A positive employment outlook has driven consumer confidence to its highest point in two years, fueling a new wave of discretionary spending across the city.

Consumer confidence has increased 33 points in since March 2009, making Hong Kong a significant contributor to buoyant consumer confidence levels across Asia.

The findings, part of Nielsen's Global Consumer Confidence Survey, show Asia is the world's most confident region, with an index of 98 points. Nine of the top 10 most confident national hail from Asia Pacific countries.

Locally, a healthy employment outlook and a drop in unemployment to 4.2% are key factors behind the result.

Nielsen's survey also shows 78% of Hong Kong consumers believe they are no longer in a recession - a 10 point improvement on the past 12 months.

Oliver Rust (pictured), managing director of The Nielsen Company Hong Kong, said the result also demonstrates the resilience of Hong Kong consumers to adapt to the recovering local economy. But while concerns about the economy are fading, a rising concern over health and a work/life balance has emerged.

"Consumers now value the quality of their personal lives more when they no longer need to worry about they jobs," Rust said.

"The increase of food prices is now a key concern," he said. "Especially with the dramatic increase in raw material prices across the region."

Consistent with the overall willingness to spend on discretionary items, Hong Kong consumers are spending more on consumer durables as well as overseas travel.

Hill & Knowlton has been retained by the Hong Kong government's InvestHK body to promote the city as a global financial and asset management hub.

Hill & Knowlton's London office will provide PR support for a global campaign, which will target financial services companies and executives. Part of the agency's brief will include PR support in the lead up to a finance conference in London on 16 November followed by a conference in New York in the spring.

The account will be managed by Ben Curson, head of financial and professional services at Hill & Knowlton, which said Hong Kong is already seen as a leading international centre and a gateway to China.

"Given the shifting of economic and financial gravity to the East, Hong Kong is a natural home for financial services businesses looking to locate in Asia."

The news comes as Invest Hong Kong releases fresh data about the number of overseas and Mainland Chinese companies running business operations in Hong Kong, up 2.6% in the past year to 6,561 companies.

Simon Galpin (pictured), director-general of Investment Promotion, said in the wake of the global financial crisis, Hong Kong continues to be an attractive city for these companies to base their operations in this part of Asia.

Of the companies surveyed, 20% indicated they may expand their businesses in Hong Kong in the next three years either by increasing staff, expanding the scope of business functions or increasing office size.

Cindy Gan, former director of Ogilvy PR's corporate and financial practice, has joined Waggener Edstrom as GM of its China operations.

Based in Beijing, Gan will work with WE teams across China, overseeing its technology, corporate, healthcare and consumer teams.

She brings more than 15 years of experience in communications in Asia, having worked in China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

In particular Gan brings extensive public sector experience from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Singapore International Foundation.

"Her previous work in China, coupled with her diplomacy and foreign service experience, has equipped her with excellent skills that our clients will find invaluable," David Ko, WE executive vice president Asia Pacific, said.

Digital ad agency Profero will close its Hong Kong operation after six years to focus on building up its Greater China business in Shanghai and Beijing.

From next month the UK-based independent network said staff from Hong Kong will either be transferred to other offices or made redundant as a result of its decision.

The office has around six full time staff and according to its UK bosses is no longer strategically important.

The decision comes one month after Hong Kong managing director Henry Wood resigned from the company.

Speaking to esb电竞数据投注电脑版 from London, global CEO Wayne Arnold confirmed the agency would close at the end of October and admitted there would be some retrenchments. But he stressed the move was not an indication of its approach to Asia.

The company recently hired Gavin Coombes as its new Asia Pacific CEO and announced its expansion into South Korea last week. This is on top of offices in Sydney, Tokyo, Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai.

But the news is particularly worrying for Hong Kong's ad industry with Profero chief operating officer Chris Adamson admitting the local operation was merely a stepping stone into Greater China.

"We opened Hong Kong about six years ago as a relatively easy route into China, as a lot of UK companies do.

"Now we have a fully established business in Shanghai and a fully established business in Beijing and the relevance of Hong Kong is diminished," Adamson said.

Across the region Adamson said the Profero business was strong, with Sydney up 40% this year and he said within its portfolio of offices, Hong Kong's role was fading.

"It's not that we think Hong Kong does not have opportunities - it clearly is an opportunity - but we have to rank our opportunities."

The creative industries look set for another big push after InvestHK announced a dedicated unit to help foreign creative firms set up shop in Hong Kong.

On its tenth anniversary, InvestHK said it is on track to help 24 new companies from the creative fields launch in Hong Kong by the year's end.

Simon Galpin, director general of InvestHK, said currently there were 60 new creative businesses eyeing Hong Kong as a regional hub.

"We have seen a gradual increase in the number of companies in the creative space, so much so that we structure ourselves around a few priority sectors and we've created a new team to focus exclusively on the creative sectors."

Headed by Andrew Davies, associate director general at InvestHK, the creative unit will work closely with CreateHK to boost investments in the creative field.

"It is phenomenal the amount of activity in the creative sector," Davies said.

"We are not talking about one or two channels, we're seeing multimedia, publishing, broadcasting and internet-based companies - there is such a variety.

The announcement also follows InvestHK's 2,000th client in Hong Kong - the London-based Start Creative. Launched last year, Start is using Hong Kong as one of its creative centres of excellence.

Jonathan Cummings, managing director of Start Creative, said Hong Kong offered many "specific and clear advantages" which included Mainland China and said it hoped to employ more than 130 people within years.

