Advertising is not a top down business

  • Business
  • Saturday, 03 Apr 2010

WHEN I read the Information, Communication and Culture Minister saying, “There is too little of the Asean and Malaysian face on billboards in the country,” I couldn’t help but wonder if he was merely reading off a script.

Advertising is not about nation-building, even though politicians would like to think so. Advertising is about selling a product or a service. If it is done wrong, the brand will suffer and nobody wins.

So why don’t we cut ad people some slack here. Why pick on them at the slightest opportunity? Trust them to know what they are doing. They are consumers themselves.

Many Malaysians have been wooed to work in China because of their expertise and command of Mandarin, but fortunately many have also returned home with enriching experiences and more to share.

At a time when we are actively pursuing foreign direct investment into our country, figuring out how the message has to be structured is the last headache we need. We recorded a net investment outflow of RM24.9bil in 2009 and RM26.1bil the previous year.

Investors will not come if you say you can’t do this or that. They just won’t come.

Two weeks ago, broadcasters were busy justifying that they have ‘enough’ local content on air because they have been taken to task too: they have to air new songs by local artistes.

So if a leading telco brand prefers to sponsor a foreign artiste due to a large fan base, will that be a problem too?

In a ‘free market’ can you decree how much airtime should be allocated to commercials? Can you command operators how to earn their income and limit it at will? You can’t force feed this kind of stuff and expect everything to flourish in the name of economic good.

I’m a fan of Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim. A statesman who obtained his honours degree from the National University of Singapore, no less, and his PhD from King’s College London.

A distinguished gentleman who has served selflessly in so many government capacities.

He probably is doing the “right thing” being a politician and all but if he got the better of his good judgment he will see that we are all in this together. Malaysians have after 52 years become more than adept at doing the right thing than probably our neighbours.

Empower us to forge ahead with our collective wisdom and I’m sure the creative might of Malaysian advertising minds will endear itself to businesses eager to enter our market.

It is not necessary to meet the Malaysian Advertisers Association to “remind them to be fair and portray the Asean and Malaysian face.”

They represent reputable international companies doing healthy business in our country for decades.

Yes, my good Minister, advertising is not a top down business.

Harmandar Singh, a.k.a. Ham, is regional CEO of Sledgehammer Communications (M) Sdn Bhd.

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