Expat demographics are at a turning point
Expat populations must hit a critical mass before local media appears, says Stuart Smith, Managing Director of Max Media International.

In recent years expats have been moving abroad for different reasons (and under different financial circumstances) than they have traditionally. Many are migrating to escape economic hardship rather than retire in the sun, for example.

Stuart Smith, Managing Director of Max Media International, talks about how this demographic shift impacts media planners, and offers some media planning tips.

Stuart, what is driving the demographic changes in the expat market?

Before a lot of expats moved abroad to work or retire. Now we’re seeing more migration based on political and economic upheaval, particularly in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Have “traditional” expat populations been shrinking?

There has definitely been an increase in the number of Brits returning home. They are coming back from Spain, for example, because of property loss and financial issues. We’ve also seen a lot of expats exit Japan because of disasters in 2011.

How do the sizes of expat populations impact media planning?

They are a big determiner of how much expat-specific media is available locally. I always use the number 15,000. Once you’ve got 15,000 expats someone will usually look to launch a newsletter, newspaper, blog or website. Of course you also have extremes like Spain where there are probably over 2 million expats.

However there are exceptions. One is Austria. There are about 10-20,000 expats there—certain papers have tried daily or weekly expat sections but it really hasn’t worked. The situation is similar in Mexico. There just isn’t a lot of good English-language media there.

What limitations does a small expat population place on a media planner?

In these places your media mix will be more limited, in the sense that you’ll probably be more reliant on online campaigns.

In terms of media mix itself, what have you found most effective?

It depends on the client. Large companies like airlines and insurers put increasing portions of their budgets into online display advertising on specific websites and forums. In some ways these are the “classic examples.” We can more easily monitor their acquisition costs.

Other types of firms, such as financial services, make very effective use of “advertorials,” which makes print a good place for them to be.

What about companies in niche markets, like luxury goods?

Here it’s usually best to use a combination of print, radio and online ads to establish brand recognition in the market. The exact mix is going to depend on the client and the location. Again in some places you are much more limited than others in terms of media.

What difficulties do you face when trying to evaluate expat media?

There is a clear lack of transparency in this market. With English-language expat media, about 95% of it is unaudited. Many websites rely solely on Google stats and there is no third party research to back of their claims. In many cases you end up making judgments based on a lack of research.

Are there steps the industry can take to fix this?

Companies should start conversations with the Interactive Ad Bureau, start submitting sites to audits. These are important. They should also pay for independent research to be done on websites and users.

What are the main “do’s and don’ts” of media planning?

In terms of “don’ts,” don’t automatically presume the media plan you put together with one client will work with another. You need to evaluate each case on an individual basis or you will look like a factory service rather than a bespoke solution.

Do always make sure to listen. Speak with people on the ground to get a well-rounded view of media in an area and what is working. Start from a clean slate every time, and always double-check things as expat media is constantly changing.

Stuart Smith has been Managing Director of Max Media International for 7 years. He has 32 years of experience in international media, and has worked for 16 years as a “guru” for international expat media. In the course of his career he has visited over 90 countries where he has met innumerable diplomats, local expat media owners and exhibition organizers. http://www.maxmediaint.com

Simon Lynch says:

Would like to point out that serving ads using DoubleClick (like we do at Just Landed) removes the transparency issues around data – they have a comprehensive summary of their IAB compliance here:http://support.google.com/dfp_sb/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=141811 – Also, site auditing can become a side-issue when the advertiser has decent measurement setup, ie using their own tags and following the user journey post-click.

Stuart is right to identify that the lack of data is a big barrier when planning campaigns and it is one of the biggest challenges for advertisers. We spend a lot of time working with customers to make sure measurement is working properly and that there is a clear understanding of what results are coming from spend. We expect this topic to become ever more important in the future and are looking to extend our capabilities to assist more in this area. Get in touch if you want any further information about this.