Asia’s shining light cannot be ignored

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Looking out at the night-time skyline of Hong Kong can be a disconcerting experience. One moment the sky is clear and the city’s myriad skyscrapers dazzle with an array of muli-colored lighting effects. Then, within minutes, a mist descends and it is as much as you can do to see your own reflection in the window.

In the latter scenario, one building remains visible in the gloom. It will not surprise anyone who works in the pro-AV business that this building is the only one to have a hi-res, LED-driven videowall, architecturally integrated into its uppermost section of wall. In fact, there are two identical videowalls, one facing Hong Kong island, the other Kowloon and the Chinese mainland. Both are orders of magnitude brighter than anything that surrounds them.

The fact that this videowall is currently running dynamic branding for the troubled insurance giant AIG does not seem relevant. In Hong Kong, the economic mood is noticeably more buoyant than in many other parts of the world. This can only be because the city acts as a gateway to and from many economies that are still growing.

Sure, countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China are being hit as export demand for their products falls. Yet, with the obvious exception of Japan, domestic demand is still strong pretty much everywhere. The reason for this, it was explained to me by several members of the financial community in Hong Kong, is that by comparison with the western world, relatively little Asian retail spending is discretionary. Consumers here are contemplating buying their first digital camera, flat-screen TV, or automobile, not their sixth, eighth, or tenth.

The figures support the anecdotes. China’s contribution to global incremental output has surpassed that of the U.S. since 2007, and the World Bank’s 6.5% forecast for Chinese GDP growth in 2009 is at the lower end of market expectations.

There again, maybe it does matter that AIG currently occupies such a prime piece of Hong Kong’s signage real-estate. For, in the event that the company is not in a position to renew its tenancy of the building whenever it may come up for renewal, the screen’s content can, of course, be changed within a matter of hours—unlike more conventional alternatives.

From where I’m sitting, I’d say there would be no shortage of takers for such an opportunity. Far from being a reckless foray into unjustified hi-tech branding, AIG’s Hong Kong example might just turn out to be a pioneering move that showed the way forward for others to follow.

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