Everyone is doing Photo Contest in Vietnam

This is an extract from my latest book about Vietnam Digital Marketing, under the Digital Strategy Chapter.

Photo Contest is the most popular type of campaigns so far

This is probably the most popular type of campaign in Vietnam for the past 1-2 years. However, is it the most effective?

Basically the flow is like this:

  • The photo contest is often wrapped around a “creative” or “brilliant” idea.
  • The main idea could be about:your support to the environment,  showcasing the love for your child, showing your pioneering spirit by showing yourself with a high end car, about showing your free spirit lifestyle, your love for football, the love from husband to wife or whatever.
  • Then what the advertisers/agencies would want participants to do is to take pictures/submit pictures of themselves, of the topic of interest in the campaign etc… on either a microsite or Facebook or Instagram. The brand may ask participants to tag the brand Fanpage in your Facebook picture or include the hashtag in Instagram etc…
  • Some agencies/brands would want to use the webcam to take their photo etc…However, this would present some technical issues and may cost more production money to brands.
  • Some require participants to take the photo together with the product, some require participants to upload the pictures into brand related frame so that the photos will have brand elements every time it is shared on social media.
  • Some photo contests require users to join the activation offline and take photos there to upload online.
  • Advertisers may ask participants to include together with the photos a few lines
  • Winning criteria:
    • Participants need to ask others to vote for them either on Facebook, website, or whatever medium.
    • In order to vote, users have to have a Facebook account, Instagram account, website account or sign up via smartphone etc… By forcing users to sign up, brands hope to gather some database as well in the process.
    • Organizer may reserve the top prizes for a panel of judges.

Many many brands and agencies have been using photo contests. It is almost like if you can’t think of anything else to do, a photo contest is your safety net.

A few things to note about Photo contest:

  • General audience in Vietnam has been very familiar with this type of contests so there’s good and bad to that.
  • Prize hunter is the winner of almost 90% of these contests if the only winning criteria is the number of online “Like”/”Vote”. These prize hunters are very likely NOT your target audience or even they are, it’s unlikely that they will appreciate your idea/concept etc…

What do I mean by Prize hunter? I mean professional hunter who either sets up a big network of Facebook accounts that they could use to “Like” their photo or they use Facebook Like Exchange website like “chiaselike.net” to ask others to help them.

These methods are technically not illegal because they are Real Facebook accounts who are used to like the photo in the contest. However the purpose of the campaign to promote certain concept of course is not achieved by top winner is a prize hunter.

  • An average photo contest with attractive prizes like the latest phone, latest camera or something of enough monetary value ($1500 – $3000) would attract generally about 300 – 1000 participants on average.
  • Knowing that prize hunters will participate in your contest, you could make it more “fair” to your target audience by doing a lucky draw amongst the top 10-20 participants or use a credible panel of judges.

Limit one user with unique ID number to sign up only once won’t help much because the prize hunters could use ID from their family members etc…

That’s it from me. What do you think? Feel free to drop any comments/feedback.



P.S: To read the full chapter, please refer to the book Vietnam Digital Marketing Fundamentals.



  1. Agree completely Chandler. It’s a self-perpetuating situation of something being popular with the consumer, and so popular with brands, and so done more and more. They do tend to have high participation. But I also agree about the bounty hunters. I’ve personally known people to try and hack – yes, actually hack – a microsite for a small prize worth about 10 dollars! We in the agencies have been recommending what you mentioned – using draws rather than just a voting system, among other measures to check the cheating. It’s an ongoing battle. This was one of the hot topics at WPP Stream in Indonesia in May, and from the different contributors – clients and agencies – it seems as if this is endemic to the region, not just Vietnam.

    1. I am glad to know that it’s not just me who thinks we should move on from this or at least try something slightly more creative!
      Thank you very much for sharing Mina!

  2. Hoàn toàn đồng ý! bây giờ ngồi trên fb 1 ngày, cứ tham dự contest này kia là có tiền hà, khỏi cần đi làm! suốt ngày photo contest, phát chán! kg nghĩ ra được cái gì hay hơn

  3. Chandler – agree much with you. I believe this “phenomenon” happens in other parts of Asia too. Narrowing back to Vietnam, research data shows that photo is 1 of the highest content creation / engagement format among social network users. So, not surprising that digital agencies take advantage of this and make a photo contest. My take on this is that so what if a user “engages” (like, comment, share) about the photo submitted as part of contest mechanics. The most engaged photo becomes the winner does not mean anything – it probably says yes, votes rigging is imminent here and yes, the photos (and engagement around it) doesn’t drive good ROI. Will that engagement bring you more brand preference? More brand affinity? Subsequently, more uptake of product/services the brand offers? I struggle too trying to seeing good ideas but are the brands (clients) ready?

    1. Well said Gary!
      Regarding the ROI coming from photo contest, I think we should evaluate it in the context of social media. How we define the ROI of our social media campaign? How we measure the success and how photo contest may help to get us there.
      For example, in your three step strategy, your first step is to build the biggest community of fast food enthusiasts then may be photo contest could help you achieve that. Of course, what you will do to convert those fans into customers is another step. And of course we shouldn’t forget the tracking behind all of this.

      I am 100% agree on the bottom line focus for social media as well because in the end, every single marketing activity needs to lead to sales, one way or another, either by direct response or buy the awareness, brand affinity and sales route.
      Marketers have been focusing too much on fans, on reach and engagement in the past few years. However I think now it starts to sink in that social media need to have a bottom line focus and I do see social media contribute to sales, even ecommerce sales.

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