Korean marketing trends is a subject I follow. Interestingly, employment in the Ad business is seen as one of the top careers by many Gen Y and 20:30 Koreans.
Amid growing concerns over foreign ownership of home-grown companies,[ I'm watching the Icahn-KT&G takeover carefully] the world's second largest marketing group WPP bought LG Ad and Diamond Ad in 2003 and merged Diamond with its existing local arm, Ogilvy & Mather Korea, late last year.
It is a unique case where a foreign agency has merged with a wholly-owned domestic agency, said Miles Young, chairman of Diamond Ogilvy Group and Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific. [ In a country that's highly nationalistic this might not of been smart].
We certainly are interested in acquiring more companies in Korea, said Young who had helped WPP on a freelance basis by introducing it to LG Ad. WPP holds a 28 percent controlling stake in LG Ad.
But of course, organic growth is more important. Diamond Ogilvy Group said it saw sales of $350 million last year, although Diamond fell in billing rankings after the division that made ads for Hyundai Automotive Group spun out as the carmaker set up its own advertising agency Innocean last year. [ Innocean now handles the Hyundai-Kia car marketing for Korea.]
Diamond's current major clients include LG Telecom, Korea Life Insurance and iRiver. Ogilvy & Mather Korea works more with international clients such as IBM and Unilever. The ad group aims to redeem the No. 3 spot as it won 11 new contracts after the merger.
The company has started sending Diamond staff for training at the overseas branches of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. The focus of the training is to build on creativity.
Korea has been creatively an underperformer, said Young who overlooks some 7,000 employees of O&M Asia Pacific.
The way the Korean advertising market has developed didn't encourage creativity much, partly due to the chaebol influence.
Among the nation's top 10 ad firms, four are in-house agencies of Samsung, Lotte, Hyundai and Doosan. The market is increasingly becoming polarized between chaebols and foreign agencies as several large conglomerates are planning to set up more in-house agencies.
Young also mentioned short spot lengths and conservatism in the society as barriers to creativity.
The redesigned interior of the office resembling a chic bar is aimed at providing an environment that highly values creativity. The employees have meetings in spaceships and rooms with Japanese straw mats covering the floors or brainstorm in an elbowroom between cabinets and shell-shaped chairs.
O&M's regional creative meeting will also be held in Seoul for the first time, Young said.
The chairman spends most of his time in China where O&M has offices in seven cities and is expanding rapidly. Based in Hong Kong, he tries to visit Seoul at least once a month in between his trips to the 15 countries he covers including Japan and India.