Working in Cambodia, every businessman or woman always seeks newly available marketing strategies to promote their products or services to customers. Sending messages through leaflets is one creative means of marketing. Every day, thousands of leaflets are delivered along the streets of Phnom Penh city. Often, there will be exaggerated or deceptive messages in these leaflets, which can mislead consumers if they don’t use critical thinking.
Deceptive advertising brings many negative impacts to companies and consumers, as well as the whole country. For example, a business can be bankrupted if its customers lose their trust in their products, and the country’s economic growth will be hampered.
Phal Lap, 21, a student of Vanda Accounting Institute, claimed that she was cheated $120 by the international language training centre in Toul Tompong because she believed in the claims made by the organisation’s promotional leaflets.
“I spent $1 in buying forms, $10 in training for a week. After training, they asked me to pay $109 for stocks in running a business. Later, I spent $109 and I was given a position as international liaison,” she said.
She added she could not find people to use the services of the centre, so she could not receive money for her salary and then she stopped.
Dek Dary, a lecturer of marketing and advertising of Department of Media and Communications said that advertising via leaflets will reach customers directly, but companies should not send fake messages, or they will face the risk of bankruptcy.
She added that Cambodia was the same as many other countries, in that there are no laws to censor or check on information distributed in leaflets, and it was hard for the ministry and authorities to prevent deceptive claims.
“We cannot do anything if they print out and deliver leaflets along the streets. So the receivers have to think critically about the information in the leaflets before making decisions,” she said.
Cambodia does not yet have any law to regulate leaflets, according to Sok Sam Oeun, director of Amrin Law and Consultants Group.
“We cannot ban people from delivering leaflets along the roads. It is their business. And we cannot say those leaflets are fake, but we can think critically,” he said.
He added that the students themselves should be careful before making the decision to use the services offered by leaflets. If a case of cheating or deception occurs, they would be a vulnerable since it is hard to file a complaint with clear evidence.
In order to avoid those problems, the students and people have to do more research and in-depth thinking. The marketer and advertisers also should think about ethical obligations before producing messages to target people. The government also should create marketing and advertising laws in Cambodia to help reduce deceptive advertising.
Buth Bovuth, Director General of the Information Ministry’s Information and Broadcasting Department, said Cambodia has laws which prevent the spread of disinformation and deception.
“If there are media agencies which publish deceptive advertisements that are harmful to audiences, the Ministry of Information will take action by telling media agencies to stop broadcasting those ads,” he said.