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IPG Mediabrands launches OOH specialist Rapport in China with Jennifer Zhu as MD

Jennifer Zhu

IPG Mediabrands has announced the launch of its out-of-home (OOH) specialist media planning and buying agency Rapport in China. 

Jennifer Zhu has been appointed as managing director. She was most recently general manager at Kinetic, the OOH specialist from WPP.

Speaking to Mumbrella about the decision to launch in China, Rapport global president and CEO Michael Cooper said: “We enter in the same way – assessing the need from the greater holding company, vendors and people in the market. And then finding a local hero who can adopt our philosophy, thinking and strategy. A person with enough knowledge of the local market to establish which direction we need to go. 

“Jen and her team of planners will assess the need and grow with it. We are not trying to replicate America in China.” Zhu will be based in Shanghai, and will report to  Cooper. Her appointment is effective immediately.

China was a particularly important market for Rapport considering its stature. A study from earlier this year had pegged Asia-Pacific as the largest OOH region in the world with USD$13 billion sales in 2018. 

Cooper said: “The Chinese OOH market is now the third largest in the world – rapid urbanisation, coupled with market first adoption of digital technologies means that OOH growth is out-performing at +9%. 

“With a more mobile and increasingly connected population, our ambition is to create a competitive advantage for Chinese advertisers to connect with their consumers.”

Speaking to Mumbrella about her appointment, Zhu said: “With the 5G era coming and technology getting more advanced, outdoor is the last field where we can change the world, using methodologies beyond traditional media. OOH is the way we connect with a moving world.” 

Asked about her move to Rapport she said: “After six years at Kinetic, on clients like Nike and Chanel, I wanted to explore more. I wanted to find the balance between creative and media first OOH formats, and what we could do more to digitise the OOH world.

“So I decided to change from account leader to an overall country leader.” 

Asked about the unique challenges and opportunities presented by China, Zhu said: “China is quite different and there are infinite choices from Tier One to Tier Four or Tier Five cities; really small places that you need to travel 10 hours by train to get to. 

“In those places, wall paintings have the most impact. And in the same country, you have Beijing, the biggest airport worldwide. 

“Combining all levels of investment from Tier One cities to Tier Four cities across platforms and with unique data management is a very interesting challenge.”

Michael Cooper

Rapport launched in Hong Kong last year and is also present in India and Malaysia in the region. Asked if there were any more launches on the anvil, Cooper said: “We will never have 25 offices in Asia. 

“China was incredibly exciting since it was evolving and urbanising at a great rate. There was a relatively fragmented mass of vendors and not a whole lot of measurement. We feel we can really add value. 

“Apart from the markets we are already present in, there are likely a couple more that we will look at.”

Asked if an office in Singapore was on the cards and about its potential as a hub for the region, Cooper said: “At the moment, if we were to have a hub in Singapore, I am not sure Rapport would add value. It makes more sense to have a hub in Hong Kong or Shanghai because we can add value, learn and expand from there.

“I am not saying we will never have an office here; I just don’t see it yet and won’t aggressively pursue it. 

“Markets like Thailand are exciting and evolving fast. It is digitising at a rapid pace. Also, it does not carry the baggage of the US where there were a ridiculous amount of static billboards all over the country. 

“Australia is interesting but relatively well managed and packaged.

“We have a handful of global clients who are asking us whether we will go to particular markets because they want the same levels of service that they get from us elsewhere.

“It’s easy to put a Rapport sticker on the door and claim a global network of 90 but I don’t want to anything that is not very real, that we cannot take ownership of and which does not fall under our ‘rewarding connections’ mantra.”

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