The Advertising Association of Nepal  is holding the Crity Awards on Monday. Intended to recognise the contribution of those involved in the domestic advertisement sector, the event this year has participation of both domestic and international stakeholders of the advertisement sector, according to AAN. Raymond So, chairman of Asian Federation of Advertising Associations, is in Kathmandu to participate in the award ceremony this year. Sujan Dhungana of The Himalayan Times caught up with So to discuss key issues related to the advertisement industry and its prospects in Nepal. Excerpts:

What is the purpose of your visit to Nepal?

This is my first time to Nepal. I am here to attend the ninth edition of the Crity Awards being organised by the Advertising Agency of Nepal (AAN). AAN is a member of the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA) since long and the Crity Awards is one of the biggest events of Nepal’s advertisement industry. We are here to make the event more successful and study the future prospects of the advertisement sector in Nepal.

How do you see the current trend in advertisement industry in the Asian region?

The advertisement market in the Asian region is quite big and diversified. As the region consists of big advertisement markets like Japan, Singapore, India, Hong Kong and China, the advertising industry of this region is sophisticated. The overall economy of these countries is pretty large and subsequently their advertisement industry is also highly developed. Similarly, development of advertisement sector in other developing economies in the region is also praiseworthy. Thus, the Asian region offers a wide spectrum and potential for advertisements. With the presence of large economies like China, India, Japan and Singapore, among others in the Asian region, the area has a major stake in the global advertisement industry in terms of development and annual turnover. Talking about Nepal, the advertisement industry is slowly growing. Economic growth of a country and the growth of advertisement industry are related to each other. While growth of advertisement sector is a boon to the economy, better economic growth indicates that the advertisement industry is also expanding in the country. I am happy to learn that Nepal is currently witnessing one of the fastest growths with regard to gross domestic product in the world in recent times. All the positive indicators of Nepal’s economy are a sign that the advertisement industry in Nepal will also develop in the coming days. With advertisement sector gradually expanding in Nepal, it can become a driving force for the country’s economy in future.

Despite a long history, Nepal’s advertisement sector is witnessing tepid growth with annual turnover of around Rs six billion. What do you feel are the obstacles to the growth of advertisement industry?

It is not that a small company or its products will find it difficult to reach the global market. The internet has provided a wide space for digital marketing. A small company has the opportunity to make its product a ‘global product’ via the internet. Nepal should fully utilise this opportunity. Domestic companies here should produce good products which are appealing to the global market and should develop effective communication network in the global market. Once Nepali products and services enter the global market, this will certainly help the advertisement industry of the country to grow. Interestingly, Nepal is a culturally rich country which gives an opportunity for companies here to develop cultural products and services and take them to the global market.

Can you briefly mention the role of AFAA to promote advertisement industry in developing countries like Nepal?

AFAA has been promoting the growth of advertisement industry in every country of the Asian region via its members in the respective countries in different ways. However, we want to do something more, especially in developing countries like Nepal, for the development of the advertisement business. We wish to share our resources, skills and experiences with developing countries so that they can leapfrog in the advertisement industry. At the same time we also target to provide effective training programmes and provide exposure to advertisement entrepreneurs in developing countries. We have two regional congresses every year, which focus on improving and promoting digital marketing among the member states of AFAA. The congresses provide entrepreneurs from developing nations an opportunity to listen to world-class speakers and enhance their capacity. The congresses also provide an opportunity to develop international network, which creates opportunities for advertisement entrepreneurs in developing countries. AFAA is also running a campaign called ‘Fast-Track’ that intends to bring overseas knowledge to developing countries and train individuals effectively. Once an individual in the advertisement industry is trained and acquires international experience and knowledge, they can play a crucial role to lead the industry of their country. The global advertisement industry already has a large number of skilled human resources with many universities incorporating advertisement and one of their core subjects. What the world lacks today is effective training and counselling to university graduates to pursue their career in the advertisement industry. I am not too familiar with the advertisement market in Nepal, but a large number of advertisement graduates do not stay in the advertisement sector in different leading markets. Despite having a graduate degree in advertisement, they shift to different other sectors. This shows that these graduates did not have a clear idea on why they studied advertisement and they did not see opportunities in the sector. However, the fact is that the global advertisement industry today is diversified and the enhancement of technology and digital marketing has created immense opportunities in the sector worldwide.

Advertisements these days are more commercial in nature than informative. What according to you should a perfect advertisement be like?

There is a wide variety of advertisements and they come in different forms. In general, advertisement refers to the marketing and branding of content. Advertisements today are not limited to a 30-second video. It can come in the form of a movie or news. In fact, anything can be an advertisement. As long as the content is well-managed and benefits the consumer, it is an advertisement. However, the basic discipline in the global advertisement business is that we should be true and maintain professional ethics. Advertisement content should be presented interestingly, but should be based on facts. We should be careful that our advertisement content is not misleading. They should communicate effectively and rightly benefit the people. On saying that, some content which appear in the form of advertisements are misleading to consumers and such advertisements must be discouraged. In a bid to discourage such misleading advertisements, we have been promoting ethics and self-regulation among advertisers in member states.

The government of Nepal is preparing to implement ‘clean feed’ policy in the domestic advertisement industry. What is your take on this?

I believe that the government here is preparing to implement the ‘clean feed’ policy to protect the advertisement industry of the country. Implementation of such law prohibits foreign advertisement firms from taking away a huge sum of money for the foreign advertisements that they air in Nepal. Once advertisement content is developed in Nepal itself, advertisers here can benefit significantly.

Does AFAA have any future plans for the growth of advertisement industry in Nepal?

AFAA is planning to organise at least two annual events related to advertisement in Nepal in association with AAN to bring in the Asian and global advertisement experiences, knowledge and skills in the country. Similarly, AFAA also plans to increase participation of advertisement entrepreneurs of Nepal in global advertisement events to boost their capacity and knowledge.