McCann Worldgroup separates the chaff from the fluff and reverberates with their 106-year old motto - Truth Well Told!
While the current buzzwords for advertisers seem to be integration and media neutrality, in the world of advertising nothing could be more pointed today than clear, insightful and honest thinking. Advertising that resonates with todays consumers needs to be truthful and authentic. Ethical and environmental are now given centre stage. And here’s a crack team of straight-shooting ad guys bent on telling it like it is. They’ve done it with ads for Al Rajhi Bank, Nestlé and Proton to campaigns for caregivers like the National Stroke Association and PS the Children, an NGO that works on preventing child sexual abuse. So let’s start this month’s cover feature, with…
...A TRUE STORYThere is no escape. The ‘A’ word has come full circle.
Advertising by any name – viral, ambient, interactive, mobile, out-of-home – is still advertising. While newly emerging ‘brand specialists’ peddle their ‘advice’, every marketer knows that Advertising is Branding’s first port of call.
But it now comes with a new set of engagement rules.Delivering a message – a monologue – now has a diminished value. Relationship between consumers and brands are build on active dialogue with consumers being in control.
It is no surprise that McCann Worldgroup Malaysia, one of the country’s largest and bestrespected ad agencies, has become a denominator for innovation. It has been singled out as the innovation hub for the network’s Asia-Pacific region, and now leads in initiating strategic ideas for its roster of regional clients.
Every piece of work that McCann does in Malaysia – from branded content, direct marketing, digital strategies, brand activation programs, asset generation, and content development – invites consumer engagement.
McCann’s Executive Creative Directors Huang Ean Hwa and Lee Szu Hung, together with McCann Worldgroup CEO Tony Savarimuthu, have all won the HK McCann Global Leadership award for grooming talent, winning global effectiveness and creative awards, nurturing ideas, exercising resource efficiency, and delivering revolutionary communication directives.
“The HK McCann Global Award is awarded to a selected few from amongst thousands of professionals who work across our network in over 100 countries,” announced Kevin Ramsey, McCann Worldgroup Asia-Pacific CEO.
At McCann, radical transformation is a prerequisite in winning the hearts and minds of consumers. “Clients demand innovation and effectiveness to enable them to engage consumers and sustain both loyalty and profits,” believes Tony. “In today’s advertising environment, it’s not good enough to have a great idea. The ‘newness’ freshness in the implementation of those ideas is critical to a campaign’s triumph.”
“While I appreciate the work of brand and identity consultants, I believe the connection with consumers is somehow short-circuited in the upstream process,” reasons Tony. “Today, we function as true communications planners. Perception and judgment must be built on trust. Marketers need to be intuitive. We must build out judgement over time on how consumers are going to react. We must also have a point of view as to how a particular trend is going to shift.”
For three consecutive years, McCann’s Nescafé Kick-Start campaign achieved its desired results through the creation of a platform for young adults to turn their dreams into reality. The TV series encouraged young adults to submit a proposal on their dream jobs. The campaign, supported extensively with fun activities, print and television advertising, and an interactive website, resulted in an increased market share for Nescafé.
McCann takes pride in positioning itself as an asset to client through its brand building ideas.
The agency’s “Truth About Prepaid” campaign exposed some basic facts about prepaid rates and advanced the necessity for transparency. The campaign, supported exhaustively through merchandising – badges, mineral water bottles, facemasks, headbands, sticker sheets, and t-shirts – connected meaningfully with a wide cross-section of consumers. Result? An 8.2% growth in DiGi’s pre-paid sales in the fourth quarter of 2006.
“In terms of guerrilla marketing, it was refreshing to see street teams go out and actively crusade the campaign,” adds Hwa. “The nuts and bolts of telling the truth harvested a positive response from consumers. It provoked people’s consciousness about prepaid rates.”
In its mission to reach and build affinity for DiGi among the growing semi-urban and rural Malays, McCann originated a TV series, Ejen016, a spy thriller spoof with the lead character using the mobile phone as the primary tool of his trade for both espionage and communications.
The TV series spawned broad marketing extensions including ringtones, a comic strip, a soundtrack featuring three hit singles, celebrity cast appearances, roadshows, an SMS contest, collectible reload cards, and wallpapers.
Hwa’s take on User Generated Content (USG)…
In a world of USG, what your take on where professional creativity is heading? USG is virtually free to clients, but OpenAd.com says ideas are ‘dime a dozen’ and only a few gems surface amongst the hundreds...
