By WASAMON AUDJARINT,
The stickers will be available free of charge for the millions of Line application users across the country.
The project, which is run by the Government Spokesman Bureau, will last for a year in the Line “universe”. The bureau will spend Bt4.32 million to create a 12-month Line official account airing 25 messages per month and Line official home airing 60 messages per month. Another Bt2.25 million will be spent for an even shorter period on the market. The cost covers the distribution of eight Line sticker characters designed by the bureau, for 30-day free downloads. The stickers have a 90-day lifespan.
The total cost, with VAT included, top Bt7.029 million, according to the Bureau’s procurement papers. The figures are based on the market prices provided by Line Co (Thailand) Ltd.
The public-relations project became widely talked about with many people recounting their negative impression of the junta’s 2014 version of Line stickers promoting its “12 values of virtues”.
Participants in social media discussions suggested it cost millions of baht to create an official PR account and a full set of sponsored stickers with Line. But they also asked whether Bt7 million of taxpayers’ money should be spent on such a project.
“Line users in Thailand are still considerably minor compared with the whole [global] population. Last time, Bt7 million was spent on creating stickers to promote intangible values. Seriously, for what?” wrote one commenter.
Government Spokesperson Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd dodged having any involvement in the project yesterday. “It is included in an annual project by civil servants at the bureau. As a political appointee, I’m not involved in that,” Sansern told The Nation. The Bureau’s director, Natthriya Thaweevong, reiterated that the project was not for political purposes. “This project should be maintained despite future changes of government,” she said. “Thailand houses the world’s second-largest Line user community, so we plan to equip this application to respond to our audiences’ communication behaviour.”
The project is only at the conceptual stage with no action yet taken. “But we hope to create Line stickers that reflect our mandate to provide information to the public,” the director said. IT experts also doubted the project would be worth the investment, especially if the government wishes to lure people to their Line official accounts by offering free stickers.
“Users will just block the official account from sending them PR messages once they get those stickers,” said Poomjit Sirawongprasert, president of the Thai Hosting Service Providers Club. “And why is the government focusing only on Line and not other applications like Facebook?”
According to We Are Social digital agency and Hootsuite social media dashboard, Thailand has 51 million active social-media users and 46 million users accessing via mobile devices.
Facebook remained the most popular social media platform, accounting for 75 per cent of all users, surpassing the 68 per cent using Line.
Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator of Thai Netizen Network, said that the official Line account is worth paying for if it can deliver useful information to people. “But it will be otherwise if they’re only used to spread propaganda that people find annoying,” Arthit said. “And an official account requires annual payments to be sustained also.”
Nuttaputch Wongreanthong, a digital marketing expert, agreed that accessibility and types of information to be conveyed via the government’s Line channels need to be taken into account to evaluate project worthiness.
“This is no different from how every government buys ads from traditional media to reach out to audiences,” he said. “Given Line’s popularity, it’s no surprise the government came to choose this channel. The question is whether the channel can really respond to its active PR approach. A large number of followers don’t always justify the cost.”