For years, there has been talk that the Ministry of Information would ask local stations to cut down on the number of advertisements and shows produced abroad.
During that time, the small population of local advertising producers has been waiting with bated breath. On Tuesday, the ministry sent out the notice asking stations to increase the proportion of domestically produced spots. While just a request, producers have hopes this will be the key to a Cambodian commercials boom.
“It is a great opportunity for the Khmer producers putting out all of their effort, creating spots with their own ideas. We should be encouraging creative people here to produce spots,” said Yin Touch Mony, an assistant lecturer of television production at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
Mao Ayuth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, stressed that Cambodian producers had to be willing to rise to the challenge.
“The main thing is that they should try their best to produce good-quality spots. We will gain more profit only if our Khmer producers can make high-quality spots meeting the market demand,” he said.
It is a big “if.” Ads are pricey to create, producers few in number and the quality often reflecting the industry’s immaturity.
“There are few companies that dare to spend thousands of dollars to produce a TV-spot to advertise their products,” said Millan Lov, head of production for Khmer Mekong Films. “To produce a spot, the company owners have to consider the cost [in terms of] getting back their money after advertising,” he added, noting that the price point still presents a psychological hurdle for many business owners.
Some suggested that, until Cambodia’s businesses grow, the producers simply cannot compete.
“Cambodia doesn’t have products to export in big amounts. Everything relies on overseas import. That’s why we don’t have our own products for advertisement,” said Bunseng Chuor, managing art director at Satra Multimedia.
“If the local companies can produce more products to export, we have more chances to create ad spots.”
This lack of resources, not only financial, but human, presents the main difficulty. There is just one school, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, which focuses on multimedia training. The cost of production courses–upwards of $1,500 per year–is out of reach to all but the wealthiest students.
“We are not able to form a specialized school for spot and film production training because the cost is too high,” said Mr Lov. “It’s different for IT students. [They] can buy a computer to practice their skills but video production students cannot afford to do so.”
Ultimately, Cambodia’s ad men might find success only by shunning market forces. Those interviewed seemed to agree government intervention and collectivization was the only way to grow the role of Khmer ads.
“I wish to have an association which would be able to oversee the quality and the price charged in the market,” said Mr Chuor. “If we don’t have this sort of association, our producers will reduce the price too low, a move that is harmful to the market.”
“I request all Khmer spot producers to unite together. Don’t compete by using destructive techniques.”
Such drastic measures may not be necessary. Ad agencies note that there is already a trend toward more in-country produced TV ads.
“Certainly over the last few years there has been an increase,” in Cambodian-produced ads, said Joanne Clifford, general manager and creative director of Cade Advertising. “When I started here eight years ago, almost nothing was done locally.”
And though producers are indeed hampered by budget and technology woes, noted Ms Clifford, when one company advertises, others “have no choice but to follow.”
(Additional reporting by Abby Seiff)