Friday, December 5, 2008

The Glitch Brand Forum?

Kudos to organisers Media Prima and the Global Brand Forum (GBF) who, on the overall, did an excellent job at the Global Brand Forum held on Dec 4 and 5.
While they made sure the participants had their fill of intelligent courses of information and tips of marketing and branding their products in their effort to push Malaysian brands to the global front, the press corp may have had a little bit of challenge.
Not to diss the public relations companies who were charged with looking after the journalists nor the organisers but it was a little impossible - unless you were armed with a DSLR camera - to take close up shots of the speakers on-stage.
There was an invisible camera for security reasons, one would gather, that photographers could not cross to get up close to the stage but the opportunity did come about at the press conferences held a level below (a five minute walk in heels and lugging bags aplenty; three minutes in flats).
At the media centre, unfortunately, there were four lines short of internet connection as there was only one LAN plug-in. Those who had the modern-day USB modem turned out to be the smart ones who did not need to waste any time.
The second day, as reported by Advertising + Marketing ( saw the holographic and recorded video conference of Ivanka Trump who saw "a hand waving" shortening her 15-minute presentation.
Let it be known that each speaker had about 45-minutes to say their piece.
But in the defence of the Global Brand Forum, they had exhausted all options including a private jet for the one-time supermodel to turn up, said Karthik Siva - chairman of GBF.
Still, they were told two-days before her appearance, the emergency - an event - could not be forgone.
So the organisers resorted to rope in Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat as a surprise guest but for some reason, there was a delay in her appearance so the participants had a longer lunch break.
Which turned out to be convenient for the Muslim participants who had to attend Friday prayers.
Sherawat, in the end, shared a couch with panelists film-maker and director Samar Khan, Hollywood director Oliver Stone and Melium Group president Datuk Farah Khan to share her thougts on 'Creating Brand Leadership in Entertainment and Fashion Industry'.
Hollywood director Oliver Stone

Sherawat, in the midst of the discussion and taking questions, did get a little dressing down (pun intended as she was dressed in a tight grey-dress which rode up as she took to the stage) from a participant who is quite prominent in the Malaysian marketing, communications and advertising industry.
Stone also took a hit for being invited guest speakers at the Global Brand Forum as Hollywood did not have much to do with direct branding efforts.
She had emphasised that the GBF was "beyond" Sherawat's league.
Riz Khan, played the very mediating host, requesting that the participant respected the speakers who had made the effort and took time to attend the forum, to share their personal experiences and thoughts with the 930 audience who turned up.
"GBF's role was to educate the overall aspects about branding to just the marketing world but to show that the diversity of branding.
"That it goes beyond the serious business and the entertainment industry does have a part in it," Khan said, gaining the further admiration of the rest of the crowd who clapped and cheered for him.
It can still be said the organisers achieved what they had wanted to do which was to educate Malaysians on building their product and brands.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sony so right, so wrong

Malaysia - Here comes the venom, but don't worry, the agency names have been omitted to protect the guilty. Actually it's not all venom some of it is nectar, the nectar of a wonderfully good idea.

There are two TV spots that have my attention at the moment both of them are for Sony products.

I have always been a big fan of Sony and I know agencies love them as a client because some divisions can be brave and visionary, they like to get involved with their communications, usually in the right way - I've blogged extensively on work like the original PlayStation creative, particularly the evocative "Double Life" spot.

True to form Sony's creative to leverage on its Quantum of Solace tie in featuring Daniel Craig, is an extremely good ad - it's all about the product and positioning.

Craig, who in the ad plays the character from the Ian Flemming franchise, that he has reinvented as "the Bond with bruises", is bombarded by all manner of ballistics as he calmly stands in an immaculate suit.

The connection with the film is obvious and it's done in a way the never strays from the benefits of Sony's high definition line, the inference, though not the tag line, is it doesn't get any more real than this. The spot concludes with a close up of Craig's battered face and the simple line "Bond in Sony High Definition".

The product is present but not overbearing in a retail way and the ad cuts through the run of the mill film tie ins because it uses bespoke footage, not simply a montage from the film with the logo at the end.

Unfortunately Sony is also the client for the ad that bugs me the most at the moment. It's not because it's a particularly awful ad, and heaven knows there are plenty of those on the box right now (if I see that piece for the Malaysia Savings Sale again I'm going to hurt something), it's more that it forms part of a series which started as an exceptional piece of creative.

I am talking about the Sony Bravia Domino City piece, shot in India and featuring a bunch of over sized coloured dominoes falling over through the streets and temples and ending in a large concentric circle of colour with the tag "Colour Like No Other".

