The World: Insider's View - Thailand

Alex Thompson says Thailand's warmth, beauty and dynamic outdoor advertising industry should make it a magnet for anyone in media.

Thailand is the land of smiles. It is a place of natural beauty and diversity wrapped up in a warmth and friendliness it would be impossible not to find magnetic. Mix these ingredients together, add a sprinkle of the overall excitement of Asia and I would challenge anyone in media not to be grabbed by the prospect of working here some time.

There are, however, cultural complexities for the visitor to be aware of. That smile can be employed in many ways, not all of which register delight. Add in the fact that one Thai word can have up to six unrelated meanings driven by tiny differences in stress, plus a maze of social etiquette, and the lazy or arrogant business visitor is in an egg-on-the-face minefield.

With only a little effort, though, you will quickly find the Thai people are good-humoured, welcoming and endlessly forgiving if the foreigner, or farang, appears to be swimming in treacle.

Bangkok is very much the commercial centre of the country. Ninety per cent of head offices are here and agencies are centred on Bangkok to service them. It is a teeming city, rich in culture and broad in influence. You will see tuk-tuks jousting with spanking new air-conditioned Range Rovers and often the streets appear to be a massive car-park. For all the many cars, you can travel rapidly and at good value either above the traffic on the "sky train" or below ground on the metro. Both are reliable, I have yet to hear a crackling tannoy telling me of leaves on the line or points failure, and there is air-con throughout. These are also hotbeds of outdoor advertising, where I ply my trade, and the on-platform television, fully wrapped trains and station specials are as good as anywhere.

As in many countries, TV choice has become greater through a blend of terrestrial, cable and satellite. Reaching the young, affluent, "on the go" Thai consumer is a challenge. Speed of technology uptake and preparedness to embrace new- media opportunities have created a dynamic environment.

Engagement, touch-points and activation are terms on every marketer's and media planner's mind as they seek to unlock the market.

Out-of-home has until now tended to be an emotional buy - "my competitor has got a big panel, get me something bigger". The trend, though, is increasingly for smaller or more standardised formats that deliver audience and coverage and allow outdoor to work as part of the media strategy. Larger numbers of panels are being bought for shorter periods, creating campaigns similar to those in Europe. The diversity of ownership means you still have to know many individual vendors and their inventories. This dynamic makes it an exciting time to be a specialist planner and buyer of outdoor in Thailand right now. And the beaches and the curries are great.

- Alex Thompson is the chief executive of Kinetic Asia-Pacific.

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