Why is WPP buying in Vietnam? Is it the economy or a way to ease the company into programming?

Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP is continuing its love affair with Vietnam (it’s been operating in the country for over 15 years, long before most of its marcoms rivals) by launching Burson-Marsteller Vietnam in partnership with minority shareholder Chu Chi Co.

Chu Chi Co is headed by founder (Ms) Chu Thi Hong Anh who has been an ally of WPP in Vietnam since 1995 and served as chair of JWT and Mindshare in the country.

The main reason Sorrell likes Vietnam so much is its growth rate (5.9 per cent) and position as one of the ‘Next 11’ economies pushing the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as the money-generating pace-setters vying to take over from poor old Europe.

He may also be attracted by its foothold in programming. The convention in the West is that editorial and advertising should be like church and state, firmly separated. But Sorrell has long seen content as a way for his various companies to grow although so far WPP’s initiatives have been confined to advertiser-funded programming and the like, mainly through its gaggle of media agencies.

Rowing PR firms into the mix is a significant step further, something that would be bitterly resisted in the US for example where Burson-Marsteller is noted for its aggressive and, sometimes, rule-breaking ways. Things are a bit looser in emerging markets though.

Vietnam has a big, powerful neighbour in China where the media is strictly controlled by the communist government. Which is another of the country’s attractions (although relations between the two are often strained). Will we see the Sorrell Broadcasting Corporation in the Far East sometime soon?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.