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Festival sparks advert boom

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Businesses have boosted spending to tap into the millions of partygoers converging on Phnom Penh for this year's Water Festival celebrations

Photo by: GEORGE MCLEOD

Punters at a prize giveaway booth at Phnom Penh’s Water Festival.

WITH millions flocking to the capital for the Water Festival, businesses have upped their advertising budgets for the three-day event, a senior government official told the Post.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said as many as 2,000 of the country's businesses will spend up to 30 percent of their annual revenues on booths throughout the capital for promotions that could pay off big in terms of sales during the coming year.

"I think this is a golden opportunity for business people to sell their products and the bigger the campaign, the better their sales and the more income they will earn," Mao Thora said.

He added that many of those visiting the capital were likely to bring goods back to their home provinces, further expanding the reach of some products.

A national event

Officials estimate that as many as four million people will attend this year's Water Festival in Phnom Penh.

Leang Meng, president of the Chip Mong Group, which sells cooking oil, packaged foods, soft drinks and beer, said he rented 10 booths and expects healthy sales during the festival.

"I think my company can sell about 20 times more than a normal day because so many more people will attend this year's events and most of them will buy something to take home with them," he said.

"We have participated in this event for the last 10 years, and we expect to sell about US$10,000 in goods on average per day this year. This is much more than we sold last year," Leang Meng said.

But Chan Theary, president of New Link Private Ltd, which sells milk, soaps and cosmetics, worried that most festival-goers were low-income families who could not afford to spend money on her products.

She said her company spent between $500 and $600 for a four metre-by-four metre promotion booth.

"I wouldn't say it is a golden opportunity for all kinds of businesses because buyers from the provinces will only buy cheap products, she said.

"High-income people will not crowd around to buy these products."

She said Phnom Penh supermarkets have seen a bump in sales as retailers stock up on goods to sell at street booths.

On Neang, Phnom Penh's chief of commerce, said the municipality earns about $24,000 each in "donations" from several large companies, such as Attwood, Bayon Television and small industry associations.

"We do not limit the price or charge companies for advertising booths during the festival. We just accept small donations from the bigger companies," he said.

He added, however, that this year's festival has seen a drop-off in available promotional booths, as many areas of the city have been developed for other uses.

Booth advertising

Cambodian Economic Association President Chan Sophal said the booths allow companies to appeal directly to a national audience.

But he said farmers from the provinces have only just begun to harvest their crops, which is their principal source of income, and would not have much money to spend.

"If people purchase more products during this event, the overall economy will be better," he said.

"But we worry that this spending could decrease people's savings in the future."

Some, however, see the promotional booths as a way to encourage support for locally made Khmer goods.

Men Sineoun, executive director of the Cambodian Handicraft Association, said the booths promote Khmer artisans.

"But many rural people don't understand this, and so profits often remain flat," he told the Post.

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