The marketing and media industries, which are regulated by the Ministry of Information, in particular its Media Department, are areas that continue to grow as more companies realise the important roles they play in helping to boost business in Cambodia.
Cambodia has seen a shift away from traditional forms of marketing and advertising. In 2016 Internet/Facebook became the most important channel through which Cambodians access information (30%) – surpassing TV (29%) and almost double that of radio consumption (15%).
Given the limited exposure to advertising for the majority of Cambodians for more than two decades, Khmer audiences are still relatively unsophisticated compared to neighbouring countries. This is reflected in the overall standard of advertising materials. However, the ongoing improved access to media, education and a young tech-savvy nation is changing this perception and the habits of media consumption.
The introduction of several international and homegrown agencies has helped to raise the standards in Cambodia, as has the development of university and college courses targeting marketing and embracing digital technologies.
Marketing and media have entered a phase of massive tech innovation in Cambodia which is challenging traditional means of effectively reaching audiences.
Branding has taken centre stage. Key influencers and a plethora of entrepreneurial business people have tapped into this market, mainly online.
There is a rising demand for marketing services, with clients also demanding more sophistication in their advertising and marketing campaigns in Cambodia. Clients are increasingly beginning to think of their marketing in more strategic terms, adopting a longer-term view of how they want to develop their brand image and how they perceive themselves in the market.
However, Cambodia – and Southeast Asia as a whole – are still behind the more advanced markets in Asia, Europe and the US when it comes to digital marketing.
Since 2015 a law has been enforced banning alcohol TV advertising in Cambodia during primetime viewing from 6pm to 9pm.
Tobacco advertising was also banned, bringing Cambodia in line internationally.
Alcohol and cigarette branding at events still face no regulation in Cambodia, although there are discussions of measures being introduced in the future.
There is a rise in new advertisers continually entering the Cambodian market, as more international, regional and local businesses enter the growing market, also meaning an increase in networking events.
Branding is rising exponentially. More independent agencies are opening and regional/international agencies have a presence in Cambodia.
The traditional larger agencies of Cambodia have shifted their focus to digital media or now concentrate on fewer clients. On the client-side, companies realise that they need to stand out in an increasingly competitive market and are putting a larger focus on their marketing departments and communications strategies.
Facebook is an extremely powerful tool in Cambodia. One of the most important shifts in the industry, as reported by an Open Institute study, is Facebook’s rise as “the most important source of information about Cambodia”, displacing TV for the first time. The study found that the most important source of news about Cambodia was Facebook/Internet (30%), followed by TV (29%), word of mouth (23%) and radio (15%).
By the end of 2019, nearly 9 million Facebook users were registered in the Kingdom, out of a population of around 15 million!
Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, are seeing spikes in users in Cambodia.
In 2021 the number of internet users in Cambodia has increased to 15.5 million.
TV advertising still plays a huge role in Cambodia. Up until 2015, TV was the most dominant source for news in the country, followed by Facebook/Internet and radio.
However, young people in Cambodia are watching less TV and relying more on Internet streaming services and social media for news and entertainment.
Compared with the rest of the region, TV advertising slots are relatively cheap in Cambodia. In 2021 “Television remains the most popular type of media in Cambodia, reaching 96 per cent of the Cambodian audience” according to Media Ownership Monitor Cambodia.
Print advertising comes in the form of a range of newspapers and magazines in several languages (which has seen a steady decline since 2017).
Radio is still another popular option although the number of active stations has also decreased.
Many print publications were too slow to embrace digital but most are now online except for some specific multi-language tourist-targeted publications such as maps and guides.
Print advertising has decreased as the internet use continues to rise, with online advertising becoming more important in Cambodia.
Other popular means of advertising are billboards (quite expensive) and Tuk Tuk advertising boards which is affordable.
Promotions and giveaways are often used to introduce Khmers to international products that have never before been seen in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
As the marketing industry continues to develop in Cambodia, there are more and more options available to help spread your company’s message.
These include video and multimedia production companies, multi-language translation agencies (Khmer, English and Chinese are the most popular), media buying, sponsored event opportunities and social media campaigns.
The market has seen a rise in marketing branding agencies and influencers as Cambodia continues to embrace brands.
There is also, in line with global trends, a rise in digital nomads and remote workers who may specialise in certain skill sets to assist in targeted marketing and strategising.
Many companies offer Facebook and other social media marketing packages – to maximise exposure of your business.
