PETALING JAYA: The Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) is commemorating 50 years of existence with a campaign that celebrates its stewardship of the advertising industry since its formation by a group of forward-thinking advertising professionals.
The association was formed on May 18, 1971. They advocated that the future of Malaysian advertising would be based on growing brands through creativity across strategy, ideas, content and media.
In the past 50 years, Malaysian agencies have produced some of the most recognised work locally and around the world.
The 4As organises and promotes several annual awards which serve a two-fold purpose – firstly as an incentive for the industry to continually raise the bar and secondly as a tangible measure of the power of the industry to reach the hearts and minds of the consumers.
The celebrated awards are the Malaysia Effie Awards, the global gold standard for marketing effectiveness, the Putra Brand Awards, also known as the “money can’t buy” People’s Choice Awards, and the Kancil Awards, Malaysia’s premier accolade for creativity.
“Throughout the years, we have always believed that in a world of product parity, the last unfair advantage a brand can have is the power of a high value idea from its advertising agency partners.
“This keeps being proven true, time and time again, when you examine every brand that became a market leader by winning over their consumers’ loyalty, and from accolades at leading industry awards.
“This is a consequence of properly practised creativity that altered consumer perceptions and behaviour towards the advertised brand. The 4As would continue to nurture the conditions that allow such creativity to flourish, and champion the value of advertising agencies through the purposeful delivery of the 4As objectives,” said 4As president Andrew Lee.
Another key pillar of the 4As work is to provide industry guidance and leadership.
From the outset, the 4As has taken on the role of serving as one of the government’s key information sources on advertising, providing objective inputs to influence fair regulations and avoid unwise decisions that might affect the industry negatively.
As a founding member of the Content Forum under the auspices of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the 4As together with other industry stakeholders, drafted the new advertising rules found in the Content Code.
These rules are applied to key issues such as the use of superlative and comparative claims, the use of religion in advertising, responsible alcohol advertising, the epiction of children in advertising, and more recently the use of social media influencers.
The rules were designed to level the playing field against irresponsible advertisers and promulgate the creation of legal, decent, honest and truthful advertisements.
To assist advertisers, the 4As has developed resources with best practice recommendations such as the Finding an Agency guide that helps advertisers to plan and execute a productive agency selection process and the Advertising Agency Remuneration guide that offers a range of options for advertisers to remunerate and incentivise their chosen agency.
Conversely, to assist member agencies, a Pitch Disbursement scheme has enabled agencies who are not successful in a competitive pitch to receive partial reimbursement of the pitch development cost, which is paid by the advertiser and deters the misuse of the pitch process.
More recently, the 4As has continued to be vocal against a spate of unethical demands of advertisers conducting requests for proposals including advertisers demanding the ownership of pitch ideas without compensation, or imposing tender fees at the Request For Information stage.
“When advertisers have a clear understanding of these issues, it allows for more productive advertiser-agency relationships. The 4As promotes good practice but does not hesitate to speak out when it comes to value destroying behaviour,” said 4As CEO Khairudin Rahim.
Investing in talent
The lifeblood of the advertising industry is its talent. The 4As has been at the forefront of measures to develop and nurture this talent through continuous professional development via training programmes for member agencies employees, as well as providing them with scholarships.
Since 2015, the 4As has formed an alliance with the UK’s Chartered Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA). This offers members access to an award-winning slate of globally recognised industry specific qualifications including the IPA Digital Performance Certificate, IPA Foundation Certificate, IPA Effectiveness Essentials Certificate, IPA Commercial Certificate and the IPA Advanced Certificate in Effectiveness.
The course content for these certificates are written and updated annually by international practitioners, with over 280 Malaysians having qualified to date, and 65 scholarships awarded.
Twenty of the scholarships have been for advertising lecturers from tertiary institutions, with the intention of providing them with access to up-to-date advertising topics not yet available to academia and relevant to practitioners.
The 4As also organises bespoke training programmes conducted by IPA endorsed trainers, on creative leadership, strategy and account management.
During the pandemic, the 4As provided access to 20 sessions of free online training for member agency employees who had to work-from-home. Two hundred and nineteen Malaysian practitioners benefited from the free upskill courses.
“Since its founding, the 4As has helped shape the country’s creative infrastructure allowing Malaysian agencies and their talent to thrive.
“The past 50 years is really a celebration of the originality and intelligence that will undoubtedly strengthen Malaysia’s creative economy for the next 50 years. The future belongs to creative minds because creativity is the new economic resource,” said Khairudin.
The 4As 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.
The association encompasses more than 50 home-grown and international member agencies who are the key players in Malaysia’s advertising industry.
It also helps grow the business of the member agencies and advance individual careers through the provision of professional development services, industry awards, advocacy and support.