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Insight
Apr 10

How Malaysian brand and agencies are evolving their Ramadan executions in light of COVID-19

Marketers worldwide are deferring their planned campaigns as a result of COVID-19 and a recent study by WFA found that 79% are creating new messages that respond directly to the impact of the crisis on consumers’ lives. In Malaysia, the pandemic could potentially to coincide with the period of Ramadan and Hari Raya, one of the important festive seasons in the country during which brands commonly produce campaigns to celebrate the festivities. Currently, Malaysians are made to stay at home due to a Movement Control Order (MCO), and everyone is awaiting with bated breath as to whether it will be further extended after 14 April.

With much uncertainty surrounding the economy, the fate of Ramadan and Hari Raya campaigns is still up in the air. One brand to carry on with its festive campaigns is Telekom Malaysia (TM). In a phone conversation with A+M, Izlyn Ramli, TM’s VP, group brand and communication, said regardless of the current situation, its Ramadan and Raya campaigns will continue to celebrate the spirit of reflection and gratitude.

However, she said the team is also mindful that they need to be creative to cut through the clutter, especially on digital media, where brands have been flocking to in an effort to capture consumers’ attention. One way to do so is to look at what consumers are doing, for example. Izlyn said TM’s focus is to always push out meaningful messages.

Now more than ever, we need to be authentic. As a brand, we want to remain true to who we are and keep people connected.

She added that timing is also paramount as brands need to deliver the right messages at this time. “We will see plenty of themes around celebrating humanity and remembering the frontliners,” Izlyn predicted.

Instead of reducing its ad spend during this period, the telco has repurposed its advertising and promotion budget for CSR initiatives. These include PSAs for consumers to stay home. With most consumers remaining at home during the MCO period, the main channels of focus for TM include print, TV, social media, EDM, direct mailers as well as videos that are shareable on WhatsApp.

“We want to be useful to Malaysians and have them stay home, keep them entertained and stay connected. We want to focus on being of value instead of pushing sales and hard selling,” Izlyn added. Some of the initiatives TM has taken include PSAs on ways to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 news, tips on picking up new skills when at home, and how consumers can remain occupied with unlimited data and entertainment with unifi Home.

Separately, a spokesperson for QSR Brands said it wants to lead with purpose during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We understand that the upcoming Ramadan and Raya period is an extremely important season for Malaysians. Throughout this season, our commitment remains – to provide Malaysians with delicious, fresh and safe-to-eat food, without compromising any values and quality in our services,” the spokesperson said. QSR is also now busy developing special Ramadan and Raya promotions for both KFC and Pizza Hut Malaysia, which will be announced soon.

Proving the real value of advertising

Like TM, agency heads A+M spoke to said they are currently working with clients to ensure the brands demonstrate real value during such trying times.

From a media buying standpoint, MediaCom Malaysia is working with clients to rethink the entire chain of marketing communications to go fully digital. This is especially important since there are restrictions on some of the fundamental activities of Ramadan, such as community prayers, open houses, and travel. GM Saurabh Chandrashekhar told A+M that for most of its clients’ products, relevance increases during this period of Ramadan and Raya, and consumption does see a spike. Therefore, there will still be “a concerted effort” to market these products.

“What is definitely going to be restrategised, is the ‘how’, where we are working with our clients to crack marketing and communications to be extremely thoughtful, empathetic, that completes the loop in a no-friction delivery of the promise,” he explained.

The considerations taken by Chandrashekhar’s team revolve around a few fundamental questions:
– Are we solving a real issue for the consumer or are we just entertaining them?
– What do we need to equip ourselves with in order to deliver what we promised?

When these questions are kept in mind, Chandrashekhar said it becomes easier for the team to think about ideas.

