Bough looks to the East for inspiration

Our September cover star Bonin Bough is moving to China. For three months at least...

Our September cover star Bonin Bough is moving to China. For three months at least...

The VP of global media and consumer engagement at Mondelez International will then spend three months in India and a further three months in Russia on a quest for knowledge and inspiration.

Bough was a ubiquitous presence at Advertising Week this week, and he believes it is an imperative of his job to replicate the work he has pioneered with startups in the US in other parts of the world that may at the moment be regarded as developing markets, but could soon become major global players.

The Ad Week format is a smorgasbord of content of varying degrees of quality, ranging from thinly concealed sales pitches to awkward panels trying to fit the views of six middle-aged white male CEO-level execs into 50 minutes.

But there was also some good wheat in and amongst the chaff. Sorry to harp back to Martin Sorrell, but as none of the other holding company CEOs were in evidence at Ad Week and aren't particularly forthcoming with their views it's difficult not to revert to the WPP CEO. Like Bough, he also focused on China in a one-on-one with the IAB's Randall Rothenberg at Ad Week sister event IAB Mixx.

Former PepsiCo digital and social guru and Weber Shandwick and Ruder Finn PR agency exec Bough believes it's just a matter of time before one of the major Asian social networks makes a global play, a global play that will leverage an already well-established legacy of close relationships with brands and celebrities in the US. He's interested in this intersection for Mondelez mega-brands such as Oreo, Trident, Sour Patch, and Stride.

Sorrell echoed this and identified three big digital media players that will be the next big thing, instead of what he called the “trite answer that is mobile and data” that everyone else parrots.

His three giants are the $50 billion market cap Baidu, which he described as “Asia's answer to Google”; Ali Baba, “a mixture of Amazon and Google” with a putative value of $100 billion (plus logistics and transactions platforms); and Tencent – an amalgam of Amazon, Google, and Facebook – also with a $100 billion market cap.

“The next big thing is Chinese business models in the area,” he said. “We in the West think we have a monopoly on this wisdom, we don't.”

Funnily enough for an event describing itself as “Advertising Week”, many speakers distanced themselves from the dreaded “A” word. Sorrell himself emphasized that WPP is a marketing services company: “It's not an art anymore; it's a science,” he said. “And it's much more than advertising.” Others plugged content, sharing, and engagement.

For PRWeek readers, this is old news. And it is encouraging to see that PR and communications pros are already playing in spaces that the advertising and media communities still aspire to populate.

But the next generation of essential knowledge will come out of Asia and other emerging markets, and Bonin Bough is among those leading the charge to capitalize on that wisdom as he pioneers a new approach to marketing via a nine-month tour of Asia and Eastern Europe – we look forward to tracking his progress.

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