Petronas, and the next big cash client.

This piece was first Published in MARKETING WEEKENDER Issue 346

The ongoing PETRONAS media pitch accepted submissions from invited agencies on Monday. After making a few calls to media agencies whose media acumen is of note, I was surprised to find quite a few of them did not enter the tender process, or were simply not invited.

Rumour has it that some agencies (they are holding their tongue on this) are toeing their own line on ESG requirements, and made a call to avoid pitching for fear of ESG-washing.

I find this baffling, because ESG was very much the priority for PETRONAS. 

There could be conflict issues, I assume, but the number of submissions made to a 2-part brief cannot be ascertained as all communication from the client was by phone and email to the individual agencies. 

But I can report that, according to Kantar and Nielsen, PETRONAS’ media adspend for 2021 in Malaysia was RM26,450,603 across FTA & Pay TV, Newspaper, Radio and Digital. 

Now let’s move on to the next big client who pays cash. The coming General Election. 

Everyone knows that GE15 will see an explosion of advertising and media activity and in particular, digital spend. 

Investigations into how much will be spent and who will get a major share of the cake yielded zilch. 

But I know that even state owned, or shall I say state linked, media is not talking. Secrecy is the order of the day and I can’t blame them. 

Based on past experiences, funds for this come in cash to avoid any paper trails linking the spender in view of vague or limiting “political funding” parameters. It’s always a gamble too, and most vendors insist on cash payment, except state players, as many ended up not getting paid in the past because their ‘invisible” client lost. Companies involved in the pass-through spend to media and suppliers shield themselves through complicated processes worthy of a Havard marketing case study. 

The tracking on digital spend is another magic show, as hiding the trail can be tricky. Of course, Google and Facebook will be the big platforms, and how can we forget the ultimate unmeasured dark media – WhatsApp. These platforms are the king makers. Two years ago, Google even stopped political ads during the Singapore elections

The other pivot will be Big Data, as evident in the Philippines’ elections in May. PKR’s Rafizi is giving his opponents the shivers on this, but he may have let on more than he should have. 

Finally, after factoring “leakages”, one can never predict how much will be spent by parties and individuals in the coming GE. 

The wise say that being bold, brave and transparent is a double-edged sword.

 As a close friend once said, 

“A spine is an expensive erection.”


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