Meanwhile, Trapper Media Group is also sending more digital proposals and discussing with OOH media owners for extensions for loss of visibility and exposure due to reductions in traffic count – but this it says, is bound to spike once MCO is over. The agency is also seeing clients requesting for virtual event ideas and plans. That said, it boils down to the clientele. For the agency, FMCG clients are still spending as normal because most products are still listed as essentials during the MCO, but media selects have changed with more home-based mediums are being considered. Trapper also tries to leverage on co-branded partnership between clients for Ramadan and Raya campaigns.

“It is a tough period and some of our clients fall under the essential category during this period, and we realise that certain available mediums do have an emotional attachment with consumers to drive top of mind recall,” the team added. As for those that are directly affected by the MCO, Trapper said the more appropriate response is to wait it out as it is going to be “for a short time more”.

While a “wait and watch” philosophy is generally prevalent, Invictus Blue’s chief digital officer, Abhishek Bhattacharjee, said clients who are still activating their festive campaigns are doing so by adapting and conceptualising communications which add value to everyone, rather than pushing products. He added brands, in these times, play a very important role in deciding what to communicate as the mouth piece of information, content or entertainment.

Also, Bhattacharjee explained that this is a unique opportunity to purposefully demonstrate the real value of advertising as not being primarily a sales promotion medium. Instead, it advertising can be used to promote meaningful dialogue between a brand and the population and have more of a symbiotic co-existence.

Seldom do we come across times like these when the entire population has the same thing on their mind.

“That is our biggest consideration – the fact that there are greater sentiments at play than the contest, campaign video, new product line up or the new menu,” he said. If the campaigns do not add value to these macro-sentiments at large in some way, be it through uniting people, or supporting people, or in any other meaningful manner, Bhattacharjee said perhaps it is not the right message at this time

He added that during this period, there are daily micro-level insights that emerge, which were never prevalent before, such as cooking at home everyday, socialising on video, and working out virtually. These are the factors that the team at Invictus Blue consider when brainstorming for campaigns. Bhattacharjee said a keen understanding of these insights is what will drive great ideas and meaningful conversations or even humane gestures in the least.

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Empathy a key theme

During trying times such as this, brands walk the fine line between remaining relevant and being seen as opportunistic. In view of this, it is important to for clients to take on a more authentic, nuanced and empathic approach on how they can celebrate the festive season through this “new normal” lens, Ogilvy Malaysia’s chief executive Nizwani Shahar said.

“Much speculation surrounds the MCO in relation to Raya. Regardless, we recognised very early into the MCO that there would be a shift in the cultural implications of how we will experience and celebrate the festive season,” Nizwani said. She added that the agency is tapping on its consumer insights and data discover, to plot trends and develop a clear point of view on what brands can do this festive season.

“A big consideration is empathy. We need to assess and understand if what we are doing is right given consumer sentiments and also the mood of the nation,” Nizwani said. According to her, this allows the agency to define a clear role for the brand to play in helping Malaysians experience the best of the occasion. She also encourages brands to constantly communicate and be omnipresent during this time. However, the agency is also vigilant that the manner in which a brand behaves and speaks can make a difference between being relevant or opportunistic.

Similarly, FOREFRONT’s group chief business officer, Parames Dorai, said its clients are shifting the focus of their Raya campaigns to be more empathetic, helpful and community-driven. Initiatives such as #KitaJagaKita, established by Malaysian author Hanna Alkaf to help vulnerable communities, are rallying Malaysians from all walks of life. With that in mind, Dorai said its clients are pushing for Ramadan and Raya campaigns that are more community-driven, to provide support to the people in need.

“In that vein, campaigns have been scaled back about 50%. Ramadan or Raya open houses are also put on hold to abide by possible government restrictions on mass gatherings in the coming months,” Dorai added.

She also said that instead of simply emulating successful festive campaigns in recent years, brands and clients should be observing, listening, and adapting to what consumers need to see and hear during this time. “Ramadan or Raya ads this year don’t have to be devoid of the festive spirit and acts of piety. Rather, we can focus on ads that aim to spread love to vulnerable communities and focus on the preservation of life, a key aspect in Islam,” Dorai explained.

