Carat Q&A with Claude Tran—Senior Business & Strategic Director of Carat Vietnam

In each issue of Rocket, we will interview someone from within the Carat APAC network to get their unique point of view on media and an insight into different local markets. It’s an opportunity to get to know a colleague that you may not have met yet, or learn more about ones you have.

If you have a suggestion about someone who should be featured, give us a shout at From Assistant Planners to Managing Directors, everyone has something to contribute.

For our inaugural issue, we wanted to interview Claude Tran, the Senior Business & Strategic Director of Carat Vietnam. As someone who grew up in France and worked in the UK, Claude made the big decision to move to Vietnam in 2008 and has seen the country rapidly change within the past 8 years.

Speaking of change, Claude comes to us from the creative side of Dentsu Vietnam where he held the position of Planning Director for the past 4 years. He is just 5 months into his new role as well as the media industry, so we thought given his unique background, he was the perfect candidate to get a fresh perspective from. What follows is our conversation about media and the changing landscape of advertising in Vietnam.


What are some of the biggest changes you’ve had to adapt to when entering the field of media?
You have to change the way you build brands—on the creative side, when you develop a brand campaign, you are trying to solve the way people perceive your brand; I would say that it is more of a long-term objective.

On the media side, it is much more immediate and tangible—you need to make sure the campaign will scale and effectively reach your audience during a limited time period.

Needless to say, I was also overwhelmed by the jargon within media.


What are some of the biggest changes you’ve had to adapt to when moving to Vietnam?
‘Patience and persistence’ should be a mantra in order to live and do business in Vietnam. I am far from being the most patient person, but I learnt throughout the years that losing your temper is definitely not the way to get things done here and you end up looking rather ridiculous.

Impatience is seen as a weakness in Vietnamese culture.


In what ways have you seen advertising change since you’ve moved to Vietnam 8 years ago?
When I moved to Vietnam, there were no coffee chains or cinemas, and there was only one department store in the entire country, located in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.

Today with over 8 major coffee chains, endless cinemas, over a thousand shops– both foreign and local brands –and dozens of shopping malls and department stores across the country, there are many more spaces and opportunities to advertise.

The digital landscape is also growing extremely fast—nearly 50% of people have Internet access in a country with a population of 90 million.

Although small, advertising expenses reached 1.9 billion USD in 2015, a growth of about 580% compared to the 280 million USD advertising expenses in 2005.

On the other hand, I personally don’t see much progress in the way brands communicate to consumers. Functional messages are still the key content in advertising and creativity is limited. The number of awards (or lack of awards) won by Vietnamese agencies unfortunately proves this point.


In what ways do you think Vietnam is different from the other APAC markets?
It is difficult for me to compare Vietnam to other APAC markets; however, what is undeniable is the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the Vietnamese people, no matter their generation. It is a dynamic country and I have noticed many recent initiatives–both private and public–that will position Vietnam as a ‘start-up nation’ in Southeast Asia.


In what ways do you think Vietnam is similar to other APAC markets?
I think across Asia people have done a great job of integrating social media into their daily life. For example, it is quite common to see people in Asia having over a thousand friends on Facebook.


What is a misconception that you feel people have about media in Vietnam?
I am not sure if there are any misconceptions, but if there is, I think it’s a misconception in our industry across all countries, not only Vietnam, and that’s the misconception that media agencies only do planning and booking.

Since I have joined Carat, I have often said that we should do better justice to the media people. We have the talents and tools that can demonstrate unique insights about consumers and the way they embrace brands, media, and technology in their daily life.


What is something about you that no one would be able to guess?
I promised to myself (and to my family) to cook more often. They were pretty surprised last time by my skills cooking ‘lapin au vin rouge’ (rabbit stew with red wine). However they didn’t like the frog legs curry—it was too chewy.

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