We are not here, you have not seen us
Updated: Apr 23
Advertising in Cambodia is a relatively simple concept.
Make it big (size does matter) with lots of colours especially from the luminescent pallet, do they clash? Yes but who cares. Include gold and silver. Does it glitter? No, then add tinsel. Always include a disco ball. Rent a gazebo, steal a sound system from Green Day (let's face it, they won’t be needing it), hang bunting, balloons and 1000 lights, preferably flashing lights. Fire lasers at the disco ball. Hire five extremely pretty girls dress them in a very little black number, high heals and red lipstick, play Khmer drum and base at a volume which causes ears to bleed.
Now we are ready to advertise the new International Zen Meditation School.
Another thing, don’t believe the pictures. There is no such thing as ‘false advertising’ here. That lovely looking gym, with views across fields is actually in a basement. Basically they lie. The $7 Ray Bans are apparently genuine and the bottle $10 Channel perfume is not fake. If it says it on the label then you can be pretty sure it is not what it says on the label.
Russell Crowe, David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo are regular customers at every single Phnom Penh barbers.
If it is brash, gaudy, eye sizzling, eardrum shattering, hit you in the face and blatantly untruthful then all is fair in love and capitalism. Buy my product from my shop, I stock what you want, I sell to you whatever you need, pay me, give me your money.
Everyone advertises, everyone. There are 20m high bottles of whiskey and brandy. TV screens the size of tennis courts on the sides of buildings advertising everything. Advertising is about being proud of your product, it says I am not ashamed, look it’s brilliant, buy it.
I mean who doesn’t advertise their product or service. Well gun manufacturers don’t seem to be taking out prime time tv slots I admit. You don’t see a half page ad by criminal gangs “20 years in the business, satisfaction guaranteed or have your legs broken”. Animal testers (you know bleach in kittens eyes to see if it hurts - it does), they don’t seem too keen on letting on where they do this work. Criminal bankers are silent ... oh no hang , they're not.
People who don’t advertise want to stay hidden for some reason, it's either secretive, illegal or shameful.
Everyone advertises here everyone. Everyone that is except for clothing manufacturers. You will not find one single advert, sign, banner or hoarding advertising the presence of a western label being manufactured here in Cambodia.
I know they spend a lot of time and money ensuring the textile workers are treated well, get payed a reasonable wage, no child labour is used, contracts are honest and fair, workers can unionise etc. I know they do all of this because they tell me.
The trouble is I think they are not being as truthful as they claim. I have seen the hundreds of open top lorries, dangerously packed with young women workers, being driven in to huge and I mean huge gated work sites. These factories are all on roads out of the city. They all have walls blocking any casual observation. They have security to prevent unwanted entrance to the site. This is to the site not the actual factory, just the site.
Huge buildings, huge sites, huge numbers and not one single tiny bit of advertising. Not even a little name plate on the secure gated entrance - nothing. You can't ask questions and people are afraid to give answers.
Now I am not saying they are doing anything wrong or illegal or immoral but in a land of the most outstandingly terrible advertising what does a silence say?
I don’t really know about these things but it would seem to me they don’t want anyone to notice them. You have not seen us, we are not here..
See http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/marks-and-spencer-gap-h-and-m-adidas-cambodian-factories-workers-rights for a more in depth look.
Adidas, Armani, Gap, H&M, Joe Fresh, and Marks and Spencer have significant manufacturing commitments in Cambodia but you would never guess.