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Wed, Nov 21, 2001 - Page 18 News List

Cultural sensitivity a profitable asset

Toshio Miyagawa, president and chief executive officer of Hakuhodo Inc, one of the largest advertising companies in Japan, sat down yesterday with `Taipei Times' staff reporter Stanley Chou to talk about advertising issues in Asia


Toshio Miyagawa, president and chief executive officer of Japan's Hakuhodo Inc is in Taipei to take part in the 22nd Asian Advertising Congress being held at the Taipei International Convention Center.


Taipei Times: What is your company's market focus and how do you differ from Western advertising agencies?

Toshio Miyagawa (宮川智雄): As a global advertising company, Hakuhodo (博報堂) is currently focusing our operations in Asia, since we think it's the most important market for us.

We expanded our operations around Asia many years ago. [Our logic is that] the Asian market is the nearest market to Japan and is similar in culture. Many Japanese companies have expanded their operations to other Asian countries and we want follow in their footsteps and provide the same services to them as we provide in Japan.

Japanese advertising companies differ significantly from their European and American peers. One difference is that we often have multiple clients that compete among themselves and yet are our clients at the same time.

A good example is that we could have automobile companies such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda as our clients all at the same time, which I do not think happens in Western countries very often. We also have developed ways to handle such clients, ie, to have a number of [independent] subsidiary companies within our company.

For example, we have four subsidiaries and each one is responsible for one automobile company. This is a special situation that exists in Japan.

In order to provide advertising services for our domestic clients who have operations in other Asian countries, we are planning to establish networking services in the next three years, with more than two networks in each Asian country.

We have also set up targets for Asian markets. The five most important Asian nations are Taiwan, South Korea, China, India and Thailand.

For example, in Taiwan, we have already set up three subsidiary companies, including H&Y Communications Inc (博陽廣告公司), Hakuho Communications Inc (博報廣告公司) and HY Marketing Inc (博陽行銷顧問公司). Each subsidiary will serve one client.

TT: Can you tell us about the Hakuhudo Seikatsusha (生活者) consumer survey conducted by your company?

Miyagawa: We have been conducting Asia-wide consumer surveys since 1981, this being the 20th year of the survey. In each survey, more than 11,000 consumers in Asia participate -- a feat which no other company has achieved. The results of the survey are widely reported by media all over Asia after we publish it.

The conclusions generated from these surveys serve as an important asset for our service to our clients. The purpose of it is to bring our know-how in Japan together with our clients to other Asian countries, such as Taiwan. It means that we are extending our services from Japan into Taiwan and other Asian countries, since we have a clear understanding of Asian consumers.

For example, in the Hakuhodo Asia 2001 survey, we discovered that the generation gap may be smaller than one would think in consumer behavior. In Taipei and Japan, after we compare the answers of young people aged 15 to 24 with the answers of respondents aged 35 to 44, the pattern of replies received from the two groups are almost identical. This is just an example of what we can learn from the survey.

TT: What adjustments do you make to your strategy when entering a new Asian market?

Miyagawa: Frequently we have partners in various Asian countries, such as in South Korea, Thailand and India. Through our local partners we work to understand the cultural differences between each country. After gaining an understanding of the local culture, we integrate that with our know-how in advertising to that culture.

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