Everybody’s buzzing about what is going to happen come 2003. With AFTA coming into place, the reality about open markets, a borderless business environment and a global marketplace is slowly beginning to dawn upon most Malaysian enterprises. This week I am going to attempt and forsee how this eventual scenario could possibly impact on the local advertising industry and the apparent shifts in working systems and client expectations.
But first I’d like to touch upon a particular catchphrase that’s doing the rounds amongst the business community. It’s called ‘cautious optimism’. This particular term seems to have summed up all the ‘anticipated’ fears from the impending fall-out of the US economic slowdown. So safe is this corporate mindset called ‘cautious optimism’, it has become the way to look at all things to do with commerce and industry. Even banks are gladly taking this cue. Playing safe and not fulfilling their role of energising businesses forward. The irony is when one decides to go into business, the first thing that happens is you automatically become a risk-taker. That is the creed and excitement in the culture of business practice. It is the world of the brave and the bold. As we slowly embrace the concept of globalisation, the first thing we have to unshackle is our protectionism mentality. A vote for ‘cautious optimism’ only legitimises our inherent weakness to remain safe and not think outside the box.
Having said that, here are my five observations on what will happen in our the ad industry in two year’s time during the throes of globalistaion.
1. No MIM policy. The Made-in-Malaysia (MIM) policy is as old as the hills. Having completed its objectives of developing and raising standards in the Malaysian television and radio commercial production industry, it has now become a safe haven for local companies who seek shelter because agencies are compelled to use them whether they like it or not. Globalisation will witness foreign companies setting up shop locally and offering competitive prices and services. Also Malaysian advertisers can use companies from other markets if it makes perfect business sense. It will become a level playing field where true meritocracy will rule the day. This will increase standards thus insuring our place in the competitive cosmos.
2. Fair compensation
In a game where the best will shine, talent will dictate value and not be complicated by so-called industry rate structures. Just like a good doctor charges more than a mediocre one, the concept of professional fees will come into play. The commission system of compensation which now thrives in business dealings with media owners will also see a major upheaval because global media buys can now be fully realised. Talking about salaries, expatriates will vie with local professionals for equitable compensation. The days of a foreigner commanding a king’s ransom for his input may well be over by then. Singapore is an excellent example where capable locals compete with equally skillful foreigners for jobs that demand and expect professional world-class results, day in and day out. For the uninitiated, Singapore was recently voted the most globalised nation in the world by A.T. Kearney Foreign Policy magazine’s globalisation index. The United States ranked 12. Malaysia was not rated.
3. The world will be our job market
Malaysians will warm to this possibility very easily. As markets open up, new and developing economies will be looking for multi-lingual and talented people to serve in their ad industries. Malaysia’s expertise in the area of production is impressive within the regional context. Our people will be able to travel well and work in other markets earning handsome returns. And since, we are a multi-lingual country, our citizens will be able to easily fit and work in cultures where we speak the same language. In countries like China, which demand a command of Mandarin, Malaysians will have no problem tapping into that job market. Besides advertising is an industry that talks to consumers and the person who understand consumers, customs and cultures well, will be in great demand. Malaysians by default have a rich mix of three major religions and races all in one place. So our advertising professionals are uniquely placed to serve a larger marketplace with the advent of globalisation.
4. English language will prevail
Enough can never be said about this. We are only too aware of our shortcomings in this area. If Malaysians are to compete in the global arena, mastering the English language is mandatory. Advertising students who are going to be entering the ad industry when they graduate better pay heed to the fact that they will be non-marketable if the don’t have a good command of the English language. This can be resolved if one has the resolve to do so. After all, a long time ago, we were a English-speaking nation and we were already global citizens then. Ignore this piece of advice at your own peril.
As the marketplace matures, liberalisation sets in, and the internet proliferates our environment, the issue of censorship will become obsolete. Similarly, the power to decide which advertising is right or wrong for society will rest squarely on the individual creating and paying for it it. He or she will also in turn bear the full brunt of a wrong decision through instant consumer backlash. Media owners, the custodians of the communication gateways to the masses, will operate with a built-in self-censorship mechanism. They will be accountable for their actions. In this regard, Malaysia has been drafting a Content Code which will supersede all previous regulatory do’s and don’ts with a noble objective to eventually empower the consumer to decide what’s best.
The age old mantra would have come full circle – the customer is king.