What will you remember this Merdeka?

If not for brands, Merdeka Day will pass like a ship in the night.

While it can be said that brands have a commercial or image-driven intent in their messaging, we cannot blindly brush aside their role in  articulating the values of Merdeka and what it stands for.

I’ll even go so far as to even say that the government should applaud them for doing an amazing job even they can’t do.

Let’s face it. When Merdeka Day comes around, we look forward to the one-day holiday and some flag-brandishing to keep our patriotic spirit alive.

Politicians peddle out the usual unity messages, while some bring back the spectre of May 13 just so we are grateful for the peace we have today.

National Day parades are commonplace (not this year though) as we dress our finest and roll out our finest in a fit of sheer exuberance for the day.

The parade is the main event of the day, as dignitaries spend half a day in the shade and schoolchildren in the sweltering sun, while an assembled crowd cheer on our multi-faceted social fabric with non-stop flag waving. Tourists have a field day and festivities end by early afternoon.

The Merdeka Parade on Live TV allows us to catch an annual glimpse of our military march past and the glorious flypast show of force by our air force and exciting highlights include cultural and patriotic performances, floats, marches by uniformed groups and the amazing military tattoo display.

Most of that is no more this year because of COVID-19 protocols. Save for a possible closed session celebration at Dataran Pahlawan in Putrajaya, our Merdeka messaging once again falls on brands who dutifully step forward to champion the glory of our beloved nation.

And when they do it, it is entertaining, endearing and emotional. They become part of the national conversation and are discussed at length. Evoking feelings officialdom has never been good at.

We salute the brands that celebrate with us and they include Petronas, TNB, CIMB, Celcom Axiata, RHB, Maxis, Grab, AirAsia, Nestlé, Digi, unifi, F&N, Maybank, just to name a few.

About 25 years ago, PETRONAS started the storytelling genre in festive and “occasion” TVCs with One Little Indian Boy for Hari Merdeka focusing on human values and social congruence. This tracked the story of Independence Day though the eyes of a child on that historic day.

And who can forget the world-acclaimed and iconic Petronas’ Tan Hong Ming Merdeka Day film thirteen years ago which tackled racism head on with its colour blind message.

The spot also won Malaysia’s first Gold Cannes Lions in Film. And it was all done without Tan Hong Ming and Ummi Khazriena realizing the camera was actually rolling. It is one of a series of three TV spots for Petronas, all following the theme of ‘our children are colour blind’.

Umi is now 20 years old, and she says she is still “colour blind” to racism. She was 7 then, and recalls the late Yasmin Ahmad who created the spot: “She would give everything that she could in everything that she did.” 

Last year, Celcom Axiata’s Getaran Pertama was voted by our readers as the best Independence Day ad of 2019. It chronicled the search for the first choir to sing the national anthem of the soon-to-be independent Malaya.

The commercial follows the adventures of Ahmad Merican, Music Supervisor of Radio Malaya in 1957 and his good friend, music teacher and conductor Tony Fonseka, as they fulfill Tunku Abdul Rahman’s wish of seeing everyday citizens – regardless of race, creed and background – uniting as one voice to herald the birth of our new nation.

The idea was propelled by the team at M&C Saatchi Malaysia whose CEO is Datin Sri Sharifah Menyalara Hussein, the granddaughter of Tunku himself.

In second place, was RHB’s Ketepikan Perbezaan Warna which dramatised a universal social issue by taking the audience into a colour-coded world, where a clear divide exists between the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, the employers and the employees…a nation that is negated in the end.

Interestingly, their Merdeka TVC this year echoes the same “happy accident” theme.

You can read about all other winners here.

Submission for MARKETING Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Merdeka TVC Awards 2020 is now open.

Over the years we have found that our coverage and polling of the Best CNY TVCs, Best Merdeka TVCs and Best Raya TVCs based on our readers’ choice have had growing success and traction. Our respondents have grown from a few hundred to over a few thousand. Click HERE to enter. Please note that National Day ads are also accepted in this contest.

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