IDEAS: The Yellow Coverage Fellow Story (Part 1)

Edward Ong is on a quest to discover and create Malaysia’s best ideas. He is an award-winning Writer and Creative Director and can be found at

Before Bersih supporters painted the streets yellow, before Cicak Man crawled on cinemas screens, there was the Digi Yellow Man. A chubby, cheerful character with yellow skin in a yellow body suit, he jumped out the blue and turned competitors green with envy when he won the hearts and minds of the rakyat.

I sat down with Alvin Teoh, ECD of NagaDDBTribal, to find out how it all started…

In the early 2000s, Digi, a relatively new entrant to the highly competitive telco market, decided to up the ante against larger and more established competitors. Digi’s network coverage, or the perception thereof, was its Achilles heel. How can they put their best foot forward?
Alvin had already been working on the account for about a year. “Digi was a close third and quickly catching up against competitors Celcom and Maxis,” recalls Alvin. “We were struggling with the coverage story– we had to do something and do it in a way people would remember.”

“When I took on the account, I had 3 creative teams working with me. I looked at them and they looked at me and nobody said a word,” says Alvin.

“After a while I said, ‘Y’all look like shit. Keep it up! Keep not bathing and keep wearing the same thing! And do this for me: Look twice as shit because we’re gonna work our ass off and turn this account around.’ They were stunned. And then we went to work.”

Back then, telcos had a reputation for being difficult clients. Soon as you signed on a telco, you had to say goodbye to friends, family, social life and life in general. Telco would become the only world you know and live in. Everything else is peripheral.

Alvin had a dream that things would be better.

“Instead, I had a nightmare,” says Alvin. “I dreamed I was being chased by a monster, like the incredible hulk or something. It was dark. There were, I think, 50 people in front of me and we were running around in circles.

After a while, I saw a door. I opened the door and got everybody out. We found ourselves in a cobbled lane with hedges on each side. Up ahead was a corrugated gate about 2 to 3 storeys high. The people ran towards it and climbed over. When it was my turn, I climbed all the way to the top but because of my weight, the gate started to bend! The monster was about to pounce and that’s when I woke up.

That morning, the coverage brief landed on my table. Standard deliverables: 1 TVC, 1 full page, some panel ads, couple of outdoors. 3-month campaign. Mediocre budget.

The first thought that came to mind was: ‘Hey, if I could personify coverage- maybe I could turn it into that monster who followed me everywhere. Except make it friendlier.’”

By now, the team was used to Alvin’s working style. Talk it out, find a good idea, listen to your heart, run with it. Together, they developed a visual direction for the Yellow Coverage Fellow, as it was known back then. Yellow was the colour of Digi’s logo and became the natural colour choice.

“We went all out,” says Alvin. “We wrote 15 scripts, did a couple of print ads, out-of-home and activation ideas.”

Did you have any options in case the client didn’t like the idea? “No. This was it.” And you are aware that it exceeded client’s budget? “What budget?” From the replies, it was obvious that Alvin was used to ignoring little things like ‘budgets’.

The team knew they were taking a risk. They also knew the clients, Jeanette Lee, Steven Mak and that Chinese dude- the interim marketing head were open to interesting work.

“So there we were, in the client’s waiting room, waiting to present the coverage campaign.”

Click here for Part 2 of the story!

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Last year’s sold out conference is back! BIGGER, BETTER and with a NEW awards show to celebrate Malaysia’s best marketers.
Now in its 7th year, the Chief Marketing Officers Conference is a gathering of trailblazers in the Malaysian Marketing sphere. With a bold yet relevant theme of ‘Goodbye Marketing, Hello Engagement’ this year’s conference will bring you up to speed with what’s going on in the Malaysian marketplace.

The change makers who will take the stage on the 16th of November include:

• Damien Crittenden, VP Client Strategy, Xaxis
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• Dato’ Dr.Hussamuddin Hj. Yaacub, Chairman CEO & Group MD, Karangkraf Media Group
• Lim Imun, General Manager-Marketing Munchworld
• Juliana Chua, GM of Marketing, Pavilion KL
• Tai Kam Leong, Head of Branding & Partnership, Maxis
• Rishi Pahwa, Head of Marketing, Wipro Ginvera Marketing Ent Sdn Bhd
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The 7th Malaysian CMO Conference & Awards
Date:16th November 2018
Venue: The Grand Ballroom, Sime Darby Convention Centre

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