Moral cost of doing political advertising campaigns

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My foray in working on political advertising campaigns began some 24 years ago during the 10th General Election in 1999 churning a support campaign from the Silent Majority for the then all-powerful Barisan Nasional led by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

This was followed by the 11th General Election in 2004 led by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi based on the theme – Towards a Malaysia of Excellence, Glory, Distinction.

This was a relatively easy and simple campaign to deliver given Abdullah Badawi or Pak Lah’s surging popularity as a humble, caring and soft-spoken leader taking over from a domineering, steely and authoritarian personality.

The key messaging – Work With Me, To Work For You  – resonated brilliantly with the Rakyat.

The opposition parties especially the religious-fanatics lost badly in 2004 giving Pak Lah, a stellar victory by capturing more than the 2/3 majority, earning an overwhelming mandate to govern the nation.

The opposition had been crippled and reduced to a mere representation of 19 federal seats.

Four years later – in 2008 – a political tsunami swept across the nation changing the political landscape of Malaysia forever. The hegemony of the ruling party, Barisan Nasional, was decimated during the 12th General Election with the opposition parties winning a stunning 82 federal seats and the ruling party, losing its 2/3 majority.

Thanks to the liberal and far-sighted policies of Pak Lah, leading to the accelerated penetration of the internet, the Hindraf and Bersih public rallies in 2007, and the proliferation of online media provided Malaysians with alternative, real-time and unbiased news. The live coverage of the massive public rallies in the heart of Kuala Lumpur was simply phenomenal.

In fact, when the Live results of the 12th GE were being announced in 2008 it was the online media, especially Malaysiakini, which was providing the latest updates that were being picked by the international news agencies.

Malaysia’s traditional media including broadcasting stations were extremely slow withholding timely announcements pending authorisation from their political masters.

A lethal blow during the 14th General Election in 2018 led to the ouster of BN after more than six decades of authoritarian rule by a new opposition coalition led by the Pakatan Harapan (PH).

Tik Tok vitriol

The 15th General Election in November 2022 saw the birth of a new Malay belt with racial-religious polarisation becoming even more pervasive and worrisome and an estimated doubling of support for PAS since the 2018 GE.

UMNO missed the opportunity to reform itself and was continually mired in internal battles with different factions of warlords.

The racial-religious rhetoric used in GE 15 was not something new, but what was really alarming were its amplification via social media and a significant number of young voters were sharing such misled sentiments via Tik Tok videos.

Ed’s Note: TikTok Malaysia yesterday denied claims that a former employee, who served as a content moderator, promoted certain political parties on TikTok.

Mercenary bent on extracting maximum cash

Sadly, after 66 years of independence, we are still struggling to find an indomitable political will to walk the talk and treat all citizens as equals whilst our once poorer neighbours have taken over us in terms of foreign investment, employment, improved education, health and infrastructure.

Some of our leaders are pre-occupied with subjugating and sabotaging hardworking politicians, harping on irrelevant issues revolving around feminine attire, religious bigotry, holier than thou indoctrination and a fondness for continued EPF withdrawals.

As I approach my twilight years, I am beginning to wonder if the moral cost for working on political advertising campaigns is now equivalent to that of a mercenary bent on extracting maximum cash payment from lucrative political budgets.

More from The Malketeer Strikes here.

NEXT WEEK: Cash is King – lifeblood of Malaysian political campaigns?

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