INTERNATIONAL: ME AND MY MARKET: Bates’ Vietnam account boss faces a struggle to enlighten the people

According to Neilsen/ SRG, 36 per cent of TV viewers in Vietnam’s economic capital, Ho Chi Minh City, actually enjoy television commercials. Strange, you might think, but it’s just one of the symptoms of the unquenchable thirst that Vietnamese people have developed for information since the country first opened up to the outside world in the early 90s.

According to Neilsen/ SRG, 36 per cent of TV viewers in Vietnam’s

economic capital, Ho Chi Minh City, actually enjoy television

commercials. Strange, you might think, but it’s just one of the symptoms

of the unquenchable thirst that Vietnamese people have developed for

information since the country first opened up to the outside world in

the early 90s.



Since then, the standard of living has risen in the principal urban

markets of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Hanoi, Cantho, Danang and

Haiphong, which have a combined population of about 15 million.



This has gone hand in hand with rising consumer expectations - and a

dramatic escalation in the quantity and quality of advertising.



At dollars 2,200 for a prime-time, 30-second spot on national

television, and with televisions averaging at more than 90 per cent

penetration in urban households, TV is one of the most economical forms

of mass media for advertisers.



TV ads have also become much more sophisticated over the past two years.

At first, creative work produced for other Asian markets was dubbed

’good enough for Vietnam’. But it was a costly error, and clients that

have taken the plunge by using the few in-country production houses to

produce creative specifically for Vietnam have, in contrast, had

enormous success generating awareness of their brands.



Media in Vietnam is still 100 per cent state controlled, and it has been

a painstakingly difficult process to educate the country on the

importance of ads. For instance, teaching people that press ads do not

run upside down; or that TV spots have to run within at least one hour

of the original booking time. It takes an awful long time to explain why

not just half of the outdoor sites should go up, or why it is not

advisable to run ten minutes of different shampoo ads all together.



Such unfortunate situations are gradually being eradicated, although a

serious advertising backlash happened last January. All foreign brands

that were displayed on signage, posters or any other outdoor media were

destroyed, painted over, covered or simply ransacked during a five-week

blitz on the orders of the government. Later, this was ascribed simply

to a ’misinterpretation’ in the government’s rather vague decree.



Monitoring of competitive spend in Vietnam exists for television

only.



It is a rating points system that has only been in place for ten months

and covers just the two major markets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Press monitoring only began in January.



Robert Schwetz is in account management for Bates Worldwide in Ho Chi

Minh City



KEY FACTS

Population Estimated 72 million

Cost of 30-second, prime-time national TV spot dollars 2,200

Cost of full-page, full-colour national dollars 3,600 in Saigon Gai

Phong

Total adspend dollars 100 million (1996 estimate)

TV penetration Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) 89%; Hanoi 91% (both figures,

1996)