According to reports, the total number of active Internet users in the Kingdom, including both mobile internet and fixed internet stands at 15.8 million in 2019, which equals about 98.5% of the population. (The data does vary depending on reports).
The Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) reports that by August 2020, more than 20 million sim-card subscribers and 15 million internet subscribers are in Cambodia.
Facebook ranks as the number one website in Cambodia with a total of 8.8 million users recorded in 2019 according togeeksincambodia. Experts consulted agree that Facebook’s influence in the Kingdom is “outsized” compare to other countries.
A majority of Facebook account holders access the site through their mobile phones in Cambodia.
Cambodia has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in the world and a large percentage of the population are 30 years old or younger (believed to be around 60% by 2020).
More competition has emerged among social media apps being used with Instagram (600K), Twitter (270K), LinkedIn (370K) YouTube, and Tik Tok, seeing increased users in Cambodia by 2020.
There has also been an increased presence of other Asian social media apps like Line, WeChat and others.
Android devices still account for a majority share of mobile web traffic compared to iOS devices by 2020 in Cambodia.
Businesses, celebrities and Cambodian media sources comprise the largest social media brand pages in the country.
Social media platforms are a popular means to promote bars, clubs, restaurants and boutique stores targeting audiences in Cambodia.
Government and non-governmental organisations are increasingly interested in digital marketing and making better use of these tools in 2020.
Increasingly e-commerce and digital monetization have become popular in Cambodia since 2018. This includes sales and businesses run on social media platforms like Facebook and utilising fintech. These have seen a spike during COVID-19.
The right team and personnel for the job will help ensure that your products or services reach their intended audience in the best way possible, and with a message that is culturally appropriate.
Even if you have a clear idea of the message you want to put out, it’s advisable to hire someone who can help you navigate the Cambodian legal requirements for advertisements and the cultural implications of certain messages.
While there are some design schools producing a steady stream of graduates in Cambodia, their training typically focuses only on the use of limited computer programmes such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Online learning is also increasing, however.
New graduates traditionally may not enter the job market with their own ideas and innovation. Furthermore, they may also need specialist technical training on top of their prior Cambodian education.
However, this is changing as the values of these kinds of specialist services and expertise are increasingly realised by local businesses and international players continue to enter the market.
New academic degrees are being formulated to meet this demand in Cambodia, and the standard and diversification of education are improving. These courses and degrees focus on digital marketing, SEO web development and other fintech tools etc.
When considering job candidates in Cambodia, in addition to a face-to-face interview – it’s suggested you involve exercises that test aspects of what a candidate would be doing in their day-to-day job.
Don’t expect new starters to be able to do their job perfectly but try to gauge their deficiencies and strengths before hiring and see their potential to learn.
An intern program may be a useful way to find ‘diamonds in the rough’.
With the industry still relatively young, the media and marketing sectors are expected to grow rapidly into the future as the audience becomes more developed in these areas.
Marketing and media services in Cambodia cover design and advertising agencies working with media outlets like newspapers, magazines, television, billboards and digital solutions.
Specialised communication, translation, video and multimedia productions are increasingly available in Cambodia, and the quality is rising fast too.
Companies range considerably in size and in the breadth of services offered. There is also an increase in freelance and consultative services available that could be taken on for project-specific work.
Some media companies/agencies will specialise in a particular niche such as print design or event management, whereas others are full-service agencies that will do everything from branding to graphic design, media buying, social media strategies and web or app development and more.
Some agencies are engaged in broad market research and analysis, conducting surveys on consumer activity and, in some cases, building on their analysis with the provision of strategic advice and consulting services.
Cambodia has also seen a huge growth in new brands entering the country.
Previously only international companies brought brands in – but now there’s a shift towards local companies bringing these brands in, and they all need innovative new ideas. Regional and local Cambodian brands are also on the rise.
Marketing and Media In Cambodia Top Tips
We review some of the top tips and local expertise on how to make the most out of advertising and marketing in Cambodia.
Even if you are not Cambodian, you are in Cambodia so you need to respect local traditions and customs whenever your business is in the public eye.
Cultural norms like strong family values, respect and courteous manners are very big in Cambodia, so understand these nuances and realise that not violating them is very important.
Nationalism is a strong force in Cambodia, and Asia generally. When Khmers see a brand that’s made and produced in Cambodia, and the brand creates a sense of pride about being Cambodian, consumers really respond strongly.
