JAPAN: Mindful of the consequences

MindShare’s foray into the world of Japanese media planning will be a valuable lesson in balancing optimal scheduling with accurate simulations of market dynamics. David Kilburn reports

MindShare Japan is paying the price for entry into Japan as a serious player in media planning. The price, approximately £1m, represents the cost of funding the first Japan TGI study, which was carried out in the country’s three major cities, Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, with a 6,000 sample this summer. TGI will be instrumental in helping MindShare launch 3D, a new application to improve the targeting and effectiveness of campaigns.

3D brings together the dynamics of brand loyalty, media consumption and consumer trends in a new research tool to help target media at consumers with greater accuracy. At the heart of 3D planning is BRANDZ, the international WPP brand equity study that covers consumer relationships and which is conducted in Japan and elsewhere.

Original hopes of forming a consortium to launch TGI foundered and so the research will remain a proprietary MindShare study in Japan.

Most agencies in Japan use Video Research Co’s ACR, a six-monthly study of audience and consumer behaviour, as their main research platform in media planning. However, this does not enable agencies to take full advantage of the many media planning and simulation tools that have been developed in recent years. Nor does it reflect the latest thinking about consumer’s media behaviour.

And so major agencies have been developing their own proprietary research surveys and tools to gain a competitive edge in planning.

Dentsu started the trend with the launch of its own proprietary research, D-CAMP (Dentsu Consumer & Audience Multi-Panel), in 1995. Hakuhodo quickly followed with HSOS (Hakuhodo Strategic Operation Support) and McCann-Erickson with MACInsight. At each agency, proprietary research and the development of new tools to build and optimise schedules as well as simulate market dynamics has progressed in tandem.

Strangely, other Japanese agencies have largely ignored these developments. Some, owned by media companies, place selling space and time in their parent’s media properties ahead of productive planning. Others, partly owned by manufacturers, are often not involved in strategic media planning, since their parent companies give this to Dentsu or Hakuhodo.

The remaining agencies are generally too small to afford the investments needed. And so the gulf between the leaders and the rest of the field has steadily increased. “You can find some of the world’s best media research and planning systems in Japan,” says Ron Pullem, director of strategic media at McCann-Erickson in Tokyo. “But they are built on proprietary knowledge and not shared industry standards.”

MindShare’s admission fee gains it entry to the small club that is pushing the development of media planning in the world’s second largest market. But £1m is only a down payment. The need for sophisticated research and systems development could eat up about £5m annually, if the experience of other players is any guide.

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