Facebook Follies

If I remember correctly, I registered for a Facebook account in end 2006. Back then I had just a few friends to ‘poke’ and even fewer who commented on my status updates. We raced cars and bikes, fed our vampires and played a very 2D-looking Texas Hold Em’.

Fast forward 3 odd years or so, my online playground has mutated into a sort of an institution. You don’t just keep up with your friends’ updates, you keep yourself entertained. You don’t just join the discussion, you join sub communities. And you don’t just play what everyone’s playing, you play games that represent almost every niche possible.

The intuitiveness of the interface, the ease of use and the fact that pretty much everyone you know is on Facebook have attracted almost 6 million Malaysian users. And that figure is only said to grow with more and more Malaysians above the age of 30 begin to set up Facebook accounts.

Facebook or time to FaceHell?
Facebook or time to FaceHell?

Now, when there are 6 millions living, breathing, socializing, interacting, poking people under a neatly contained, active system; it doesn’t take long to attract marketers to sell their wares. Hence you see the mushrooming of Brand Facebook pages in the past year or so. This is supposedly to show that these brands have embraced the digital age and are in-tune with the digital natives.

The sole objective of these pages is to get as many ‘Fans’ or ‘Likes’ to justify the marketing money being poured into the effort. So if Brand A has more fans the Brand B, it’s an achievement – or so you’d think. Marketers tend to forget that the number of people who ‘Like’ their page are more than mere numbers. These are real people who either are consumers or have some kind of affinity towards the brand. And like most consumers, they have lots to say.

When we have a vocal group of people/consumers with the power to comment on a brands’ activities, all hell tend to break loose. Just visit a Facebook brand page and study the wall posts and comments. You are sure to find disgruntled, opinionated and sometimes verbally explicit customers who’ve left their mark. These Facebook brand pages have become a channel to voice concerns (acceptable enough) to a plain free-for-all, angry venting area (not ideal). The worst part, everyone can see these comments and it will be hard wired in the Facebook ecosystem until it begins appearing in Goggle searches (Bad, really bad).

Deleting unfavourable comments will only add to the fire with comments coming in spicier and in greater numbers. Try to respond to a delicate customer dissatisfaction comment is tricky as a brand’s every move is being watched. Ignore a negative comment and you lose the respect of the community you’ve painstakingly built.

Facebook brand pages are now starting to put brands in a spot. While the ‘you can’t satisfy everyone’ adage holds true in a less social environment, Facebook pages has put the power into consumers’ hands. One disgruntled consumer can wreak havoc and invite a barrage of other consumers to share the limelight. Do this: wrong. Do that: wrong. Don’t do anything: wrong!

How do I know all these? I manage quite a few Facebook brand pages, so believe me, I know. And maybe in the next post I’ll reveal some pointers on how to manage Facebook brand pages. In the meantime, I have to deploy some evasive manoeuvres to counter another freaking, useless, totally effed up comment!


The Revolution Pt.2 of 2

The revolution will not be advertised.

The revolution will not make the account manager choose the clients over his colleagues. It will not make him say ‘yes’ to pretty much everything concluded by the client. It will not make him add a few more slides just to make the presentation look more credible. It will not make him do contact reports that will not hold the client accountable anyway. It will not make him sell ideas he does not believe in. It will not make him resort to MLM just to make ends meet.

The revolution will not make the designers become overworked drones. It will not make them take in the comments of art directors, copywriters and account managers, and then listen to none. It will not make them wish they’d listened to their parents and study accounting instead. It will not make them do freelance in the little time they have because they’re severely underpaid. It will not make them choose a competitor’s product just to spite the client when making a purchase.

The revolution will not make the advertising or direct marketing or interactive agency a marketing errand firm. It will not allow clients to judge creative work based on personal preference instead of the common marketing good. It will not make agencies spoil the market with ridiculously low prices just to get the job. It will not make the agency to pitch for a job without a pitch fee as prescribed by AAAA. It will not make advertising professionals among the least trusted professions in the world.

The revolution will not be advertised, because the revolution is alive. And it will not end with this post, as the revolution is in you.


Livin’ Up

Alright. To tell you the honest, brutal truth: I like this ad. It was amazingly shot, focused on a singular message and stirred the emotion. Ads like these are few and far in between in Malaysia, but it does seem that this piece of communication is a global effort coming from Shangri-La International.

Allow me, if I may, to repeat myself: I like this ad. However, nothing is perfect and it does present a few flaws.

