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Making marketing work on the Mekong

Managing director of 360 Ads & Events, Dek Dary
Managing director of 360 Ads & Events, Dek Dary, talks to the Post at the Royal University of Phnom Penh on Wednesday. Eli Meixler

Making marketing work on the Mekong

The growth of Cambodia’s economy has pushed an increasing number of international and local advertising firms to pay more attention to the Kingdom. Despite limited knowledge of branding from local business insiders, Dary Dek, who quit her job to start advertising firm 360 Ads & Events, believes the full potential of the industry can be realised in the next three to five years.

How did you start to get involved in advertising?
I’ve been interested in it since I was a student, when I started reading a lot of advertising-related books available in the library. I did not go straight to the advertising field after I graduated. The opportunity at that time was too good to say no to: I was selected as a lecturer at the Institute of Foreign Language and went on to get a scholarship for a Master’s degree in the US in global marketing communications and advertising.

I came back and started working for an investment company. I then moved to become a brand manager for Sabay Digital Corporation, a local, but big enough company. I started working on brand management and marketing strategies.

At one point, I felt like I would feel bad if I did not start doing anything because there are young people out there who are 21 and 22 and already doing something. So last June, with some friends, I started 360 Ads & Events specialising in marketing consulting, event management, and advertising.

How is 360 Ads & Events progressing at the moment?
Though 360 Ads & Events provides services like marketing consultations and advertising, we have been focusing on event management and print advertising in the meantime because it is something which is easy to start with.

We are still new to services like marketing consulting and television advertising – clients will look for portfolios with five years’ experiences for those services.

Our creative team is still small. We try to give marketing and brand consulting services as a bonus for our clients if they need it. It does not mean that we are not taking it as serious business; we just act upon our clients’ requests.

So far, we have 10 local and international brands that we have gained trust from by delivering quality services.

We’ve done fashion shows, a cosmetic fair for AEON, Pizza World’s Tuk Tuk Selfie, and corporate launches which include printed advertisements and PR.

As a local firm, how do you stand out amongst the many existing international advertising firms?
The lack of local raw materials like technical equipment and the lack of human resources make logistical costs for our local firms more expensive compared to firms from neighboring countries. We are also running behind those international firms in term of creativity and catching up with advertising trends. If it is a big scale project, clients would prefer an agency from a neighboring country as they have access to logistics and materials, resulting cheaper products and services, along with a fresher work culture, too.

Big agencies are stronger than the smaller ones in term of concepts for television advertising. They have strong creative teams and a foreign art directors who understand art, pop culture, and people. Those people can deliver advanced and quality television commercials that we fail to provide.

Telecommunications and beer are taking a very significant share of the advertising market these days. Big companies and international corporations go to big agencies for TV commercial ideas while approaching smaller firms for smaller marketing campaigns or events. We are more flexible – as a small, local firm – and this is the market that is left for us.

How have you seen a lot of small to medium-size enterprises which are starting to approach advertising firms to promote their products?
Building brands is still something very new for local businesses. In Cambodia, people want to see the immediate result of their investment. They do not like to keep putting money into business. It is about knowledge, as well, because there is still a big gap between local Cambodian businesspeople and other start-ups, maybe in more advanced countries, who understand brand management from the beginning.

So once they start their business, they know what to do – but here in Cambodia, local Cambodian businesspeople like to try different things to see which one works. It is a waste of capital as well. We have seen a lot of entrepreneurs who start up by bringing franchise from abroad because it takes a shorter time than building something on their own. But I believe they are not making much of a margin as there are lots of fees to pay. Also, there is always someone out there younger, prettier, and cheaper who is able to bring a better-known franchise than you.

What is your plan?
I am developing the staff’s capacity in term of communication skills, creativity, and I keep motivating them to love what they are doing. This industry is about people bringing out their creativity.

A lot of local companies here start event management because they know some people. Then when the project is done, it’s over. Once we have local people who can produce very creative concepts, that’s when the cost of producing television commercials and other advertisements will become lower.

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