Regardless of your approach, try to conduct message evaluation and concept testing before releasing any new marketing initiatives.
Businesses spend a lot of money developing a specific campaign strategy and so they should ensure that the final message doesn’t offend anybody.
Try to gather research data to support market localisation strategies.
A lot of international clients who enter the market are soon recognising that you can’t just use the same strategy that you’ve used in your respective country and apply it to Cambodia, you have to localise your approach.
It can be a good idea to fuse a bit of Cambodian culture into an event. It needs to still have a local flavour. Ask clients for their list of guest of honours. If there are any ministers being invited, check what protocol you need to follow when they arrive.
Word of mouth works well in Cambodia if you offer good quality work. It is essentially networking.
Every Cambodian network has a thought leader: that could be anyone, it could even be the local mechanic. In western countries, it might be a particular blogger who follows trends, whereas here it’s your uncle or your cousin or a local businessman. And if these thought leaders recommend your company, you are golden in that network.
So word of mouth within local networks remains highly important in Cambodia.
If your business has been operating in Cambodia a while, and you provide quality goods or a service, your clients will advertise on your behalf through word of mouth whenever they run into a prospective client.
Copycats may well be your major challenge. And they are everywhere.
It is not uncommon for someone to directly copy your work and ideas to use for their own brands.
In Cambodia, there is little recourse for this under current intellectual property laws.
Khmer communication is quite direct and factual, so the use of metaphorical messages or idioms is often lost on the audience. It’s important to be aware of what can translate from English into Khmer (or other languages) when writing copy.
With promotions and give-aways being a popular tool in the Kingdom, “overdoing” it can at times be a problem.
Giving away too much of a brand cheapens it and can give it an inferior image.
It may be hard to change the perceived image of a brand or product after too many cheapening promotions.
Cambodia has been criticised for lacking in the variety of talent available for events. A solution is to get acts from neighbouring countries, but local pop stars, sports icons and others are building successful brands and have loyal followers.
Media Channels in Cambodia
Here’s a guide of all your potential advertising mediums in Cambodia and how to get the most out of them.
Television, led by the Cambodia Broadcast Service (CBS) network, is still a dominant force in advertising in Cambodia. There is 68% TV penetration and 2.9 million TV households with TV in Cambodia according to contentasia.tv
TV advertisements are geared towards Cambodians, as there are no locally produced stations in English or other foreign languages.
TV ads are an effective means to reach a large national audience, though the advertising rates reflect the breadth of coverage.
Compared with the rest of the region, however, TV advert slots are relatively cheap in Cambodia.
TV daily peak times run from around 11am-1pm and 6pm-9pm according to Riverorchid Media in 2016.
Advertising on TV has set prices but there are multiple options available including product placement, sponsorship of shows and floating ads.
Content broadcast on TV, including advertising, has to pass a government censor before being aired.
Cambodians are arguably more in tune with TV viewing than reading adverts in printed magazines or newspapers. But social media has been disruptive and is the main news source.
Primetime TV varies, with lunchtime spots being a hit as well as early evening.
TV commercials can either be made independently or with the help of the TV station’s experts who will be able to advise on details.
There are some English radio stations but they are predominantly Khmer language radio stations.
BBC World Service programs in English are available in Cambodia through the FM station, BBC 100 FM.
Advertising on the radio in Cambodia is relatively inexpensive, and the stations can often help with producing jingles and other content. Before choosing to advertise, find out the station’s range and audience.
Be advised, you may need a Khmer speaker to help you communicate with the relevant stations.
According to Riverorchid Media, radio daily peak-time runs from around 6.30am-8:00am.
There are printed publications in Cambodia including daily newspapers, and some weekly, monthly and quarterly magazines and multi-language publications.
These are primarily in Khmer but also in English, French and Chinese, most of which include paid advertising space.
Newspaper advertising is relatively expensive, with rack rates of up to $1,000 for a page for one day. Some newspapers also offer less expensive classified advertising that is a popular choice for restaurants, bars and smaller businesses promoting events.
Glossy Khmer magazines such as Angkor Thom and Dara carry adverts mainly from healthcare and cosmetic companies, a reflection of their predominantly female audience, though there are a few magazines catering to specific market sectors such as fashion, real estate etc.
Be wary of stated circulation figures as there is no audit bureau and numbers are often inflated, although Cambodian readers will often just borrow newspapers and magazines rather than buying them.
