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Advertising takes small steps in N Korea

News, 21 June 2016

PYONGYANG: Opportunities for advertising in North Korea seem to be increasing across various media, according to reports from recent visitors, as the capital, at least, develops into a "nascent" consumer society.

The Choson Exchange, a Singapore-based organisation supporting North Korean entrepreneurs through the sharing of knowledge, noted that the past year has seen billboards appearing at various sporting events, for example, while ad-like content is also starting to pop up on one of the state-run television channels.

At the Pyongyang Marathon earlier this year, it said, "not only were there advertisements on the perimeter boards around the track, there was also a main event sponsor".

The ginseng company involved also attached its name to every runner's race number and handed out free samples – the latter practice, the Choson Exchange suggested, was "unprecedented" in the country.

Another outdoor option opening up is in transport, as new trains operating on the Pyongyang subway system have video panels that run ads.

Television remains largely a closed book but at weekends a channel broadcasting educational material – "think Discovery Channel, before it was 100% sharks, ghosts and aliens – shows occasional adverts.

Most important for brands seeking to raise awareness, however, is attendance at the major trade fairs which have mutated into consumer shows where people come to discover the latest product.

"There may not be a more important event all year for newer companies and products to get exposure," the Choson Exchange stated.

It added that "Pyongyang has developed into a nascent consumer society", with far greater choice available – of both local and imported goods – than just a few years ago.

But while there may be a few more media opportunities than before, consumers may not yet be ready to accept the language copywriters are familiar with.

The few existing billboards in the city promoting the state-owned vehicle manufacturer use slogans "borrowed from popular phrases in state propaganda campaigns".

Data sourced from Choson Exchange; additional content by Warc staff