Also weighing in on the issue was Kingdom Digital’s head of client servicing Lui Xiao Yee, who said the agency is consulting with clients accordingly on how best to proceed. “We want to make sure that the content we produce for our clients are not only in line with their brand image, but also relevant to their audiences’ feelings and needs currently,” she explained. For the upcoming Raya festivities, Lui said clients in the essential services sector are moving ahead with their planned ad spending. On the other hand, those that are impacted by the MCO, however, are currently restrategising their online presence to fit into the current narrative.

Types of content the agency is currently helping clients to push out include stock replenishment, operating hours, and updates on government announcements and guidelines. It also wants consumers to remain upbeat during this challenging period through fun and engaging content, including self-enrichment.

Besides being more authentic and providing value, brands are also even more active on digital as it has proven to be an effective medium to target consumers who are often at home. “While most of our clients are occupied with the current MCO and change in business mode, there are still a few who are asking us to continue pushing Ramadan and Raya campaigns digitally, while ensuring the messaging is sensitive to today’s context,” Casey Loh, creative chief at The Clan, said.

Despite this being a challenging time for the adland as clients are slashing their spending, The Clan is still taking very brief that comes its way as an opportunity to challenge the status quo and introduce newer innovations, to not just join the conversation but also be part of the solution, Loh explained.

“It’s all about making a difference to those affected by the MCO and the COVID-19 pandemic. So while top of mind awareness is important for brands, affinity is really what we are aiming for in these difficult times,” he explained.

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Insight
Mar 18

Malaysian agency heads react to 2-week lockdown

Malaysia has kicked off its two-week lockdown until 31 March. Since the announcement was made on the night of 16 March, businesses, schools and citizens had 24 hours to put in place work from home measures. Firms in Singapore were also scrambling to find accommodations for their Malaysian employees before the lockdown was officially in place, multiple media outlets including The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia reported. This is the first time Malaysia has implemented the Movement Control Order, which sees travel being restricted, banning of movement and assembly nationwide, as well as closure of schools.

A+M speaks to agency heads on how the two-week lockdown will impact the local advertising industry.

Sandeep Joseph, CEO, Ampersand Advisory

The two-week restriction of movement is extremely necessary for health and safety reasons.

This is one of those times when advertising and business must take a back seat compared to health and life itself.

The ad world will adjust, as it always does. Work from home, conference calls, collaboration tools, greater understanding and flexibility are the order of the day. Paradoxically, I see clients and agencies potentially getting closer as we all work through the same challenges.

To me, what is interesting is what comes after 31 March. Will this lockdown change the way we work for the better? I hope so! It could hopefully lead to less unnecessary proforma face to face meetings, more clarity in written communications, less time spent commuting, more flexi-work in terms of locations and hours, more focused conversations and virtual meetings.

Financially, 2020 is definitely going to be a very difficult year for everyone: consumers, businesses, agencies, media owners. To survive, one must be prudent, confident, go the extra mile and reinvent how we work and deliver. Value your people and trust them to deliver. Partner your clients and go the extra mile. Relook, revisit, reset, reimagine. And take difficult and necessary decisions when needed.

Tania Tai, managing director, DIA Brands Consultants Malaysia

The impact of the two-week lockdown is far more devastating in these times, especially when the economy has yet to fully recover from the prolonged recession. It will be tough days ahead for businesses, as they grapple with ongoing fixed overhead costs without any incoming revenue. This is when, we will realise that the only way to fight the disruption brought on by the outbreak, is to disrupt.

Resilience to tahan (endure) will come from these sources: organisational agility, radical innovation and the Internet of Things.

When times are good, it’s easy to be a star, but when times are bad, these will be the defining moments for the true character of the brand to shine. Following closures, the Viennese opera and The MET opera have started live streaming of performances for free to connect with audiences around the world. While closer to home, M Group has reached out to help the marginalised tide over this period with free meals. So the big question for brand owners: what will these tough times say about you?

