Why Seoul Is Media, Ad City Of The Future

After spending last week at CES, many marketers and agencies are now back in the office. What did you learn at CES? I understand the desire see the latest and greatest in technology, but how is that going to help a marketer or agency employee do their job better?

With thousands of reporters attending CES, there is no lack of information about the show that could not be read or viewed online from the comfort of one’s home or office. Unlike a major sporting event – where there is a certain sense of excitement in ‘being there’ – the CES event can be experienced elsewhere (albeit with less crowds). Sure, one cannot see as many new technologies in one place, but any marketer or agency worthy of attending CES can also have these same consumer technology companies make a visit to their office.

As you fill out your expense report, may I suggest that next year, you consider a trip to Seoul, South Korea?

Why Seoul?

If you’re looking for the future, look to Seoul instead of Vegas. In this city, consumers were able to make mobile phone calls on subways below ground and watch TV via their mobile phones on seven channels – in 2010.

South Koreans have been using their mobile phones for Internet banking since 2000 and have been using their mobile phones like credit cards at ATMs from 2004, after banks began issuing integrated circuit chips that slot into mobile phones. In 2005, South Korea became the first country where mobile phones could receive digital television signals, per The New York Times.And all of this occurred several years before Samsung’s Galaxy Smartphones launched in 2009.

According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, South Korea's internet is the most developed in the world. As to Seoul, the nation's capital, it has been called “the bandwidth capital of the world,” the world’s “leading digital city” and a “tech capital of the world” by Wikipedia.

The reasons behind South Korea’s growth as a technology hub include a government push for technology, densely populated cities that are easier to wire, a highly educated population and the presence of leading consumer electronics companies, namely Samsung and LG.

The prevalence of technology makes Seoul a real city of the future and a great place for marketers and agencies to see what things will be like in a few years.

With South Korea’s Samsung now the market leader in mobile phones and smartphones, it should come as no surprise that Seoul boasts some of the most advanced mobile usage patterns, including the greatest smartphone penetration in the world. Mobile advertising accounts for 8.5% of digital ad spending in the US. In  South Korea, in comparison, the number is  20.1%, according to eMarketer.

Who can forget the famous Cannes Lion-winning mobile shopping campaign Tesco ran in South Korea in 2010.

In many ways, going to CES is like going to the designer fashion shows in Milan or New York. Though these fashion shows display the latest designs, not all of them will make it into the stores and onto the streets. Likewise, not everything one sees at CES will make it into someone’s living room.

In fact, though major consumer technology products in the 1970s and 1980s were regularly launched at CES, including the VCR (1970), the Camcorder and the CD (both in 1981), fewer new technologies have been launched at CES in the last 10 to 15 years. In 2007, the iPhone was actually introduced at MacWorld during CES.

Consumer electronics marketers and their agencies need to attend CES for the obvious reason – it’s their biggest show of the year. But for other marketers and agencies, I’d recommend spending the time in Seoul studying how consumers are currently using technology. It will provide great insight in what will actually happen over the next few years.

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