because it forces me to become an overnight expert!

Straying away from this “paralysis by analysis”, I asked these pros in the media minefeld we have before us today on the state of the nation. I may have come away more confused! But please, do read on ...

Media stalwart Gerald Miranda, CEO of Zenith Media Malaysia, says: “I think it’s too early to conclude the global effects have fully sunk in locally. Job cuts in developed markets are still hitting the news in recent days. Hopefully, it’ll bottom out this year and we can look forward to a recovery next year.”

Prashant Kumar, CEO of Universal McCann Malaysia and this year’s Cannes media jury member, adds: “I think the worst is over. The magnitude of it has sunk in, but whether the bailout packages are overrated in their ability to restage the global economy is difficult to ascertain. I don’t see any more lashes; I see slow healing.

“There’s a big mess to clean up – it’s not like the dotcom bubble where the rot was not structural but around the hype. Now, you’re talking about trillions of dollars in umpteen “creative” financial instruments, which the financial doctors need to “correct” and restore faith in.

“I think markets will dilly-dally till the third quarter and then show gradual signs of recovery. Good thing is in Malaysia, the stimulus package may start showing positive signs earlier if infused in the right manner.”

Interestingly, Andreas Vogiatzakis, managing director of OMG Malaysia, comments: “I am sure the worst is yet to come. Sure enough Malaysia is more cushioned vis-à-vis the rest of the region, but we’ll be hit more. The fact that we manufacture and consume with a large consumer base is helping. But the export factor is hitting hard everyday.

“Moreover, the multinationals who are adjusting their operations overseas, will impact on their Malaysian operations. So all in all, we will be hit more, but I believe we’ll recover less scathed than other countries.”

On who will emerge stronger, Prashant declares: “Internet, branded content, point of sale seem to be not just bucking the trend, but may be even knocking at the inflexion point, ready for an exponential take-off! A lot of this contrarian investment will come from the same media kitty thereby hitting traditional media.

There is an urgent need for media owners to start thinking of innovative proposals to give media agencies new reasons to invest. It’s time to do what you always wanted to do, but somehow growth was so good, you didn’t want to be the party-spoiler. It’s time to reinvent.”

Gerald opines, “Media conglomerates will weather the storm better. Some of the smaller players may have exited the market by then, or be taken over by the big boys.”

Andreas concludes, “I am positive digital platforms will come out stronger. They provide more flexible solutions and are more measurable. Media platforms and vehicles that give advertisers flexibility and partnership in these hard times will gain. We’ve seen a shift to TV in the last few years, and unless print fights back, the adex gap between the two narrow further. In troubled times, people stay home more and watch TV more; so the challenge for print becomes tougher!”

Now where do all these observations lead us? If you were looking for relief in my article today, I urge you to read between the lines. Somewhere therein lies the answer to all our questions.

·Harmandar Singh aka Ham is regional CEO of Sledgehammer Communications (M) Sdn Bhd.

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