Prashant Kumar, founder and senior partner, Entropia

COVID-19 will affect out of home consumption dramatically which includes restaurants, travel, hospitality, outdoor entertainment, and sports and others. However, it is expected to provide a big boost to in home consumption and delivery businesses across FMCG categories.

Semi-durables and durables purchases are expected to get affected as people postpone their purchase decisions focusing on the new living paradigm. Healthier alternatives within different categories are expected to explode in demand, so it is a big opportunity for advertisers to rapidly move to help people lead healthier and more immune lives. In terms of economy, and hence short term consumption levels, the worst affected segment will be casual blue collar workers – a huge segment – who may not have the security of a regular salary and permanent contract to tide over these times. This can dampen consumption unless policy makers take hard steps to help them.

Eventually, as per a Harvard study, the virus is expected to infected almost 70% of the global population. However, between those who will suffer from its expression and those where it may not show any symptoms, the difference will lie in immunity levels. So it is now time for relevant brands and categories to bring right solutions to the fore. The net multiplier effect of all that is happening around the world in addition to US China trade war, slowing Chinese economy and disrupted supply and demand chain, may precipitate a major recession resetting growth curve.

At Entropia we have a complete lockdown in effect with all business being conducted virtually since Sunday evening for next four weeks. We welcome the government’s decision for a two-week lock down. In the long run, it is clear that we need a global health regime with deeply co-ordinated contagion response protocol, that can effectively anticipate, isolate and resolve similar or worse contagions unfolding in future. Such a protocol will need to involve public bodies, civil society and businesses in a highly interoperable control systems.

Shaun Tay, co-owner and CEO of FCB Malaysia

Forced to rethink and adapt on the fly, the restricted movement act will be a true test of an agency’s character and culture.

Agile, adaptable and fundamentally sound cultures will preserve.

This fact is not new but this situation does pull a spotlight onto what we call the new normal of business operations in uncertain times. With flexibility and adaptability at the core of FCB KL’s culture we’ve always tried to be one step ahead of the situation. For example, being the first major agency to switch to a co-working space for location flexibility and to implement a work from home or off site policy even before the government restrictions came into play.

Andrew Lee, group MD, Havas Malaysia

Situations like these challenge us. They put us in a position of making decisions that we have never made before. The first and foremost priority in these uncertain times is safety. The lockdown in Malaysia may be disruptive to businesses but it will save lives.

The temporary financial losses are minor inconveniences compare to the lives we can save.

Our clients are also facing the same challenges and pressures that we are. They need us more than ever right now, and we are committed to help them navigate uncertainty, pivot plans quickly and to offer them support.

Dorothy Fong, founder and CEO, IDOTYOU

The two-week restriction on movement has definitely impacted our business. A number of scheduled production shoots over the next two weeks have now been postponed and some even cancelled. That said, our clients in the F&B and retail markets will still continue to operate partially with the allowance of deliveries, drive-thrus, and eCommerce services during this time. Hence, we expect to see a shift in marketing budgets to drive customers to purchase online, rather than a cut in budgets entirely.

Ryan Ong, CEO of Kingdom Digital

The two-week nationwide movement control order was a commendable move by the Malaysian government. As an agency leader, nothing is more important to me than the safety and health of my team. Hence, I am all for it.

I consider myself and my team to be very fortunate as our nature of business (digital agency) gives us the flexibility to work from home during these trying times. I believe the same can be said for other agencies or businesses whose work can be conducted online as well, as this means that the day-to-day could still be carried out.

Many, if not most, businesses are feeling the effects of the virus. Brands and marketers need to ensure they are adjusting their marketing strategy accordingly, which could mean reducing ad budgets or pausing certain ad campaigns. If one’s nature of business deals with items that are now flying off the shelves quickly or low in stocks, it is important to keep the ads and/or social postings up-to-date and communicate them clearly to customers.

