Vietnamese advertising companies needed to be more professional with an improved attitude to customer services so they could compete with international firms.

This opinion was voiced by Do Kim Dung, director of the Vietnam Advertising Research and Training Institute.

Vietnam is considered a potential market for the advertising industry, shown by the presence of six leading global advertising and communications groups – WPP, Ominicom, Dentsu, Publicis, Interpublic and Havas.

However, with about 5,000 advertising companies, Vietnam 's advertising industry is losing out in the domestic market due to the presence of these international giants.

While foreign companies usually draw up advertising strategies for customers and earn 10-15 percent of contract value, domestic companies play the roles of outsourcers or advertising service providers.

Moreover, when an international advertising company enters the Vietnamese market, it usually brings heavyweight clients with it who already operate here.

At an industry workshop held last week by the Dien dan doanh nghiep (Business Forum) and Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspapers, Dung said that while foreign companies were successful because of their strategic thinking, domestic firms just thought about "following the right direction", or in other words, they worked for bigger companies. Dung said that domestic advertising companies were unaware of the need to improve and create their own value to make clients come to them.

In future, advertisers needed to put the task of gaining consumers' trust in front of everything else, including market share.

He added that until now, most companies just concentrated on satisfying clients' requirements, and instead of working together, domestic advertisers competed closely with each other.

The competition has become tougher over the last few years after the economic crisis forced many enterprises to cut advertising budgets.

According to the Vietnam Advertising Association, domestic advertising revenue had increased on an average of 40 percent each year, but growth was becoming slower and slower.

Last year, the revenue reached nearly one billion USD, just one sixth or one seventh compared to neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Thailand.

In Vietnam, newspaper advertising accounts for about 1 percent, magazines 7 percent, TV 78 percent, internet 9 percent and outdoor advertising 4 percent.

However, last year, newspaper advertising revenue dropped sharply, falling 1.3 percent while other media fared much better.

This has left many newspapers struggling to survive because of reduced revenues.

President of the association Dinh Quang Ngu said that communication forms were constantly changing and modernising with integrated advanced technologies.

Newspaper advertising dropped because it was seen as simple, uninteractive and less attractive than the alternatives, he said, adding that it was a common trend around the world.

Vice chairman of the Vietnam IB Communications Group Phan Le Khoi said that advertising should be part of an enterprise's marketing strategy, and in tough economic times, they should find alternative, cheaper means without losing effectiveness, such as social networks or TVC [Televicentro] Online.-VNA