The Culture of Advertising in Thailand

By: Katie Jobst

Advertising in Thailand is an adventure. Thailand is a modern country rich with tradition. This unique dynamic allows for a symphony of creativity, imagination, and practices that aim to reach both the modern and traditional Thai culture through advertising. Advertising in Thailand is regulated by government agencies and is also affected by political factors. Mediums of advertising, commercial examples, Thai consumer behaviors, and their place in the advertising industry will be discussed.

Many of the industry’s leading (top grossing) advertising agencies have opened international locations in Bangkok; including Ogilvy & Mather, McCann Erickson, Dantsu, Young & Rubicam (Adage.com, 2010). Most of the firms originate from the United States, recognizing the growth opportunities and markets elsewhere, they began to open more divisional offices worldwide. Western companies and influence have dominated the advertising industry in Thailand since the 1940’s. However, Asian based agencies have also attracted global attention for their work and unique styling; including Far East DDB and Hakuhodo.

Characteristically, advertising in Asia is quite different than what most Americans are accustomed to. The advertisements created are fresh, forward, entertaining, and often over-the-top! Thailand advertisements also highlight emotions or sentimental value to appeal to viewers. The personality that ads in Thailand undertake give an unmatchable persona compared to other countries. “Thai advertising is distinctive in its imageries and creative gags” (Punyapiroje, 2002). Below are two wonderful ads that show off the funky style of marketing in Thailand:

The Thai consumer is a dream for marketers, as they can effectively use advertising to generate higher sales. The Thai embrace freedom of choice and are not loyal to certain consumer-good brands. They also like to try new things (Punyapiroje, 2002). In this sense, advertising can add value to a product. If a consumer is entertainied or intrigued by a company’s latest commercial they may be more likely to use it.

Although Thailand is economically considered a developing country, most advertisements are seen via television in Thailand. Rural communities may not have access to printed advertisements or low literacy skills prevent printed advertisements from spreading their message. According to Punyapiroje, “television is the medium of choice” for both viewers and advertisers.

Advertising in Thailand tends to pay certain respect or acknowledgement to the culture that it appears in. As mentioned, many ads tend to focus on humor, but an account group director at Batey Ads says, “The best Thai advertising is slightly understated, it has a gentle quality to it. It is very pleasing to the eye.” Thailand is a high-context culture. This means that many things are left unsaid; environments, non-verbal cues, or social situations help to define messages in person or through advertising (Punyapiroje, 2002).

An interview with an adverting account worker from Punyapiroje’s (2002) research said the following:
“There is nowhere like Thailand. We have our own gags. For example, a Godzilla standing to pledge he Thai flag. We create advertising by our own culture. …Also, Thai advertising characteristically is about unexpected situation. They are surprises. We can make fun and joy without any reason. Thai people can laugh about their good and bad luck and others.”

Below is an example of a graceful, and uniquely Thai, advertisement by Land Rover.

Several factors control and regulate the content of advertising in Thailand.  Freedom of Speech was implemented to Thailand in the 1997 constitution, yet the government instates some censorship. Mass media is known to be part of state and corporate powers (Thammo, 1999). The Communications Authority of Thailand aims to maintain and dismantle content that is anonymous, offensive to the Monarchy, or illegal activity on the Internet. Advertising for alcohol is illegal in all mediums except online. In this sense, the Internet is a very powerful medium for advertisers to utilize. Thammo (2009) elaborates, “the intensified media censorship throughout

The modern history of Thailand during the Thaksin government (2001–2006) and Surayut Chulanon (2006–2007) to Samak Sundaravej Administration (2008) caused people to turn to the Internet.”

Advertising in Thailand goes beyond the entertainment of viewing a commercial. One must have an understanding for the culture. Advertisers are consistently challenged to foster messages that speak to Thai clients and consumers, while minding the rules of culture and legal business practices. In most cases advertising reflects the attitude and personalities of a nation. Based on the examples and discussion demonstrated in this paper it will be fascinating to view the creativity and scope of advertisements on the May Term.

Sources

Advertising Agencies in Thailand compiled by Marye Tharpe . (n.d.). The University of Oklahoma . Retrieved May 1, 2011, from http://www.ou.edu/class/jmc3333

Agency Family Trees 2010 – Advertising Age. (n.d.). Advertising Agency & Marketing Industry News – Advertising Age. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://adage.com/datacenter/agencyfamilytrees2010

Blogs, A. (n.d.). Dentyne Ice kills smelly, smoking-gun squid | Adweek. Adweek | The Voice of Media. Retrieved April 26, 2011, from http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/dentyne-ice-kills-smelly-smoking-gun-squid-13498

Gianatasio, D. (n.d.). Thai bathroom-cleaner ad exceptionally odd | Adweek. Adweek | The Voice of Media. Retrieved April 22, 2011, from http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/thai-bathroom-cleaner-ad-exceptionally-odd-12382

Punyapiroje, C., Morrison, M., & Hoy, M. (2002). A Nation Under the Influence: The Creative Strategy Process for Advertising in Thailand. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 24(2), 51. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Thammo, T. (2009). The Internet in Thailand: An Alternative Means of Communication. Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 22(2), 125-131. doi:10.1007/s12130-009-9073-0

Range Rover “Procession” | Adweek. (n.d.). Adweek | The Voice of Media. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://www.adweek.com/video/range-rover-procession-123797

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