That said, this partial lockdown will definitely affect workflow, deliverables, and revenue for not just us but all the other agencies as well, as brands and marketers err on the side of caution when it comes to marketing or advertising strategy. But I believe as long as we have a proper plan and infrastructure in place, maintain an open line of communication with our clients, alongside a committed team, we should be able to go through this difficult time.

Nizwani Shahar, chief executive, Ogilvy Malaysia

While the two-week Movement Control Order in Malaysia is necessary for us all to commit to social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve, it will see us all as Malaysians and advertisers having to adjust to a new normal. Activations, sampling, media events and campaign launches are the first to take a hit as we remove all public assemblies. Brands will now be over-indexing on in-home media increasingly (i.e. pay TV or free-to-air) while digital and social will be the platforms to be cluttered as brands fight for attention.

Brands that thrive and overcome this phase are those that provide service and value through these tough times.

Brands that speak to consumers and empathise with the situation. Most important for us at Ogilvy is to support our clients through these turbulent times. We are primed to do so and we have also been agile in our delivery to ensure our clients’ brands are able to pivot in messaging and marketing efforts without losing sight of its brand essence.

Casey Loh, chief creative, The Clan

We are establishing business continuity and contingency plans now and briefing the teams our standard operating procedure for daily reporting and brainstorms. As my partner, business chief Syed Nasir, has said too, this will really test our people’s ability to work remotely and efficiently. As we are all about people and collaboration, having to work remotely may limit the sense of synergy that we’ve always enjoyed at The Clan.

Though it is not something we have not done before, the circumstances now are different from having to call in for a brainstorm or video call a pre-production meeting. To constantly be in touch with each other while juggling clients’requests can be quite a challenge. However, having the right systems and team leads in place can make all the difference so we have to be agile enough to adopt a new strategy as the days play out.

I think in a way this Movement Control Order is a forced reset on the industry and how clients’ demands are met with more structure in place.

It is forcing the industry to rethink the way it interacts with each other and perhaps even do away with the multi-layered approval processes which can sometimes hinder speedier turnaround. And yet with all the tech and connections we have set in place for the way we keep track of things, I still think getting people to huddle together every once in a while is a great way to feed of each other’s creative energy and find a solution that would not be possible when working in isolation.

Now seems to be the perfect time to deploy even more dynamic tools that will help clients chart the progress of their campaigns and for team members to jump in and out of different milestones to save time and manpower. We are still in the midst of perfecting this ourselves so hopefully this will give us the insight we need to make the tool even better.

Sivanathan Krishnan, group CEO and founder of Trapper Media Group

The advertising industry in particular now has to adapt to new working conditions as well as the changing media landscape, albeit for two weeks. The understanding of how media is consumed in the next two weeks will make or break an agency or media owner. Media agencies will now need to find out or hypothesise which media is more consumed versus others.

With the stay home order, naturally, the consumption of TV and digital will see a substantial increase. TV3 saw almost 20% increase in ratings since the outbreak began in December 2019 versus March 2020. This period may be a high risk period for some advertisers, especially reserved ones. Campaigns may be postponed and cancelled, which is understandable, given the nature of their product and industry. However, there is an opportunity here for the industry to work together and show how we can elevate our clients’ brands and achieve their goals, not by capitalising on the outbreak and lockdown but to show that a brand cares for the well-being of the country and its citizens.

On the agency front, there is constant updates and huddle between team leads, their people and the management team. Minimal impact as the agency is agile since most of what we do is on cloud base, therefore we can work from practically anywhere. Our teams are in constant contact with clients thanks to Zoom and Google Hangout and, yes there are some campaigns that are affected but thankfully only minimally.

According to Darwin’s theory, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survive nor the strongest that survives. But the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to its changing environment. So who knows? We will find that in two weeks, people can actually work from home and yet deliver the goodies to clients and the organisation. As such, agencies will adapt. Customers who have never done anything online, such as ordering for food or essentials, will adapt and find true meaning to their understanding of technology. So we are positive that in all risks, there are opportunities abound.

