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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Go East, Young People!

In 1841, a minister named J.B.L. Soule allegedly drafted an editorial in the Terre Haute Express that included the term “Go West, Young Man and Grow Up with The Country”. Urban legend has it that 14 years later, Horace Greeley of The New York Tribune stole that line which served as a rallying cry for the emergence of the American West.

As we approach 2011, perhaps the line for the genuinely ambitious and adventurous would be “Go East, Young People.” In about three years, the Asia Pacific region will be billing more in advertising than North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico). And, looking forward given demographic and business trends, the Asia Pacific area will soon become the new global advertising hub by 2020.

What is the Asia Pacific region? Most demographers, financial analysts, and political theorists define it as the following 12 countries: China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, India, Australia, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan. Some day soon Vietnam and New Guinea will be part of the list.

As we write, the annualized advertising expenditures are tracking at about $37.1 billion for 2010. Newspaper advertising has declined for the first time but TV, magazine, outdoor, internet and especially mobile are off the charts in terms of growth.

More telling is from a recent Nielsen release on consumer confidence. Looking at the whole world the leading 10 nations in terms of an upbeat outlook are from the Asia Pacific cadre with the only exceptions being Saudi Arabia and little Denmark. In tune with confidence, people in the Asia Pacific are future oriented. When asked what they would do with spare cash, Nielsen reports that 37% in the Asia Pacific countries would invest in stocks or mutual funds. The rest of the world lags way behind at 21% (perhaps they would pay down debt?).

Over the last year, media billings in some of the countries were very high compared to the previous 12 months. Nielsen tracks it at Indonesia +15%, Hong Kong +16%, India +15%, and Taiwan an eye-popping 19%. No nation in the group delivered less than +6% year to year.

The other thing about the region is that it is not monolithic in media usage. This is particularly true of internet activity. The Japanese and Koreans spend a lot of time blogging (can’t be all bad!), while, in Vietnam, mobile is the preferred method of internet access. The Australians and Chinese tend to use standard internet portals for their on line action.

These days many of my students and young people ask me what is the one thing that they can do to help their careers get off to a fast start. I answer with a straight face, “Leave the United States.” After they get over the shock, I tell them that I would like splendid young people like them to remain Americans forever. But, spending a few years overseas will pay very rich dividends over the next few decades in their careers. People who live overseas for a time come back with a perspective that their home bound colleagues lack. They may not be fluent in Mandarin but they can greet Chinese businessmen in their native tongue forever and understand better where their visitors are coming from in negotiations. If you live abroad for a while, you see America as it is and usually appreciate our freedoms more when you come home. Not all traveling businesspeople eventually get into the corner office. They do, however, have a certain self confidence and assurance that most of us do not have. They have seen more and experienced more. In a global economy, they can be invaluable to many firms and are simply more interesting people to be around.

I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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