Universal Study Finds A Global Ad Market - At The C-Level, Anyway

After languishing for several years, the notion of global media buing - or at least pan-regional media planning - once again is emerging as a hot topic on Madison Avenue. Recenlty, Grey Worldwide's MediaCom unit appointed negotiating czar Jon Mandel to the new post of global buying officer and now rival Interpublic's Universal McCann unit has teamed with six leading international media companies to understand how some of the most important global media targets - so-called C-level executives - consume international news.

The developments represent part of a shift in of international media planning wisdom, which had pretty much settled on the notion that while advertisers and agencies can think globally, they still must act locally when it comes to executing media srategies. Not so, finds Universal, at least when it comes to reaching chief executives of major corporations.

"Because of the fragmentation of media, we knew we couldn't possibly buy enough local media to cover these important targets, so we began by asking ourselves if we invest in pan-regional media, does that have enough power? The answer is absolutely yes," says Sasa Savic, senior vice president-director of global accounts at Universal, who championed the research and partnered with six major pan-regional news outlets to field it, including four print concerns (The New York Times/International Herald Tribune, the Economist, the Financial Times and Time magazine) and two TV outlets (CNN International and BBC World).



The research found that not only is pan-regional news becoming more important to C-level executives, but they are seeking and obtaining it in increasingly customized ways through a variety of new media technologies, ranging from the Internet to wireless devices like PDAs and cell phones.

This represents a significant change from just six years ago when Universal research showed that C-level executives - particularly Europeans - were not using the Internet to international news media.

"The Internet was not a main channel for them to get news and information, but with technology improvements, it's becoming clear that they are getting very serious about using technology. These guys are very well paid, so they can afford the kind of elite technologies that enable them to do that," explains Universal's Savic, noting that these developments also are leading to far more customized approaches of accessing news and information about world markets that may require advertisers and the media to think differently about how they communicate with these valuable targets.

Savic says C-level executives represent less than 1% of the world population ,but account for up to 25% of its personal buying power. And in terms of their influence on world markets, they're an even bigger factor.

The study also found there are profound differences in the types of information chief executives access for work and for their personal needs, as well as the information they access when traveling internationally versus in their home markets. When at home, they generally access pan-regional media to provide a context on what's going on in the rest of the world. When they are traveling, they are looking for objective information about their home markets.

"When they're traveling, it becomes their home away from home," explains Savic.

The study, dubbed " A View From The Board," also found some cultural differences among chief executives in different regions.

"In Asia, they just want objective news. They use CNN International, FT [Financial Times], The Economist, because they see this as a fairly unbiased way to get news. Whereas in the U.S., they read global media because they just don't want to have a U.S. point-of-view on the rest of the world. In Europe, it's a little bit of both," notes Savic, adding that Japanese executives tend to utilize pan-regional media to obtain competitive information about economics and technologies that might ultimately impact their markets.

While the study may not have significant implications for other types of consumer targets, Savic notes that recent world events have made international news much more important for average consumers, as well.

In any case, the chief executive insights likely will accelerate efforts by some pan-regional media outlets to resuscitate the notion of international media buys. The New York Times Co., for example, has been making noises about creating a true worldwide newspaper buy incorporating the Times in the U.S. with the International Herald Tribune overseas.

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