While some pieces of User Generated Content are indeed entertaining, there may be a lack of focus as to what the bigger picture is for the brand. All brands or products need a game plan or strategy. USGs tend to be one offs with not much regard to what values a brand needs to survive and prosper in the long term. Having said that, if used properly and with care, I see no reason why USGs cannot be used side by side with a proper communication plan.
Szu’s take on honest copywriting…
Aren’t Malaysians accustomed to ‘spin’ in their daily reading? Where do you draw the line between gloss and real honest writing and its place in advertising copy?
Aren’t Malaysians accustomed to ‘spin’ in their daily reading? Where do you draw the line between gloss and real honest writing and its place in advertising copy?
“We cannot afford to be creative backbenchers,” continues Tony. “In today’s market environment, we have to learn to be better listeners and take note of what clients and consumers are saying and how they are reacting to communications.”
Two years ago, DiGi collaborated with MTV to create the Prepaid MTV Powerpack campaign in its bid to connect with teenagers.
McCann conceived a TV commercial to support the launch of the MTV Powerpack with a series of gritty, true-to-life vignettes – the power of choice – to gain empathy with the teenagers. Proton suffered a severe image battering following a dramatic decrease in sales slippage and news of a potential merger with a foreign automobile manufacturer. Consumer confidence for Malaysia’s first national car company was at an all-time low when Proton was about to launch the Persona.
To regain consumer loyalty, McCann created a campaign that fast became the talk of the town. The agency encased the Proton Persona in a life-size box with a peephole inviting people to peek at Proton’s new model.
“The curiosity factor was extremely high, and whatever the onlookers reaction, it was fodder for conversation,” reminds Szu. “For us, the desired effect of having people talk about the new Proton model was a winning proposition.”
McCann also decided to create a story-telling television commercial for Proton to commemorate the nation’s 50th independence anniversary.
“We conceptualised a story recounting Proton’s journey and the milestones it has achieved in its short history,” says Hwa. “Part of Proton’s patriotic dream is to build something better for the future. We conveyed this idea through the life journey of a rebellious student’s struggles in school.”
For the Hari Raya festive season, McCann took Al Rajhi Bank’s brand proposition – Truth, Honour, Respect – to a higher level of consciousness. While most banks splurged on celebrating the festive season with flashy colourful print advertisements, McCann designed a simple black-and-white advertisement that appeared only twice in two leading newspapers.
The significant savings from the allocated budget was donated to charity. The print advertisement also featured a cutout coupon, providing an avenue for the public to donate to any charity of their choice.
|Effie 2008 PS The Children. Left: Happy-to-be-me-wall; right: Secret maze and Hand Tunnel|
|ADVERTISING: A FORCE FOR GOOD |
Wakeup Call by The Hammer
ADVERTISING CREATES VALUE AND WEALTH, both directly and indirectly. Advertising builds brands, and brands build a robust and dynamic economy as an engine of commerce.
The power of advertising, however, is not confined to “selling” products and services. Advertising also shapes consumer behaviour and leads mindset change. Understanding the true worth of advertising to business, consumers, and to society as a whole, is integral to brand communications in the present era of intelligent and perceptive consumerism.
Commercial considerations aside, Mc- Cann Worldgroup has worked jointly with its roster of clients and investing in resources in propagating positive social change among Malaysians.
One of the agency’s quirky, humorous, and highly effective “force for good’ initiatives was the Proton “Sneeze” (more famously dubbed as “Pontianak”) television commercial.
The client prized the commercial’s cheeky twist to the “safety belt” message so much that they loaded it to You Tube before it was launched on television. The commercial was downloaded, played and re-played, and forwarded all around via mobile phones and email. In a sense, it worked brilliantly as a viral marketing campaign.
“The idea originated from the Malay creative team who presented the storyline to me,” recalls Hwa, McCann’s Executive Creative Director. “We were talking about how to teach passengers, particularly children, to buckle up at the back. We wanted to target the children. We talked about it and refined the idea and very quickly shot it and took it to the client.”
Hwa anticipated that “Pontianak” would be a tough sell. It was not something Proton had commissioned McCann to work on. “When we presented the commercial to the management team, they loved it and insisted on showing it to the CEO immediately. Fortunately, he, too, liked it and advised us to run the commercial before Hari Raya.”
The message got through to the tens of thousands of Malaysians on their “balik kampung” journeys.
Another public information campaign for the National Stroke Association of Malaysia (NASAM) was based on the insight that many stroke victims were taken too late to hospital. Early treatment of stroke can result in a better quality of life for the victim. The campaign highlighted the early warning signs of stroke and how to recognize them so that stroke victims could be treated early.
