Miles Colebrook is group president of the advertising multinational, J Walter Thompson (JWT) based in London. He is in Kathmandu this week to assess market potential in Nepal, and is accompanied by Mike Khanna, JWT's area director looking after Central Asia, which includes Nepal. Colebrook has been with Thompson since 1966 and rose up the ranks to become CEO of JWT Europe where instead of Miles he was known as "Kilometres". Colebrook spoke to Nepali Times about JWT's plans for the region as well as the prospects here for Thompson Nepal.
What is the purpose of your visit to Nepal this week?
J Walter Thompson's business in what we call "Central Asia" is extremely important to us, it is one of the top seven areas of the world for us. Nepal is part of that region and this is the first occasion I've had a chance to visit our office in Kathmandu.
We've heard J Walter Thomson calls itself the "university of advertising", and you put a lot of emphasis on training. How important is that for your Nepal operations?
We do indeed put a lot of emphasis on training. In our business we only have one asset and that is our people around the world. We believe we owe it both to our people and indeed to the company to train them to the best of our ability and we do spend a considerable proportion of our revenue on training. JWT in Nepal has the same access to training as anyone else in J Walter Thompson and we normally try to arrange it on a regional basis.
Advertising had flattened in the Asia-Pacific after the economic crisis. Is there now a rebound?
It is true that the last two years have been relatively tough for advertising. Indeed it has been relatively tough for most businesses. Having said that, we have found that Asia-Pacific has been particularly resilient to the economic crisis and we are certainly confident looking towards the future that there will be a recovery and that the Asia-Pacific will be in the frontline of that recovery.
What is the trend for growth of the industry in South Asia?
We certainly see a growth trend in future across the whole of Asia and indeed we believe that South and Central Asia will very much be part of that. In our view, absolutely key to this, is the economic growth from the powerhouse that is India. Critical to this, of course, is the freeing up of the Indian economy, which is beginning to happen but we would like it to happen more quickly.
So, is India the region's locomotive?
Yes, we do believe that India is the region's locomotive. That is not to say other parts of Central Asia cannot be independent in terms of their growth, but we believe that a healthy India will have a healthy effect on the whole of
Brand-building and marketing needs a certain degree of over-statement and embellishment. How much are ethics and values a part of your in-house guidelines, especially in a country like Nepal?
We think brand building marketing need imagination and innovation but not necessarily overstatement nor embellishment. Indeed if you are in a situation of overstatement it can be extremely dangerous if you can't deliver on the product or the service. As regards ethics and values, we are very mindful of these, not just on a worldwide basis, but particularly on a local basis and of course if you work for a global company you have to be very mindful of local issues. In the modern world one has to be more and more mindful of consumer power.
We think this is a very good thing and every day we remind ourselves that if you upset or turn off a consumer you will pay a heavy price. In my personal view, I think this is a very good counter-balance to growing globalisation.