Leo Burnett's - part of the $5bn Publicis Groupe - Asia Pacific president Michelle Kristula-Green is one of the few women at the very top of the global advertising business. On a visit to India earlier this week to deliver Femina Dialogues keynote address on 'Miss Understood: She's Not Buying Your Ads'- a Leo Burnett proprietary study on how to engage the female consumer - Ms Green spoke to Samidha Sharma and Amanpreet Singh on contemporary issues in advertising. Excerpts from the interview:
What are the trends in advertising to women in Asia-Pacific?
The whole of Asia has seen a massive change since the markets opened up - people have become more sophisticated and strive to have global relevance. Women here are increasingly influencing even financial decisions and are getting liberated, but maybe not the way they are in the US. Marketers are finally trying to catch up on this missed opportunity.
They are discovering their sexuality, they are free in articulating their emotions, but advertisers need to evolve emotions rather than portray them. Management of emotions make Asian women stronger compared to women across the world.
Unilever and P&G do a lot of home visits to connect with women consumers. Cars are emerging as a fashion item with women as a key target group. Car manufacturers in the US are putting cup holders in cars, because women demand it. In Japan, credit cards are increasingly being sold to women - a brand doing it is Hello Kitty. One under-utilised aspect is the use of humour while addressing women consumers. About 83% women in Asia prefer portrayal of humour over heavy-handed emotions in advertising.
What are the big consumer trends globally?
There is a growing inclination towards organic products. Fragrances are becoming a big trend globally across categories, perhaps because it connotes relaxation for a consumer in a 24x7 lifestyle. There is also a trend of 'mass of prestige', for luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci et al going mass market. And yet, brands such as Louis Vuitton are trying to keep their brand fresh and are successfully experimenting with new ways of keeping their brand value alive. Another big consumer trend that we are witnessing in the US is old-people in advertising, reflecting the country's aging demographics.
Why are there so few women at the top of the ad business?
Being a woman in this industry has never really worked against me. Women have to make work-life choices in every industry they are in, and it's true for advertising as well. And as far as the advertising industry goes, it's much more women-friendly. I guess, not too many women in this industry have made those hard personal sacrifices in order to focus on their career growth.
Why has no Indian ever led a global ad business despite the industry's long heritage in India?
Well if you look at it, the advertising business has been globalising only for the past two decades, unlike other industries which have been trotting the globe for long. In due course, you'll see an Indian or a Chinese head an ad business globally.
Advertising is facing a crisis of talent globally. Your views?
Yes, there is a shortage of good people joining this business and remuneration is a big hindrance not only in India, but globally. We at Leo Burnett are trying to address this issue. Clients' perception on the value that this business offers has to change, and they have to stop expecting ideas for free.