This all started with a spot which launched the Bravia range of TVs for Sony called "Bouncy Balls" (if you watch it plug your headphones in and turn it up loud as the music is half the impact) I am sure you have seen and heard of this stunningly simple and highly awarded TVC which saw the agency dump 250,000 bouncy balls down a San Francisco street and film it to creative a haunting and human ad about colour with the tag; "Colour Like No Other". You can read me banging on about it on another blog I used to write here (yes it's an external link so make sure you come back).

The spot was so successful and awarded (it won a gold at Cannes in 2006 and the Grand Prix at the Midsummer Awards in London) other agencies have made attempts to extend the idea with varying successes but none has captured the spirit of the original.

You may have seen Rabbits (arty and clever but lacking), Pyramids
(which seemed to try to replicate the original - you know throwing colourful things down a steep incline) and Paint (this one was kind of clever and on brief but I don't think it ran in Asia).

However the latest Domino City spot really is the death knell for the idea. It seems like an unnecessary stretching of the idea, in fact it's kind of silly(yes, but not only that seems poorly executed with the dominoes looking kind of tinny and unsubstantial an in general I think there are travel network interstitials that engage me much better than this.

In the end it's a bit of a mess and looks little more than an expensive way to get a production crew, the agency and (hopefully since it's on their tab) the client, to see India.

This idea is dead, it's time for a new position for Bravia Sony.

If you think I am wrong and this spot will sweep Cannes next year, or you think the Bond piece is rubbish, I'd love to hear your counter viewpoints.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Proximity strategy ...

"Was there? Were there people shaking their heads?" jury head Ronald Ng responded to questions.
It was the tailend of the 30th Kancil Award Festival - at least for the press who stuck around to speak to the agency who scooped up the Golden Kancil as well as the most number of awards at the event at the Sunway Resort and Spa hotel on Friday.
The rest were ready to call it a night or head to the after-party at a smoke-free club next door.
For those who were at the event, please refrain yourself from reading the next two words - BBDO/Proximity Malaysia held the spotlight for almost all the categories that were up for grabs.
The hall howled and cheered everytime the name was mentioned and truth be told, there were indeed a few spotted shaking their heads at 12 Gold, 4 Silver, 11 Bronze and 15 Merit mentions.
Naturally, suspicion would arise from across the board as Ng also happens to be the executive creative director for the agency.
Almost immediately, he said: "The chief judge does not vote, you know?"
And bless him for being honest and there was truth when he quipped: "It would have been great if everyone wins."
"I think they were happy for us ... They were happy," Ng convinces.

Maybe it was strategy that BBDO/Proximity secured that many successes by submitting more entries for the categories.
Perhaps it was really good work as judged upon by the panel of international creatives without having been put pressure or persuaded by Ng.
But really, Ng says and this was affirmed by Creative Director 'MUN', the team broke their backs to gain the recognition.
"It recognises all their efforts ... Staying till 3am and 4am to work on these pieces, it makes it worth it for them," he adds.
Let's face it, it's human nature to take favour on those under your wing but then again, it's the same human nature to play the blame game when all it really is boils down to pure luck and good work.
Que sera sera ... The deal's been done, the certificates and recognition's been given out. There's no point crying over spilt milk, as the saying goes.
Maybe next year the other agencies should learn the trick - more entries and quality work as tipped by the forces that be.
Whatever is said and done, kudos to Ng and BBDO/Proximity general manager and 4As Creative Excellence Committee head Jennifer Chan on the job well done.
The 30th Kancil Awards Festival was an amazing month-long journey with many a lesson on creativity and change but most of all, I think everyone's mostly relieved it's come to the end.

Eds note:
Check out the video below to see the electric atmosphere at the event in general and to see BBDO picking up one of their awards and a few other pics from the night.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Watch Not Far From Here and savour Nasi Kandar

The Kancil Speaker Series 2008 had a few enlightening moments, with two individuals who are worlds apart. It was during a session where the speakers highlight on an interesting topic - change. 

Firstly, the film maker. Just one look you can sum up that he is a composed individual with great intellect, BUT please don’t judge this ‘book’ by the cover. He is far from composed; he lives in the past and constantly believes that the world might come to an end anytime.

Ho Yuhang, a renowned, award-winning film maker who won awards for documentaries such as Semangat Insan: Masters of Tradition (1999) and Not Far From Here (2001) also won Special Jury Prize at Nantes for feature film Min (2006), and the NETPAC award in Pusan for Sanctuary (2004).

For a guy who made a name in the film industry, with other noted film makers, such as James Lee, he does not believe that he has gone through any changes – be it personally or professionally. However, Yuhang ‘ambiguously’ touched the topic of change. I don’t know if he realised it but somewhere down the road he had an epiphany that made him take a giant leap – from an engineering to film making.

