This week, Aegis will announce the acquisition of 75 per cent of Strategic Planners International (SPI), an independent media specialist in Tokyo.
The company will be renamed Carat SPI and become the 13th Carat office in Asia, after Sydney, Hong Kong, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Bombay, Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok.
SPI was founded in 1995 as Japan’s first independent strategic media planning company by a group of executives formerly with Bates Japan, which included Kim Walker,Tsuneo Honda and Akira Murayama.
Since then, a number of agency groups have launched their own media specialist agencies in Japan. These include WPP’s MindShare, Grey’s MediaCom and Leo Burnett’s Starcom. Omnicom’s OMD has also been exploring routes into Japan.
SPI has built a profitable business on revenues of about Yen150m (&£926,000) by advising major advertisers how best to spend their media budgets through the application of models that help determine the relative effects of media and other factors on sales.
“Because we are not a media buyer, SPI can be totally objective and accountable in its recommendations, even recommending reductions in budgets or shifts to unorthodox media if appropriate,” says Walker, SPI’s president.
Over the past two years, SPI has been approached by a number of agency groups, as well as Tempus’ CIA, Carat’s main rival in Asia as a media independent.
“We decided to go with Carat because much of our work involves data mining to develop strategic insights. We visited Media Market Assessments (MMA), a leader in this field in the US and also an Aegis company. We felt its skills could complement the work we are doing in Japan,” explained Walker.
“Carat is a widely respected and powerful company. We aim to marry our unique Japanese experience with the international resources of Carat to enhance the delivery of global best practice to our clients,” adds Walker.
SPI has proved highly competitive with Japan’s Western multinational agencies. Despite a policy of not making competitive pitches, in January this year, SPI prised responsibility for media planning on Volkswagen in Japan away from DDB.
That same month, Nippon Lever, Unilever’s Japanese subsidiary, moved media planning responsibilities for Dove from MindShare to SPI.
SPI handles the media planning for budgets totalling Yen17bn (&£105m), mainly from Western multinationals including Adidas, Club Med, Disney, Nippon Lever, Warner Lambert and Volkswagen. Japanese clients, notably Fujitsu, for whom SPI does all TV planning for its brand campaigns, account for 15 per cent of the business.
The acquisition is strategically important to Carat because Japan accounts for about half of all advertising expenditure in Asia. Consequently, the market is important not only in its own right but as an essential base for multinationals across Asia.
The Aegis acquisition increases the pressure on CIA to establish a base in Japan. In recent months CIA executives have been exploring acquisition or partnership with a small Japanese agency that might wish to relaunch as a media specialist – a significant challenge since even the very largest Japanese agencies have yet to reach international best practice in media planning.