"We see no reason why Hong Kong wouldn't be the same size as London within three to five years. That's based on the opportunities and growth we've seen so far, right across the region."

Galaxy Entertainment Group has appointed UM Hong Kong to run the media buying business for its Galaxy Macau Resort.

Due to open in early 2011, Galaxy Macau represents an investment of more than HK$14 billion.

The complex will be one of the largest leisure complexes in Asia with approximately 2,200 luxury hotel rooms, suites and villas and some 50 food and beverage outlets and retail areas.

UM Hong Kong will take the lead on Galaxy's overall launch strategy and develop its integrated marketing plans.

Chris Skinner, managing director of UM Hong Kong, said the agency is honored to formally launch the prestigious Galaxy Macau.

"Galaxy has a unique proposition in a crowded competitive space with a focus on Asian Heart & World Class service. We love working with clients that are best in class and truly innovative in their approach,” he said.

The agency's win follows the appointment of SK+G to manage its creative executions. SK+G is a Las Vegas-based agency which launched in Hong Kong after winning Galaxy's creative account.

The win caps off a strong of new business for the Interpublic-owned media shop. Earlier this year UM secured the regional tender to handle media buying for AIA as well as media duties for SmarTone-Vodafone.

Independent public relations firm Edelman has strengthened its China offering, naming former MS&L Worldwide CEO Mark Hass as president of Edelman China.

Hass was most recently founding partner and CEO of MH Group Communications. As part of his appointment, his agency, which specialises in corporate communications and social media, is being merged into Edelman’s Digital practice.

As China president he will be responsible for Edelman's Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou offices, as well as Pegasus, a PR group acquired by Edelman in 2007. Both firms employ more than 165 people.

Hass will report to Alan VanderMolen, president of Edelman Asia Pacific.

Although admitting 2009 was a tough year in China, VanderMolen said Edelman has a very clear goal in this quickly developing market.

“To be the market’s best and largest full-service public relations firm," he said.

"Mark’s extensive global, corporate and digital communications experience coupled with his entrepreneurial drive is ideal to support that goal.”

On top of Hass' appointment, Shirley Wong-Walker joins as head of the firm’s health practice with James Cook joining as head of its technology practice.

Wong-Walker and Cook, both join from MS&L where they both led the health and technology practices.

Cook has a long history of working in China, having led the Microsoft account at Weber Shandwick Beijing.

All appointments are effective 1 February.

Seth Grossman has been named managing director of Carat China, replacing Michelle Lau, who has taken a sabbatical from the agency.

Grossman joined Carat in 2007 to establish the agency’s Communication Planning discipline and in 2008 was promoted to managing director, Eastern China.

He will oversee clients including adidas, Beiersdorf, Kraft, Mattel, Nokia, Pernod Ricard, Philips and Tourism Australia.

KF Lee, CEO of Aegis Media Greater China, described Grossman as one of the best talents in the Carat business.

"He is a true team player who inspires his staff and connects on all levels with his clients. I am looking forward to seeing him bring his magic touch to the new role,” KF said.

A native of the United States, he is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and is a graduate of Princeton University with a dual degree in Chinese History and American Studies.

He was recently awarded MEDIA’s 2009 Business Development/Account Person of the Year for Asia Pacific, while the office he leads at Carat in Shanghai was named Office of the Year for North Asia.

Online social networks in China claim the Chinese online ad market is weak despite a rapid growth in interactive communities in the third quarter of 2008.

Number one social networking portal, Xiaonei.com, a Chinese version of Facebook owned by Oak Pacific Interactive, recorded 42% viewership in the latest survey done by Research company iRearch Consulting Group China.

The second place was taken by 51.com, which accounted for 32% followed by Kaixin001.com.

MySpace China slipped one place to the fourth this quarter, claiming 13.5% share.

As online advertising is feeling effects of global slowdown, US social networks like Facebook, number one online social portal in the US, has announced a new application to allow its users to sign in third party sites, known as the network's partners, via its site, instead of the normal approach.

According to Facebook, its motivation to move ahead alone with this new application is to connect users with its online partners to increase ad revenue.

However, this kind of online advertising model does not sound promising to most online social networks in China.

Tencent's Q-Zone said unlike Facebook, it does not offer advertising space in user profiles or plan to add new advertising platforms to the networking site because China's online development is not as mature as the US.

MySpace China, which recorded 10 million visitors in May, said 90% of its revenue comes from advertising, and its top priority is to increase network users and not targeting marketers.

Luxury online magazine Lifestyle Hong Kong will merge its Bangkok and Singapore brands into a single Lifestyle Asia portal this week.

As the company readies for expansion into Beijing and Shanghai in 2009, Christopher Lindvall, director of Lifestyle Hong Kong, said the primary purpose behind the move is to streamline the Lifestyle Asia offering to advertisers and readers.

"The decision to have one brand for Asia was a very natural move," he said.

"As we bring more and more countries under Lifestyle Asia, they will be provided with this same service all across Asia."

In April this year the company expanded its services to Singapore and in August launched in Bangkok.

Lindvall said Thailand has become one of the "surprise success" under the Lifestyle umbrella.

"There is a very strong online community in Thailand and they seem to be open the idea of an online magazine."

With the expected launch of Lifestyle in three additional markets next year, Lindvall said he was confident the online magazine would continue to grow.

"It's no secret that magazines are losing money from the internet. We're looking to open up new markets as soon as possible, I think 2009 will be a very good year, but we don't want to play too high a risk at the moment," he said.

"But if we do everything right in China, I think we will be unbeatable."

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