OPINION: Looking beyond our borders

Laura Christie
By Laura Christie | 28 August 2012

Due partly to our geographical distance from, well, most places, Australia can feel quite separate from the rest of the world. Particularly in advertising and media, we’re a long way from the powerhouses of the last century in Europe and the US.

But our clients are increasingly global brands and our neighbours in Asia are becoming important on a world scale, with economists predicting that China’s economy will be four times the size of the US by 2050. With our relative wealth compared to other regions along with our proximity to booming Asia, our view of marketing and media needs to extend well beyond our own borders.

We recently had a colleague from Shanghai spend three months working in our Melbourne office. It was an incredibly beneficial exercise and points to the increasing need for all of us in media and marketing to adopt a global state of mind. 

Leo’s number one objective in coming to Australia alongside the experience of living and working abroad, was to learn about our digital media market, digital being a relatively new channel in China.  Leo was also keen to see how we integrate diversified marketing (PR, experiential, promotions and so on) communications functions with media.

From a business perspective, our company gained insights into the Chinese market that we simply couldn’t have achieved without Leo’s local market knowledge. Leo brought a new level of understanding to our teams and our clients about nuances that only a local could know about. His knowledge helped both clients who are trying to attract the Chinese market here in Australia, such as in the tourism and entertainment sectors, and also those who sell direct in China.

Our clients loved having access to a team member with insights into another market. It was so successful that one of our clients in the tourism sector was blown away by Leo’s knowledge and another of our globally aligned clients has requested that Leo join their account team in Shanghai.

It was fascinating to see the Australian media landscape through Leo’s eyes. When he arrived, by his own admission, he didn’t know much about digital media. His take at the end of his stay sums it up.

On his last day with us, he said: “It is now clear what the direction is for my career. I will go back to China and talk to my boss about focusing on digital and especially social media. I want to help Aegis Media set up a social media function in China.”

“China is becoming a global market, with global clients, and we need a global view to service them. Digital is the fastest growing area of media in China. All the growth in our market is around digital, social and mobile.”

China doesn’t have Google, Facebook or Twitter, and digital advertising has only really come into play in the past few years. But the Chinese ‘versions’ of our social media tools, like Webo, are very popular, and the uptake of new technology is enormously fast. The Chinese may not have had digital for as long as we have, but their use of it has already advanced on Australia. Watching video content through mobile is commonplace for example (and they have the broadband speeds to support it).

Brands coming into China need to understand how different the market is there, and the same with Chinese brands going global.

Leo’s visit opened our eyes to the importance of specialising not just in areas of marketing but in having an in-depth understanding of cross-cultural differences. We have people devoted to performance marketing, data analysis, mobile, social and so on. Having people who specialise in particular global markets makes sense in a world full of global brands.

One last important point is that aside from knowledge sharing, many people in our industry want to travel. They want to see the world and experience new places, just like Leo did. They’re going to do it no matter what, but if we can facilitate that for them and keep good talent within our business, we all win.

We can improve, and our colleagues in other countries can improve, with a free-flow of information and a deeper understanding of each other’s needs.

Embrace the opportunity to be global. It’s good for clients, for staff and for business.

Laura Christie
Group Human Resource Manager
Aegis Pacific Media

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