4As’ big push for growth

Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) president Andrew Lee

PETALING JAYA: At a time when the unfavourable economic prospects seem obvious, the advertising industry, represented by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As), is marching forward to help spur its growth and its importance to the Malaysian economy.

4As is working towards building the industry amid the slower economy, which is further hammered down by the spike in Covid-19 cases in the country.

In an interview with StarBiz, its president Andrew Lee said: “What we are working on is our advocacy for the industry. The 4As has led an unprecedented initiative to develop and submit a joint memorandum on behalf of the Malaysian advertising industry, to the Ministry of Finance (MoF), with the MoF agreeing to table the petition in preparation for the upcoming Budget 2021.

“The two key reliefs we seek for locally based and Malaysian-owned companies are firstly, a sales and service tax (SST) exemption from July 1 to Dec 31 for this year and from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2021 for advertising spend/costs.

“Secondly, double deduction relief of advertising expenditure incurred by local owned companies to be exempt from claims submission and extension of qualifying criteria for tax deduction, in light of the marked reduction in advertising spend this year.”

Lee added that this was not all. The association would continue to promote good practices throughout the industry, he said, noting that 4As would not be silent when it encountered bad practices and value-destroying behaviour. For example, he said with advertisers placing unreasonable or unethical demands on agencies.

The association was successful in explaining its strong stand against advertisers who organised pitches with unreasonable short timelines, rogue advertisers who claimed ownership of ideas and work during a pitch, and government linked-companies (GLCs) who demanded a tender fee, and 4As had demanded that they change their ways.

Lee reiterated that 4As is driven by purpose and the ultimate goal of success is to deliver on the promise that it gives to its members.

Its purpose is to provide industry guidance and leadership, to raise standards and professionalism, to foster continuous professional development and retention of agency talent, to promote commercial creativity and its effectiveness, and to be the government’s principal information source and advisor on advertising.

Lee added: “We address each of these objectives in varying proportions each year, but serving these objectives consistently will steer us through the tough times and propel us towards sustainable growth and inspiration for our industry.

“Now is the time to reset and prepare for life amid the pandemic. Firstly, the effectiveness of our work will be more than ever in the spotlight.

“Our emphasis towards our member agencies has been to promote a culture of effectiveness in the industry and build the word effectiveness into the everyday language of agency and advertiser conversations.

“We started this culture when the 4As introduced the globally recognised, marketing-effectiveness competition Effie Awards in 2008.”

He said agencies that nurture creativity with an emphasis on effectiveness become more than mere intermediaries. They in fact, he said, become true business partners and are valued for contributing to business performance.

Agencies that can financially demonstrate advertising is the life blood of their client’s business growth are the ones that would sustain stronger client-agency relationships, he noted.

Secondly, Lee said with the ratio of marketing spend shifting inexorably towards online platforms, and given how rapidly the digital space morphs and evolves, it is obvious that member agencies need to develop fluency in the key disciplines to ideate and plan for effective, digitally-enabled marketing campaigns.

Everyone in marketing communications, regardless of their discipline, must understand how to develop digital-first ideas, he said.

In order to help strengthen capabilities, 4As CEO Khairudin Rahim said the association, via its strong five-year alliance with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) UK, has actively developed a world-class portfolio of in-person training by IPA UK endorsed trainers, and online training with exam-based qualifications that have, as of today, benefitted over 400 Malaysian practitioners.

These include the IPA Creative Directors Bootcamp, IPA Digital Performance Certificate and IPA Commercial Certificate, as well as the ongoing 7Es of Engagement free six-hour workshops about developing fluency in the key disciplines to ideate and plan for effective, digitally enabled marketing campaigns.

For senior-level practitioners there is the IPA EFF Test Certificate, he said. For mid-level practitioners, there is the soon to be launched IPA Effectiveness Essentials Certificate. Both qualifications provide a new set of lenses to see the right metrics, apply appropriate methodologies and think about marketing effectiveness early, rather than as an afterthought.

“We have also conducted since the movement control order (MCO) and the recovery MCO a series of free Zoom classes using IPA-endorsed trainers.

“This will also help in the current conditional MCO in view of the spike in the Covid-19 cases.

“Subsequently, we launched on the 4As website the ‘Advertising Insider’ collection of video tips by specialist trainer Paul Arnold. The videos include advertising related topics such as ‘How To Define An Idea’, ‘Evaluating Campaign Effectiveness’, and ‘Getting The Best Out Of Your Agency’, as well as general business topics such as ‘Techniques In Strategic Planning’, ‘Managing Stakeholders’ and ‘Storytelling In Organisations’, ” Khairudin said

Topics on self-improvement such as “Building Self-Belief And Esteem”, “How To Shift A Habit”, and “How To Work Effectively From Home”, as well as topics on people skills such as “The Art Of Delegation”, “Giving Feedback”, and “Managing Through The Power Of Coaching” are also covered.

Another batch of online training sessions in July, August, and September by Paul Burns included topics such as Making Creative Briefs brief and Creative Briefings creative, How to be the best Account Handler, and Selling creative ideas without the big sell.

This is an unprecedented 4As initiative to help members upskill their staff or repurpose their roles during times when training budgets are scarce, Khairudin pointed out.

The association, formed in 1971, is the Malaysian advertising industry’s foremost body engaged in promoting the value of advertising agencies in the marketing communications industry to advertisers, media, suppliers, government and the public.

It encompasses more than 60 home-grown and international member agencies who are the key players in Malaysia’s advertising industry.

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