Calling forth the human spirit


  • Business
  • Saturday, 12 Apr 2003

By M. HAFIDZ MAHPAR

NEITHER handphones nor computers are in sight. The latest Maxis TV commercial also shows no board meeting or people in business suits or trendy clothes. However, it does have a lot of acrobats. 

BBDO Malaysia Sdn Bhd, the advertising agency responsible for Maxis’ corporate advertising campaign, thinks such is the best way to cut through the clutter of hardware and lifestyle-focused commercials within the telecommunication category. 

As BBDO’s head of Maxis business unit Mariam Yusof Hashim says, “Maxis is interested in moving away from technology – all the gadgets – (in its advertising communications) because it is at the forefront of technology and whatever it does, the market follows as well irrespective of category. 

“There’re a lot of non-category ads looking like Maxis advertising, so one of the things that were very important for us was to create a different point of view, a cut-through piece of creative work.” 

To that end, the agency’s executive creative director Paul Regan and creative director (Maxis business unit) Mohamad Shah Mohamad Ali decided on using an analogy, rather than talking directly about technology, in order to convey how technology can improve people’s lives.  

Explaining the use of acrobats, Mariam says: “Maxis’ corporate philosophy is ‘Technology isn’t all that special. Life is.’ So it’s based on human aspirations. We picked acrobats because they’re finely tuned athletes who have to practise, practise, practise.” 

Telecommunication players, from 1995 till now, have been focused on setting up the network, says Shah.  

“The tech story has always been important – everybody wants to say they have the best coverage and all that – but now that the Maxis brand is familiar with the population, it’s an opportunity to flesh it out further.”  

He says: “We wanted to show Maxis’ philosophy in a simpler way that is really heartfelt and easily understood, without showing gadgets and people on the move.”  

Regan says that Maxis ads previously had been more lifestyle-based. “We showed the users within the commercials and we showed, in very literal terms, what technology empowered them to do. Now we’re using an analogy, and it’s a larger conversation.” 

The corporate image campaign, which broke on TV on March 31, is one of the two campaigns developed so far by BBDO’s Maxis business unit. The unit, formed last September as “an agency within an agency” to service BBDO Malaysia’s single biggest client, had focused on network quality in the previous campaign. 

“If you’re doing a corporate piece,” Shah says, “there is always a tendency to show your building, your people, everything about you but not what you’re giving to your customers. This spot is to reiterate the brand’s promise, why people go to Maxis.” 

The three important pillars for Maxis are network quality, innovation and customer service. The commercial allowed BBDO to mention all three in a single piece of communication, using acrobatic acts to represent each of these qualities. 

The new 60-second TV spot (with a 40-second cut-down version) features graceful performances from the Shanghai acrobatic troupe and Malaysia’s own artistic gymnast Nurul Fatiha Abdul Hamid, winner of three gold medals at the last SEA Games.  

The pleasant visuals are accompanied by a cappella version of evergreen 1980s hit “Only You”. 

Customer service (with a voice-over: “To serve with care and flexibility”) is symbolised by a hovering chair catching a triple-somersaulting girl and the elastic moves of several contortionists. 

“To connect with clarity and precision” (network quality) is represented by aerial stunts like a flying trapeze act as well as a balancing routine, while “to innovate with dreams and ideas” is conveyed through juggling acts. 

Nurul appears towards the end, twirling a ribbon around herself, as the voice-over sums up the whole advertising message: “We ride on technology to let the human spirit soar. Because at Maxis, technology isn’t all that special. Life is.” 

The spirit of aspiration, Mariam says, is very important because “that is what Maxis’s all about – aspiring to better things in life. That is what technology is all about.” 

She praises Nurul, who she says is as good as the acrobats in Shanghai where all the performances were shot.  

Mariam says: “She is an athlete, not a performer, but she is just as highly skilled and highly trained, and she represents the aspirations of not just Maxis but the country. We have very few young female gymnasts who have done so well”.  

Kudos also for the painstaking post-production work on the commercial, which gives the scenes a polished look befitting one of the country’s top brands.  

Letters of the alphabet – dynamic like the acrobats – swirl around the performers, forming the words as “service”, “quality”, “innovation” and “coverage”.  

And Nurul’s twirling ribbon emanates a spiral of light that segues into the commercial’s end-frame, which features a three-dimensional Maxis’ logo ensconced between the Petronas Twin Towers and nearby buildings. 

The BBDO team, Shah says, wanted the commercial to have “a simplicity of look”, yet with enough elements added in to give “a nice premium feel.”  

“A lot of times, there’s a tendency to overproduce by putting everything you want inside,” he notes. 

The new corporate image campaign, which also includes print ads and outdoor billboards, replaces Maxis’ campaign that promoted its network quality.  

The TV spot for the earlier campaign, aired from early February, shows a search and rescue team about to embark on a mission aboard a helicopter, and one of the members – played by singer-musician Amir Yussof – is nagged by his mum on the mobile phone. The traditionally dressed woman literally appears next to our hero, denoting how clear the call is using the Maxis network. 

BBDO, Mariam says, wanted to feature professions other than corporate ones. “There are other areas besides the boardroom. There are other professions out there that are just as noble and just as aspirational, more so in some cases.” 

“Times are changing,” Regan adds. “Values have changed significantly all around the world in the last three years and advertising should reflect that.” 

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