Cracking the Asian Market

‘Happy new year in advanced.
I’d like to ask you to send me your photographers’ updated, latest portfolio based on Beauty & hair please? No particular region based please. Plus photographers’ bio or CV together?
If I may, please send me a download link or attachment by early next week.’

I received this Email from Shanghai on 27th December last year, and it wasn’t the only one I received whilst I (and most of New Zealand, Australia and Europe) were all on holiday. ‘Early next week’ was New Year’s Day. I also received a request from Singapore for a beauty folio to be sent the very next day, and for a photographer to shoot urgently the first week of January.

And it’s not surprising given that many places in Asia don’t even stop for Christmas, and some only have a day off for Christmas Day. With the end of the tax year in Singapore being 31st December, and Chinese New Year beginning later in January, there are often ads to get out the door before time (or the client’s annual marketing budget) runs out.

So being prepared for this kind of request is always useful. And knowing that come January, whilst the rest of the ad world world is starting to re emerge from their holidays,  you’re unlikely to hear a peep from Asia in terms of new briefs for a few weeks, is an advantage.

My first Asian job was from Singapore in the late nineties. The head of TV production at DDB had found out about The Collective Force and subsequently booked one of my photographers to join a TV crew filming in Fiji. Andrei Jewell had a great time shooting a gorgeous girl on a tropical Island. No complaints at all from anyone!

© Andrei Jewell

My first trip to Singapore was combined with pre production on a large campaign for Caltex out of TBWA. The heat outdoors was intense and contrasted with the icy cold interiors.  Unprepared for this I froze in all my meetings with designer-jersey-clad creatives. I discovered that many of the ad agencies were too close to bother a cab driver, but that the 5 minute walk with 30 kilos of folios over my shoulders would leave me dripping with sweat. I started bothering cab drivers.

The evenings were lots of fun; there was something happening every night in one bar or another and the creatives were all keen to come out and play, before heading back off to the office to work into the night. This turned out to be the most effective way of building relationships over there. A last minute glass of wine about 6 years ago with some creatives at the Scarlet Hotel Bar in Chinatown instigated an introduction to photographer Kerry Wilson‘s work. Kerry went on to shoot the Standard Chartered Bank campaign for TBWA Singapore and several other campaigns for the same creative, who moved on to Beijing and New York and continued to contact him for his projects. This wasn’t an isolated scenario.

A year later, whilst on a sales trip to bitterly cold Shanghai, I learnt that unless you want to be arrested by a scary Chinese soldier, it isn’t advisable to attempt to photograph a bank, even if the said campaign that we had shot is running in its window…

I learnt about the importance of timing of visits to my clients from research conducted by Saatchi & Saatchi Hong Kong on the best possible timespan between sales trips. I implemented the system and watched the photography briefs start to flow into my production office, no matter where I happened to be in the world. My producers became adept at responding, negotiating and planning in a culturally appropriate way. Clients from Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan descended upon us, and kept returning.

When I sold The Collective Force I decided that one of the most useful things I could share with photographers was my knowledge of working with Asian based ad agencies. How to approach them, what they respond to, the best forms of communication, cultural idiosyncrasies and language issues, production variations and hurdles,  payment and tax solutions and what to be prepared for. And all this in comparison to how it works in New Zealand, Australia and the USA- all markets I regularly visited and in which I worked. Over the last few years I have interviewed senior art buyers, creatives and account handlers in Asia to ensure that the information I am sharing is as up to date as possible.

The culmination of this information was put together in some seminars I ran in Australia and New Zealand, and some of the info is woven into my Bootcamp mentoring programme, and with my exclusive Movers and Shakers group.

If you’d like to discuss how I can help you crack the Asian market you can book in a free 30 minute Skype call with me here.