Competing for the advertising dollar is tough business anywhere and perhaps tougher than most in Bali, where a wide array of companies offer copywriting and other agency services in a market where cut-price special dealing is not only the norm but an art form. It is natural enough that principals of advertising agencies should be unhappy that their firms miss out on business. It is a peculiar element of the local environment, however, that if your business fails to fire it is all the fault of unfair competition, especially from rapacious foreigners who have only come here to steal your piece of the action.
Business success and enterprise growth flows from continuously improving work quality and service levels and making sure your customers get what they want rather than what they can be persuaded to accept. There is no automatic access to anyone else’s money, especially on the specious grounds that you are local and all your competitors are foreign-owned or operated. Customers want value for money whatever they’re spending it on. And in the highly subjective environment of advertising, picking what a customer sees as value can be very difficult.
So we should view the recent complaints voiced by the head of Bali’s advertising agency collective, Roy Wicaksono, both in that light and with a large pinch of salt. Wicaksono is head of the local Mitra advertising agency as well as chairman of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Advertising Agency Association and clearly — from his comments — is fighting for more corporate turf as well as pushing arguments for a better deal for local operators.
The constant refrain in Bali, in business, is that foreigners and their companies unfairly dominate and do so, local business leaders like to suggest, by bending the rules, ducking their responsibilities, operating without the proper licences and (depending on the argument) failing to conform to a whole range of other rules and regulations. Doubtless such conditions exist — not only in the foreign business sector either — and this should not be the case. But that is a regulatory matter and, in Indonesia, regulation spectacularly resides on the non-performing side of the ledger.
Bali’s top-end tourism industry – where the big dollars are made and big dollars are spent — is foreign-dominated. Global hotel chains have global advertising requirements that – where they spend anything at all locally — must be met. Much of this advertising is in English, the international language. All of it requires a native-speaker grasp of the language. It is not surprising that local agencies that cannot provide that element of customer service get only a limited portion of the available business.
Lower down the advertising food chain the same conditions apply. People spending corporate money want results on an agreed timescale and which meet quality demands, not a succession of excuses as to why what they’ve paid for cannot be delivered (on time or at all; or in precisely the form desired).
Banging the anti-foreigner drum won’t deliver that.