While business continues to boom in Cambodia, so has the amount of advertising seen on a daily basis.
Cambodian businesses spent three times more on advertising in 2013 than they did 10 years ago, according to Brian Beagan, managing director of Bridge Marketing Services Cambodia, whose past clients include Manulife, Pepsi and Angkor Beer.
This week, the Post’s May Kunmakara spoke with Beagan about Cambodia’s growing appetite for advertising and how it’s fuelling the growth.
Give us a rundown on Cambodia’s fledgling advertising market?
Cambodia is a small market compared to our larger neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam. Also the country started much later than they did with consumer-driven economies whereby advertising is an integral part.
This smaller market size is the reason why global agencies found it difficult to make money and pulled out of Cambodia, and now operate it as part of a regional Indochina business unit.
Cambodia will grow and its advertising industry will become more experienced and sophisticated and start to produce more of its own advertising. Similarly, Cambodia business will increasingly develop an understanding of the commercial value in advertising to build brands and businesses.
Bridge has this perspective. After a historical low level of business and consumer confidence in advertising, it is picking up. So 2014 and 2015 will be bigger markets than 2013. An increasing numbers of SMEs using advertising is an indicator of this.
Which sectors spend the most on advertising?
Historically telecoms were the biggest spenders, but for the last three years they have been overtaken by beverages, including soft drinks and alcohol, also consumer goods. There is a lack of research on expenditure across all media platforms, but unofficially advertising expenditure is estimated to have from grown over the last decade from $150 million annually to $500 million today.
With 96 per cent of homes owning a TV set, it is no surprise that television dominates the media industry as the way to reach people. Over 50 per cent of media expenditure is on TV advertising followed by billboards and banners, then radio, newspapers and magazines. Events and exhibitions also play a big role.
Media efficiency can only be defined by measurement, and not all those tools are in place. However, the most used media strategy is to use the power of TV to reach people at home, then use banners and billboards to reach them on the move 24/7, therefore extending the duration of the campaign.
How will the government’s ban on beer and alcohol related advertisement during prime time hurt revenue?
It is not a surprise for me as the same restriction was applied in Thailand a decade ago. Moreover, all over the world such a restriction, or even total prohibition, exists for beer and alcohol advertising.
Personally, I think that the restriction will have little effect on people’s behaviour. Alternative media and TV time buying strategies can be devised to reach drinkers effectively. However, anything that cuts the link between people being encouraged to drink then jumping into their car is to be welcomed.
In the short term there may be some revenue reduction as breweries pull out of prime time and other category advertisers take time to revise their plans and strategies. But that would surprise me because the restriction provides an immediate opportunity for others to take advantage of the available premium time.
Is this kind of advertising ban common?
I have seen such restrictions and prohibitions wherever in the world I have worked. Not only in TV but all media; not only alcohol but also tobacco, pharmaceuticals and the like.
Such actions are for the benefit of society and should be supported by the industry provided they are developed, imposed and sanctioned in a transparent and even-handed manner.
What will catalyse the advertising industry’s growth here in Cambodia?
The arrival of modern superstores like Aeon Mall from Japan, the upcoming Parkson Mall from Malaysia and the like, reflect the region’s positive opinion on the prospects for consumer growth in Cambodia and the advertising industry will follow.
The industry has to increase its creative output and professionalism to match and then keep pace with an increasingly successful country’s emergent middle class. With more disposable income and increased sophistication, a general understanding of brands and how they fit into an improved lifestyle should follow.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.