HONG KONG: The nature of the Chinese consumer market means that owned media have acquired a greater prominence for marketers there than in other Asian countries according to a leading industry figure.

Nico Guiridlian, APAC managing director for international clients at media agency ZenithOptimedia, explained it was very difficult to cover the whole of China with paid media and that the reach one could achieve this way was limited.

As a consequence, owned assets – not just media – have assumed more importance, he told Campaign Asia-Pacific, down to having physical stores people can visit.

He reported that there was a great appetite for international brands in lower tier cities and noted that consumers from these locations came to shop in Hong Kong for different reasons than those from upper tier cities.

"It's to access a store which they don't have at home," he said. It was "a whole element of brand discovery vitally important to China".

ZenithOptimedia is taking an "owned-first" approach to media planning although it will still use paid media to drive consumers to a brand's owned platforms, digital or otherwise.

The third leg of the stool – earned media – is becoming increasingly problematic according to Guiridlian.

He cited the example of beauty brands which have started to buy exposure on blogs, and to give high-profile influencers exclusive access to yet-to-be launched products in order to encourage positive reviews.

He saw this blurring of the lines as damaging the power of earned media. "At least owned is not pretending to be something else in a branded environment," he said.

He related his experience of focus groups with young women who were not sure they could trust bloggers, as they thought the people they had previously looked to were no longer providing independent advice.

"I think that comes back to the power of owned becoming the centre point of influence for people," said Guiridlian.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff