Under reconstruction since June, the new and improved G21 magazine
hopes to bridge the gap between Cambodia and the rest of the world by
giving teens ‘their own voice'
Brand ambassadors in front of the G21 Tuk-Tuk.
Fashion, beauty, glamour and style are all things that most young women take an interest in, and the local teen magazine G21 dishes it out. Having recently undergone a face lift, the magazine is looking forward to a new year of combining local resources with international teen trends.
"We've changed everything, just about, except the name," said Editor-in-Chief Margaret O'Donell. "We want G21 to be the magazine of choice for our type of audience, which is 17- to 23-year-olds, and we want it to be a magazine that's not just about presenting concepts, whether it be fashion or beauty or whatever, but we want it to be a real communication tool."
Teen fashion in Cambodia is limited to a few shopping malls and a handful of boutique shops, but as international influences become ever more prominent in Cambodian teen culture, so does the desire to emulate what is seen on TV.
"There's not the same access to the kinds of things that people who pick up a Vogue or a Seventeen have. We don't have all
those brands or choices," said O'Donell. "Everything that we recognize ...that our audience values, we want to be able to present local options for. We have to localize our content, so we're being realistic. There's no point in talking about Yves St Laurent or Chanel if the only pair of Chanel shoes you can get ... are copies. The market that the girls are in is very different from what they aspire to, and they don't have the access ... so we're trying to bridge the gap."
G21 launched in September 2007 but has been under reconstruction since June of this year. "When we started, we thought, ‘OK, we're Seventeen,' but Seventeen is a Seventeen America - Seventeen Western, it's not Cambodia, it's not even Singapore, Korea, Malaysia or Thailand," O'Donell said.
Although the magazine aspires to the quality of Western teen magazines, G21 fully realizes that this is Cambodia and there are not only obstacles but responsibilities.
When O'Donell took over as editor-in-chief in June, the first thing she did was conduct a massive market research campaign, which involved over 2,000 students and young workers. She then created focus groups and conducted a series of one-on-one interviews dealing with everything from world issues to the cover of the magazine.
We want G21 to be the magazine of choice for
our type of audience
"The data was really conclusive. It was very clear that people wanted education and careers, but they also wanted things that were more about culture and lifestyle and food and fashion. We looked at the proportions of things like fashion and beauty, health, lifestyle, current affairs, global issues, education, careers, technology ... then, we worked out what we had the capacity to provide within a magazine that was consistent and could develop a personality of its own," O'Donell said.
The driving force behind G21 is a fictional mascot not unlike the iconic Barbie. "We've got this Miss G21 we conceptualized, how old she is, what she likes, her interests and her fears, what she's concerned about, her own future, what her friends do. If we can match what we've got from all that research and feedback ... if the girl at the end is now actually reading and is our Miss G21, who will clutch the magazine to her chest because of how strongly she identifies with it, then we're fine. That's the girl I'd like to know," O'Donell said.
As Cambodia rolls into the 21st century, its youth play increasingly more important roles, and popular media cannot help but shape and mold their ideas and aspirations. When asked what G21 hopes to give to its readers, O'Donell said: "First their own voice so that they really feel that they are heard ... and secondly access to the rest of the world."