Jules Nadan, agency director, 16TWO

It has become so important now, more than ever for agencies to be intuitive, adaptive and responsive to clients’ needs as well as shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviours. With people spending considerably more time at home on their phones or screens, and with their families, we can expect significant shifts in budgets to online, social, and OTT, etc. With that said, it is time to creatively and strategically challenge ourselves in terms of providing timely, relevant and contextual ads that best speak to our audiences at this point in time.

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Insight
Mar 13

Infographic: Is video content really king?

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Insight
Aug 06

6 Facebook do’s and don’ts to keep in mind

Running a successful social media account for your brand or business can be tough. Between planning content, posting content, creating attractive visuals, and responding to messages, your workload can add up, and it can be frustrating when your posts on social media go unnoticed!

As a social media agency, we are experienced in helping our clients manage their social media pages through content strategy and planning. Based on that, here are some of our recommended do’s and don’ts to best optimise your brand’s Facebook presence.

1. Know who your audience is.

Your brand’s target audience is arguably the most important point there is. Your messaging needs to be on-brand, but it also needs to be relevant to your audience to be effective. Firstly, you need to identify your target market, then learn more about who your actual audience is via social media analytics and social ad testing.

For example, ookyo, a telco brand with a mainly millennial audience, would require content that’s fun and eye-catching.

On the other hand, Sangobion, an iron supplement brand with a target audience of women from the ages of 25 to 45, would require messaging that’s more serious and informational.

2. Have a content strategy in place.

Everything begins with content strategy on a good social media page. Having strategy in place gives your brand’s content purpose, creates a strong identity for your brand, and will therefore strengthen the overall quality of the messaging that goes out to your target audience.

Having a dedicated social media strategy team that does in-depth research on your brand and its competitors is one way that could help your brand acquire a structured social media plan to produce relevant content.

Take a look at some of the pages that we manage for our clients with social media strategy in place.

3. Less is more.

It’s a common phrase for a reason. This applies to both images and your word count on Facebook posts!

Busy and cluttered images can distract your audience from your product(s). According to Facebook’s best practices, photos that have background space and are symmetrical and well-lit tend to gain better audience engagement.

How about words? Well, whether you’re referring to the text within an image or the text accompanying it, keeping it short is key to getting better audience engagement. You’ll need short, snappy, and a relevant message to get your audience to stop scrolling and pay attention.

For example, this Facebook post on the left would work better than the one beside it – it cuts through all the clutter and gets the message across.

4. The ideal video ad length is within 15-30 seconds.

According to Facebook, people often watch mobile videos in short bursts when they’re on-the-go. This means that you’ve got to capture your audience’s attention early, or else they’ll get bored and click away from content that doesn’t engage them. Therefore, it’s best to keep your videos short, preferably within 15 to 30 seconds, and mention your brand – or the point of your video – within the first 3 seconds. In a study done by Facebook, consumers were 23% more likely to remember a brand if it was featured within the first 3 seconds, versus 13% more likely if it was featured within the first 4.

Here’s an example of a video that we did for Haier Malaysia’s Facebook page:

5. Use hashtags in your post captions but keep quality in mind over quantity.

Hashtags on social media are used to categorise content, make it easier to discover new content, and gather social insights. Therefore, it’s important to know the most effective way of using them.

While hashtags work better on Instagram than Facebook, using the relevant ones on both platforms and less of them are key to better audience engagement. People tend to scroll past quicker if you #use #too #many #hashtags #that #aren’t #relevant. (See what we mean?)

Here’s how we incorporated a hashtag into the post caption to accompany a video posted on MyTOWN KL’s page.

6. Explore different post formats.

You can play around with different post formats as well. JPEG and generic video format posts work well, but it can create more audience engagement if you switch things up once in a while to include formats including but not limited to canvas, “tap to expand” posts, mini albums, 180° or 360° image posts, and polls.

Here’s an example of a 360° image post that we create as part of an engagement contest for EVA Air Malaysia’s Facebook page.

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