Havas Media bets big on Philippines
MANILA, Philippines—Filipinos have no qualms about putting bits and pieces of their life online.
They are in fact so comfortable with technology and have gotten so used to sharing their innermost thoughts with the online world that the Philippines has become the fifth-largest nation in planet Facebook, with 21 million Filipinos registered on the world’s leading social network site.
Surveys also show that a little more than four of five Filipinos are part of a social network, about nine in 10 have shared photographs online, three of five have uploaded a video and almost all Filipinos have watched on online video.
According to the latest data from research company Nielsen, by 2012, there will be about 35 million people going online in the Philippines, the largest online population in Southeast Asia. And while seven of 10 Filipinos access the Internet through Internet cafes, home Internet access is growing, along with mobile Internet access.
All these factors did not escape the attention of Barcelona-based Havas Media, one of the world’s fastest-growing media networks, which plans to aggressively expand its digital marketing operations in the region, including the Philippines.
According to Havas Media CEO Alfonso Rodes Vila, the Philippines provides the expanding media company a unique platform on which to grow its digital as well as overall advertising and marketing operations.
“With digital becoming increasingly more and more at the center of the consumer behavior, we wanted to look at a market entry scenario where we could lead with digital and have other disciplines stand as a subset or at the periphery,” explains Vila, “The Philippines provided that opportunity being among the leaders in this space in digital adoption and among the top markets for social media usage.”
Havas Media already has a presence in the Philippines, mainly through digital brand Media Contacts, and the plan is to beef up its operations to take advantage of emerging opportunities as more companies turn to the digital world to market their products and services.
“We looked more deeply in the countries where we have a small flag and not placed enough attention, like the Philippines and Indonesia, and we are encouraged by what we see and the performance of the local group,” Vila tells the Inquirer.
Media Contacts is a full-service digital media agency that offers a wide range of digital communications services such as digital media planning and buying, website development and marketing, social media campaign creation and management, Internet public relations, online advertising, Search Engine Optimization, viral marketing and online data analysis.
In just 18 months of operations, the Philippine agency was named the 2009 Philippine Advertising Congress’ Araw Media Agency of the Year. It is also among the top creative digital agencies at Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines Boomerang awards—regarded as the Oscars in digital advertising.
The local agency is headed by CEO/President Ed Mapa Jr. and handles the digital requirements of such brands as Sunsilk, Close Up, Vaseline and Dove, Citibank, San Miguel Brewery, Readers Digest Asia and MTV Asia.
“We were happily surprised by how the local office was doing with so little,” says Vila, “Now we are ready to invest more.”
Vila is also confident that despite the presence in the Philippines of bigger multinational advertising and marketing companies, there is more than enough space for Havas Media to grow.
Increasing the investment and company footprint in the Philippines is part of Havas Media’s thrust to expand its presence in the growing Asia-Pacific region.
Vila explains that as recently as 2001, 90 percent of Havas Media’s operation was limited to Spain and France.
Four years ago, it expanded to the region, starting with India and China, followed now by the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. It is also building an operation in Africa, starting with Egypt.
Vila says that what the group brings to the Philippine market is a global view of how marketing can be done, but with a local approach to take into consideration what makes individual markets unique.
“Being of Latin origin gives us a different point of view. But we will focus on local clients, not just the global accounts. We will learn from the locals and not come in with an imperialist attitude,” says Vila. “Going forward, we want to be more local than the locals.”