Sime Darby’s Christmas Day advertisement highlighted sustainability at a very personal level – how a family could choose to plant a tree instead of buying one and how that deferred enjoyment could lead to enjoying Christmas everyday.
An advertising campaign for PS the Children stretched not only the form of the advertising medium but also the communication methodology. PS the Children is an NGO that works on preventing child sexual abuse.
McCann Worldgroup created a maze in a shopping mall exhibition space that children could walk through and learn. The highly innovative campaign informed people about the ills of child sexual abuse and taught children to distinguish the different sort of ‘touches’ and helped them identify the concomitant feelings.
The maze was an experiential advertisement in this context. It was fi lled with a variety of objects that targeted the curiosity of children to touch, handle, examine and feel. It taught children to trust and value their own feelings and perceptions because self-esteem is critical in battling most common forms of child sexual abuse. The maze “travelled” to other parts of the country to spread the awareness amongst children. Advertising is powerful. And this power can be positively harnessed for social change. McCann sure appears to have made a difference through their work as a force for good.
|National Cancer Society of Malaysia Mannequins with only one breast were placed in women’s shops as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign.|
|gua.com.my TVC - Child Abuse Prevention Campaign|
|Digi ‘Fu Yoh!’ – Creating a buzzword to convey a brand experience.|
Ad Agencies or communications agencies need to strongly affi rm the fact that they deal with the real currency of exchange with consumers - ideas and creativity. Consumers don’t read PowerPoint documents - they see and believe in compelling communication messages. The branding “specialists” aren’t a threat - they have the ability to talk about brands but ultimately don’t have the ability to build one. If ad agencies aren’t able to articulate effectively a clear Brand Roadmap in boardrooms they become a threat to themselves and sometime get unfairly typecast as craftsmen and not strategists. If you look at the Top 100 Brands in the world - you would note that the role of ad agencies in helping build those brand cannot be disputed. I don’t think what we term “brand specialists” have had any signifi cant role here at all.
How does an agency thrive when a lot of traditional income is now in the hands of media specialists?I don’t think ad agencies are thriving at all in the true sense of the word. It’s a constant battle for profits and margins. For that matter, I don’t think media specialists are thriving either as some are involved in cut-throat pricing strategies. When they come out and offer 0% commission and beat even that by offering negative commission you know that something has gone awry. While ad agencies have moved to a fee system, we still charge for time and overheads and not content and intellectual property. Ad agencies can only thrive by establishing fi scal authority over their own work. This is hard when the work is being commissioned by clients. The only way out of this is to proactively create and own strong ideas fi rst before pitching to clients.
Do you think media monopolies are a good thing in the local scene?Growing through acquisitions is a legitimate business strategy, however monopolies in general are not a good thing in any environment. That’s why in some countries they have a law against this. If you have a law to regulate against monopolistic behaviour you know that it can’t be a good thing.
What’s your stand on the recently revived Made In Malaysia policy for Malaysian TVCs?This has been a polarising debate in the advertising circles for some time. I would like to see the quality of the work on TV improve. Right now except for a few commercials that make the grade, the work that you see on TV is like a bad dream. So for the local content policy to work - our work needs to improve. We need both regulators and viewers to be behind us. I don’t think it is a revenue issue alone for agencies, ie “I don’t get to make local commercials and as such I can’t survive”, nor is it a talent issue “My people have no work to do and are twiddling their thumbs” or an employment issue “No work for the hordes of graduates who are coming out of college”. Ad agencies have diversified their portfolios and businesses and have begun producing regional and global work. We are not trying to pigeonhole people into a Malaysia Boleh culture trap but we have to stand up for our own work, our uniqueness, our insights, our own trends, our language plus the tonality and specialness of the Malaysian market and business environment. While there should be a range of logical flexibilities allowed I’m fundamentally behind the 4As stand for both content and production.
With the 4As implementation of the agency pitch fee, how will smaller member agencies fare in a fi eld of bigger players, where the client will not invite (for costs reasons) too many agencies to pitch?Clients sometimes look for processes, tools, scale and network strength. But more often than not they look for great talent and people, insights, energy, hard work and dedication, ideas, creativity, market and consumer intelligence. I dare not say that all these latter elements are available only in the big agencies.TONY is also Vice President of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies (4As) Malaysia and is now serving his second term, while managing its Knowledge Management portfolio
TONY is also Vice President of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies (4As) Malaysia and is now serving his second term, while managing its Knowledge Management portfolio
|DiGi MTV Powerpack – Depicting the power of choice for today’s youth|