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BANGKOK IS BUMPER TO BUMPER WITH ADS BANGKOK IS BUMPER TO BUMPER WITH ADS

By Published on .

BANGKOK-This city's notorious traffic jams and 7-hour rush hours are steering marketers into new strategies and products to reach the gridlocked Thai capital.

With roughly the same area and population as Los Angeles, Bangkok has a woefully inadequate expressway system and no public transportion aside from buses and one surface railway. It's not uncommon to wait 45 minutes to get through a single intersection at peak traffic hours, which run from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

To reach these terminal travelers-mostly the moneyed white-collar class-marketers are increasingly leaning toward outdoor and transit advertising and radio.

It's potentially a big market. According to government estimates, the number of cars here jumped from 900,000 in 1985 to a projected 3.4 million this year.

As the city's traffic increases, so does spending on outdoor, which climbed 26.2% in 1994 to $64.7 million, according to research company Media Focus.

Much of that is going toward the backs of motorized three-wheeled taxis called saamlors or tuk tuks, or "three wheels." These vehicles carry ads for restaurants, clubs and trendy city attractions.

"move through the congestion slightly faster than the average car and therefore get stuck in front of many yuppie eyes during each journey," said Hugh Davies, Leo Burnett Thailand public relations director.

Radio has also become more desirable. "With low airtime costs and narrowly segmented audiences, radio stations can help marketers reach [these] target groups effectively," said Vichai Suphasomboon, Thai Advertising Association president.

Demand for traffic news has led to one unique outlet: Pacific Communications in September 1992 started to provide programming to Jor Sor Roy, an FM station devoted to 24-hour traffic coverage.

The station's name consists of two consonants in the Thai alphabet and the word for 100. Pacific Communications plays on the 100 theme with Comfort 100, a plastic device into which commuters can relieve themselves, marketed nationally through Esso Standard Thailand.

A Comfort 100 TV spot, created in-house, shows a young boy in a car squirming from a toilet emergency.

Swedish Motor Corp.'s Volvo's local magazine ad from Spaulding & Hawi, showing an unending traffic jam, is headlined, "Thank goodness I'm in a Volvo."

To accommodate commuters, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority transit service set up a concession two years ago for 30-seat Micro Buses complete with newspapers, magazines and closed circuit TV carrying programs and ads. Advertisers on a recent Micro Bus ride: McDonalds's Corp. and a local real estate company.

With a nod to congested traffic here, The Nation, one of the city's two leading English-language dailies, offers a cassette tape course called "English for You."

The course is heavily advertised with the hook that Thais can use the hours stuck in traffic to improve their English. A spot from Lintas Thailand shows a cowering junior employee being talked at in an incomprehensible stream of English by his boss.

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