Without any money to produce a film, he started off simple by working as a production assistant and ripped off the company by utilizing the books and made photocopies of it for future reference. “They had lots of paper and not going to use all of it” was his excuse.

Reading and writing script to land on a big break was all he did unlike others in the company who had a fair share of fun.
He is also an atheist but luck was shining down on him as he received a call to make his first film, and finally won an award later on after a few rejections.

From then on, revenue was tangible, and fame followed, luring him to make more films and writing more scripts.
The other guy, who very much believed that he went through positive changes in his business, made it very clear that there is more to come. Sirajuddin Mydin, managing director of Kayu Nasi Kandar flew all the way from Penang to tell the audience that we should not be deceived into eating any other nasi (rice) kandar that claims the originality. Because there is only one original recipe that comes from Penang and it uses about 39 special herbs and spices to make this mouth-watering nasi kandar (and no drugs involved, mind you – it is a common misconception among Malaysians).

Sirajuddin has many ideas that he would like to put forth. Among them are opening a fast food conceptualised restaurants and be consistent in branding.

As a noble man he takes interest in others’ comments and critics, and to ensure good quality, he savours the nasi kandar almost every day.

Unlike the 39 recipes, his recipes for success comes down to three - be consistent, committed and constantly keep an open mind. Adding to that Cs is evidently change. He believes change is vital for an industry to move forward. With that he creatively lures more people to enjoy a fulfilling nasi kandar.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Speaking of change ...

The many hands behind the 30th Kancil Awards Festival were spotted with a pasted smile, keeping their spirits uplifted and convincing themselves 'it's coming to an end'.

Lining the walkways and entrance of the Sunway Resort and Spa Ballroom which will house the awards night tomorrow, were the entries of the finalists who will be awarded at tomorrow's event which is expected to draw a big, big crowd.

It was 9am and the beginning of the Speaker Series - an annual event organised at the Kancils - featuring local influential figures who would speak and keep to the theme of 'Change the Game' throughout the various industries in the country, including the world of politics.

Representing the field was former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek (left) who did what he did best (I found myself nodding a lot) which was convincing the rakyat (constituents) of the change needed in the administration of the country.

The pattern is one that can seem to be very familiar with - especially when the general election looms (here, it's every four years). And yet, some of us would not be bored to tears listening to what may be rhetorics of the 'needed revamp of the system and the need to discard the ethno-centric mentality and get on with issue-centric administration idea'.

Bravely stating his opinion about how '
ketuanan Melayu' (Malay supremacy) - which is a sensitive term to be played around with or even mentioned by the Chinese, Indians and other races in the country - should be done away with, Chua said it was the solution towards making Malaysia a true melting pot.

Chua took to the podium first before Ho Yuhang (independent film director), Sirajudin Mydin (CEO of Kayu Nasi Kandar) and Carl Zuzarte (Head of Creative and Content MTV Southeast Asia) [pictured right to left] took the spotlight.

Before I get all political about today's event, the most prominent message was the fact that the advertising and creative industry had its own role to play in creating change in the country.

It took Yasmin Ahmad - Leo Burnett's ECD - to rattle the foundation with her benchmark work on Tan Hong Ming In Love.

Tan and his girlfriend Qazrina (a Malay) took international fame with even scoring Malaysia's first Cannes Lion Gold in the film category at the Cannes Festival.

In Malaysia, it was recognised as an effort to break away from the mode of racial cliques - even at the primary school level (Tan's seven) - as Yasmin recently said before being inducted in the 4As Hall of Fame.

"There is a dark side of advertising which is the same in the business of when a woman with a lot of flesh feels ugly and (other such instances).

"If the country can come out of this and in a gentlemanly manner, when we realise that people are people regardless of skin colour, size or race, I don't care if we never win another international award," she said.

This was further emphasised at the panel discussion, after lunch.

The two-hour discussion was moderated by renowned human rights lawyer who is also known as one of the most-hated Muslims in the country (because he was defence counsel for Lina Joy who lost a court case in a two-to-one decision that she could not remove the word Muslim from her identity card) Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who is seated in the middle of the picture of the panel below.

Providing their voices and opinions with him were Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly (Celcom Malaysia CEO) [first from left]; author and Asean issues consultant Karim Raslan [last from left]; theatrical figure and Instant Cafe Theatre artistic director and writer Jo Kukathas [second from left]; and the very quiet Benjamin Yong (CEO of Delicious Group) [fourth from left] who probably didn't feel like he fit in.

Each had their say - metaphorically or not - about the need for change as time ticks away and change is somewhat forced as it is part of evolution.