When buying advertising space, you can generally negotiate on the price especially from Khmer media whose “standard” rates are often inflated to allow them to offer you a “special” discount.
Printing technology in Cambodia is somewhat outdated compared to the western world, and many print shops still use film to make printing plates rather than modern digital methods.
The country is, however, embracing new technologies, including C2P (computer-to-plate) technology, leading to quicker turnaround and lower prices.
Offset printing is still relatively expensive compared to Thailand or Vietnam, due mainly to the high cost of electricity, but any savings from printing overseas will be offset by the cost of transportation.
It pays to shop around to get the best combination of cost, quality, service and credit terms.
For print jobs where colour balance is important, ask to see a colour proof as each new sheet is printed, so adjustments can be made at the earliest stage.
Billboards are still popular: According to Riverorchid Media, in Phnom Penh, it costs between $300/m2 to $750/m2 for Billboard advertising space in 2016. They are a very cost-effective advertising medium.
Tuk Tuk Advertising is also still popular: Tuk tuk adverts will cost $20 to print, and $7-10 per month display fees.
Coupled with the rise in the rate of internet use across Cambodia, comes a rise in social media.
Facebook is the most popular medium and is an ever-present reality for most young Cambodians since launching in the country in 2009.
LinkedIn and YouTube are other popular tools in Cambodia as well as tools like Tik Tok, Weibo and more,
Facebook is a sales tool in and of itself in Cambodia. A number of FB shops and online sellers have been set up.
In Cambodia, people often use Facebook to search for news and events, as opposed to starting with a Google search. This means that Facebook is a place for first impressions, and a place where, if a business has no presence, it will rarely be seen by potential clients/customers.
Cambodian Facebook usage differs from observed Western patterns of usage, as Cambodian users tend to hit the “like” button a lot more liberally.
The typical Cambodian Facebook user may “like” your posts even though they may have very little real affinity with your product, and have no intention of actually buying that product.
Market Research and Strategies for Cambodia
Here are the nuts and bolts of marketing in Cambodia, along with a few words of wisdom from industry experts as to what might work, and what may not.
Targeting the right demographic for your products, services or business is essential.
Even with a growing number of research companies, the industry is still in an early phase of development.
Local companies often see research as a cost, not as an investment as is often the case in more developed markets.
A lack of publicly available information is also a problem, although the government, as well as the private sector, are working to improve the situation.
There are a growing number of NGOs in Cambodia who are also seeing the value of market research in providing their services, however these studies are more focused on social policy.
While Phnom Penh is the headquarters of a lot of businesses in Cambodia, don’t forget that Phnom Penh is a bubble, so local findings cannot necessarily be extrapolated to the national level.
The vast majority of Cambodia is rural. This means the attitudes and behaviours of people in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville do not represent the rest of the country – so it’s crucial to conduct research in a number of provinces to ensure a valid representation.
There are a variety of marketing agencies in Cambodia, some are local startups, whereas others have regional or international backing.
Branding, specialised communications, video and multimedia production, translation and other services are available in Cambodia and the quality is constantly improving.
Some agencies and media houses will specialise in a particular niche such as print design or web and digital while some are full-service agencies that will do everything from branding to graphic design, media buying and more.
Smaller firms may not offer as many services but may specialise in one aspect of marketing such as public relations or event management.
Other agencies are engaged more in market research and analysis, conducting surveys on consumer activity and in some cases building on their analysis with the provision of strategic advice and consulting services.
Advertising billboards are seen throughout the country, though advertising space is expensive.
The locations begin with single viewing locations, located on streets with only one opportunity for viewing, right up to locations with 2 or 3 opportunities for potential viewership. These spots are located on the busiest junctions and traffic lights in downtown, with standard ad sizes being 4x8m, 4x10m, 4x12m, 4x16m and 5x16m.
Metered taxis in Phnom Penh carry advertising on their doors and roofs and tuk tuks frequently have advertising banners affixed to their backs, costing around $7-10 per month. Tuk tuk adverts will cost $20 to print.
Local printers can produce a range of signs, including paper of varying size, billboard and even plastic or tarpaulin.
Prices vary but signage is relatively inexpensive – keep in mind that retail businesses are often charged a “sign tax” based on the size and location.
Premium brands maybe should avoid tuk tuk advertising as they don’t reflect their premium position unless they offer customised branding to the tuk tuk.