Time for Entrepreneurs to Lead: APMF

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The growth of information and communication technology has made way for a new wave in the world of media. New types of media such as the Internet and text messaging have emerged and have had a huge impact. As a result, there are numerous types of media to choose from for advertising.

Meanwhile, advertising agencies whose jobs are basically to introduce and promote goods and services are closely related with the media. The media lives on subscribers and advertisements, with advertisements playing a greater role in generating revenue for the media.

Since the media has become more cluttered and segmented, advertising agencies need to be sure that their ads are aimed at the right target and are properly communicated.

This is among the issues to be discussed by advertising observers, practitioners, media specialists and the mass media during the Asia Pacific Media Forum (APMF) 2006 held in Nusa Dua, Bali, from Nov. 16 through Nov. 19.

Following are excerpts of an interview with Gunadi Sugiharso, chairman of the organizing committee of APMF 2006.

Question: This year’s theme looks similar to last year’s, so what makes this year’s event different?

Answer: This forum is meant to discuss advertising. So, generally, the problems faced by people working in advertising remain the same. Therefore, there are no significant differences. As with last year, this year we are still also talking about the same topic: changes. In fact, it is safe to say that there are huge changes taking place.

The difference maybe is that while last year we were only reminding our colleagues about the changes, this year we are emphasizing the impacts caused by these changes. Lots of our colleagues are unaware of these impacts. Plus there are lots of people who do not believe that the changes are happening at an alarming rate, and that is why we must react quickly. This is why we chose “Move Faster” as a theme. Last year’s theme was “Don’t Be a Dinosaur” (if you don’t change, be prepared to die out like the dinosaurs.)

The reason why we still want to talk about changes is because last year there were not enough participants from advertising agencies or the media from Indonesia. Meanwhile, changes are still taking place, even faster. These changes are triggered by the growth of technology such as the Internet, cell phones, etc. Besides the conventional media, there are other mediums to choose from. Each has its own character and the public has lots of options.

What has caused the lack of awareness? Is it because there has not been any continuation of the previous forum, or is it because those who came to the forum did not pass the information on to other people?

Actually, it is not about awareness. Everyone is aware that there are changes, but very few realize how big the impact is. People know there is the Internet, but very few are aware of how it will affect the advertising business, what consequences it will have on the way we sell products. These are the questions that most people have yet to find answers to, and do not yet understand. Even those who attended the previous forum may not have a comprehensive understanding of the problem.

So, the changes are more than just a statement?

Yes. It is a serious one. Not many people are completely aware of it and when they do become aware, they will be shocked. The situation can be described like this: there is a dam over there that breaks, but we may remain calm. We are not aware that the water may reach here and that we can be flooded out.

Many of my colleagues are angry at the presence of many global advertising companies in Indonesia because local companies will die (because of them). (They are also angry at) media specialists who will steal much of their pie.

In my opinion, there is no use in blaming each other. These people do not realize that the advertising business has changed. The media is becoming more complex and varied. The amount of money spent by advertisers is so huge that a demand for the services of media specialists is being created. We cannot prevent this because it is happening because the situation is changing. We are supposed to examine our thoughts and concerns: what do we want to be like, how can we do business properly in the world of advertising such as it is today? We can no longer depend on media placements for revenue. We must start thinking about strategic matters, such as how to take responsibility for money paid by clients.

Is this a condition unique to Indonesia?

I do not think so because the whole world is experiencing these changes. It is happening globally. The tendency today is that advertising agencies establish media specialist companies and EO. Then, they all are placed under one holding company. Big companies such as Samsung and HSBC then appoint one holding company. These holding companies are the ones that will coordinate marketing communication functions, including creative work and media placement which are part of the work of their subsidiaries. As such, this will lead to an integrated result.

The fact is that today’s advertising businesses should not only talk about creative matters but also numbers, statistics, etc. In the end, a CEO in this field should not come from among artists, but should be an entrepreneur who is able to organize a company. It is time for them to lead the world of advertising under today’s conditions.

I can see several advertising companies who are aware of this situation. Narga Habib from Cabe Rawit said that “I am not an advertising expert, I am a businessman.” His job is to operate independent business units so that they become profit centers. As such, they (the business units) are expected to grow on their own.

In the global advertising business, WPP is the most advanced company because the CEO is an entrepreneur. He is not an advertising person, but a businessman working in the advertising world. Inter Public fell apart because it was run by an advertising person who had no idea about the business world. They are artists, not businessmen.

What is the expected result from APMF 2006?

First of all is that we have an event where advertising people will be able to meet to share with each other on a regular basis and discuss the growth that is happening. Therefore, we are able to update ourselves. Second, we hope that through this forum we will be able to establish a network — a place to establish a relationship between advertising companies, the media and other businesses. The third one is that we wish to develop human resources, new talents for the advertising field in this ever-changing environment. We shall start with media specialists, creative people, those who can manage budgets, and also entrepreneurs in the field of advertising. (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, November 09, 2006

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