Shazalli who was recognised by Datuk Vincent Lee, President of 4As, as someone who did not recognise people by race but as another person, took a swipe at a recent festive season advertisement which centred on a particular race instead of emphasising on a multi-racial value of production.

"The most crucial point to do something different and build an insight is at the point of the brief where the agency is the one comes up with a clear idea," he said, daring the players of the industry who were present to an idea of a "Char Koay Teow Day or a Mee Rebus Day" that challenged the typical norm of "a one-race" focus in advertisements come festive seasons.

"I'd be more than happy to support anyone of you who can come up with one celebration day that does not denote the difference between races," he said.

The end message for the participants to take home were that advertising agencies have the power to change the game and it was possible for the industry to reflect values of a multi-racial society on behalf of their clients.

Personally, it's nothing new that's been said today - except the fact that the advertising industry may perhaps have to shoulder the burden of being forces of change in the country - but I'll go home knowing that there are still a handful of politicans who talk sense.

Then again, I wonder if they really mean what they say or they're just winning favour. It's all in the game but if you check your side of the court, you'd probably find the ball there.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where's my cabbie's valuable brand award?

Just got in from Malaysia's Most Valuable Brands awards at the PJ Hilton, quite the hike from Bootleg central but one cabbie, who is trying to rebuild Malaysia's customer service reputation one fare at a time, made it worthwhile. Yep sorry Andreas and Tony, left you guys with the RM40 thief mine insisted on using the meter, bless him.

Anyway, good event and great to see the industry out in force to support the biggest (and...well the biggest spending) brands in the market. If you missed it, the banks killed it, the national carrier did reasonable well as did the telcos, although despite pestering anyone who would listen I still didn't get a satisfactory answer as to why Maxis went from taking out the third slot in 2007 to dropping completely off the list this year.

Like all lists the most interesting parts of them aren't at the predictable top, any announcement for the number one position which starts "For the second time running..." is really only going to hold interest for the tables under the same tent as the winning brand itself, oh and for any agency looking to stable that brand, or at least be considered next time the marketer wants to rattle his AOR by calling a pitch or, for that matter, invited along on a fishing expedition if there is a chance the agency might get a chance to take its credentials out for some fresh air.

The more interesting results were CIMB, which scored, according to the Interbrand testing (I'd explain it but the explanation was a little too long and was, I was convinced, actively getting between me and my dinner so I tuned out of what I am sure was an excellent treatise on the methodology), added growth of around 84%.

Another was the dip that Petronas took, somewhere in the vicinity of a 47% negative growth, the company perhaps was expressing its disappointment, or rather attempting a shot at disinterest, when it sent a PR flack to pick up the gong, where many companies fronted top brass.

So are these awards, leading a week rotten with accolades of every variety and culminating in the Kancils, worth it?

You bet your shrinking ad budgets they are. Given the amount of creatively driven awards the industry endures in any one year on a local, regional and global level, the kind of award that recognises the card carrying, bill paying clients is well worth supporting.

It was excellent to see so many agency and media faces there and while the classical flute notes might not be the sound track to a good time in the minds of some in the industry it is a nice metaphor for the sobering months ahead.

As one excellent fellow who shall remain nameless (only because his name is buried in a stack of to be sorted tomorrow cards) told me tonight the ability for a marketer to show real year-on-year growth in the value of brands and therefore evidence that the marketing budget is actively working, will be highly valued as the economic situation tightens in Malaysia.

However any marketer concentrating tonight a little too much on his delightfully tender chicken and not enough on how he is going to tie his team's efforts directly to the Most Valuable Brands win, is likely to be just as bad off as a marketer attached to a brand which didn't win an award.

The bosses need constantly reminding of how brands grow in value and get awarded for that - through marketing, it doesn't just happen because you're nice to the organisers or pay enough.
Don't get me started on those branding awards.

Good night.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's a blog

A big welcome to advertising + marketing Malaysia magazine's (A+M) official blog
where you'll find opinion, ideas, interviews, photos and footage from the team.

While we are busy putting together the launch edition of Malaysia's freshest title for the marketing, agency, media and online business community, check back here to see what we're up to.

We hope to see you out and about as we go around getting to know everyone and I have to say a big thanks for the overwhelming positivity about our arrival on the scene.

Meanwhile (pic) here's part of the A+M team hard at work brainstorming covers in our KL office along with visiting editors from Marketing Hong Kong and Marketing Singapore teams last week.

As you can see it's all hands to the pump to bring our latest addition to the legitimate Marketing Magazine Group into the world.

Cheers for now.


PS don't forget to check out our market leading site and our sister blogs the pitch and the pitch hong kong.