Asia bets on ad bartering

Surplus space presents problems for Asian media

SINGAPORE — TV and multimedia channels continue to multiply in Asia, but advertising revenues are not increasing at a commensurate rate. Thus, more execs are backing corporate bartering as a solution to selling excess ad airtime.

London- and Singapore-based Falcon Tradex, headed by a trio of advertising vets, certainly thinks that’s the way to go. The managing director is Vib Sharma, ESPN Star Sports’ former senior veep of advertising sales & integrated marketing.

Sharma says the surplus of advertising space in Asia mirrors the U.S. of the late 1970s, when the rapid expansion of cable TV necessitated a rise in barter payment from advertisers to marketers. “There’s an Asian oversupply of media that’s going out (with advertising) light or undersold.”

Media owners don’t want to discount their rates because of the problems that creates when they try to bump up ad rates again in the future. “There’s an acceptance to the trade and barter in the Asian psyche,” he says.

Paying in the universal currency of Barter Trade Credits, Falcon Tradex is looking to snap up unsold media inventory for its corporate clients.

“But this is not to be confused with what’s known as counter- or contra-barter,” explains chairman Adam Yates, a veteran ad man and former exec with U.S.-based Active Intl. “Counter-barter is a one-on-one exchange between two parties that both want what the other has.”

The challenge is clear: Asking both media owners and advertisers to accept another form of payment that, according to Yates and Sharma, will usually be a blend of barter and cash. But pay TV industry execs seem receptive to anything that might speed up the lagging Asian economic recovery.

“If it’s (airtime) inventory that would have otherwise gone to air empty, and we’re gaining something of equivalent value that we want or need, corporate barter sounds fine in principle. Let’s see how it pans out,” says one TV ad sales exec.

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