  • The idea of a man freezing to death may not resonate with Malaysians. We are the type of people who drive up to Genting just to escape the heat if you know what I mean.
  • Equating Shangri-La’s hospitality with a pack of very friendly (and not surprisingly hungry) wolves is quite risky. It’s like saying “Shangri-La is intimidating at first, but we’re alright up close”.
  • The person in the ad – someone who’s lost in the arctic wilderness on his own – may not represent the kind of clientèle that Shangri-La is aiming for.

And most importantly is this:

  • The ad ends with this line: “To Embrace a Stranger as One’s Own. It’s In Our Nature. Brilliant, tactful and neatly encapsulates the storyline. But can they really, I mean really live up to the claim? This idea, which was conjured by the agency and fine-tuned by the marketing department is a general idea of the kind of hospitality one will receive upon stepping into the lobby of a Shangri-La. But will the bell boys and servers and housekeeping staff across the entire Shangri-La of the world embrace this level of service to its guests?

It’s easy to make a claim. But for a hotel chain as big as Shang, I think it would be a tough one to live up to. Can they guarantee that out of the thousands of guests they welcome, not even one will leave discontented?

Yup. I didn’t think so either.


Virtual Trust

My previous post got me thinking. Since advertising is among the least trusted professions, what form of advertising would be the most trusted? Yes, I agree that there is a sense of irony in the question, but it is a question worth asking.

If you’ve read some of my older posts, I talked about how the internet is changing the ad game. How what was hard and fast rules are being re-written. And how the advertising of the future may not look like an ad at all. I even went as far as to predict the demise of advertising as we know it in perhaps just a few years.

Recently I stumbled upon this piece of research from Nielsen:

The most and least trusted forms of advertising
The most and least trusted forms of advertising

The first on the list, garnering an exceptional 90%, are consumers who trusted recommendations from people they know. Well that’s quite a no-brainer. Peer-to-peer, word-of-mouth communications will and always be the most powerful form of advertising.

It’s the second and third on the list that’s quite interesting. Online consumer opinions and brand websites are the most trusted form of advertising, in an un-trustworthy industry. The 70% score is way better than the traditional TV and print ads. The poll results do seem credible. When was the last time you were convinced by a 30-sec TVC or a FPFC Centre-spread? But I bet you remember the last time you checked out a product or service online after your friend said something about it on Facebook though.

I now have proof that online consumers, especially in a social media setting, will become the holy grail of advertisers in the future. And I can also console myself that I am at least in the positive end of the advertising industry, where people trust my copy just a little bit more.


Ad-ness Madness

Which of the following profession is least trusted?

a)    Advertising Professionals

b)   Lawyers

c)    Politicians

I know, pretty close huh? Give it your best shot.

Anything? Trust me, it’s not a trick question. Go with your guts.

If you answered (a), then shame on you! Come on, we’re not that bad. The correct answer is (c), no surprises there really. So how do we ad pros rate? It’s disheartening that the people who work in advertising are less trusted than even lawyers. Yes, I work in the second least trusted profession, after politicians, according to an international research done recently by the GfK Group.

I stumbled upon this fact on a rather interesting website call stoptheadness.org. It’s pretty much an agency initiated drive to spread the word about bad advertising or b-advertising. Those irritating, offending, mind-numbing, privacy-trespassing communications that seem to be everywhere these days. And I must say I am guilty of quite a few of those in my time.

Stop the Ad-ness
Stop the Ad-ness

The site even outlines a pledge that industry professionals can sign, as follows:

To anyone who experiences my advertising, I respectfully promise to:

Always reward your attention with something that is useful, entertaining or informative.

Never bombard you with messages anywhere and everywhere just because I can.

Communicate with you in honest, real and authentic ways.

Constantly collaborate with you by really listening to your wants and needs, and responding with information that actually meets them.

Create, execute and deliver communications that are audience-appropriate and relevant to your life.

Enable you to share our messages with others who may also need them or who can help you make the best decision.

Help you investigate more deeply if you need more information to make the best decision.

Always recognize my responsibility to you and be considerate of your time, privacy and feelings.

Reinvent the social contract of advertising by creating communications you welcome into your life instead of avoid.

Yes, I signed it. But to actually practise it in day-to-day life, would be like promising not to use the word ‘free’ in my copy ever again. But it’s a start to become a more responsible ad person, although the paymasters would have more than a few words to say about this.

In the meantime, I’ll have to start working on my trust issues.


Where is the love?

Love for the brand seems suicidal
Love for the brand seems suicidal

Do clients realise what they are doing? Do they know the kind of repercussion it has when they set a ridiculous deadline? Don’t they know that the agency/client relationship is a two-way lane?

Are they doing it intentionally? Those irrational amendments, the last minute change of direction and the sudden additional information that screws up the whole layout. Are those petty, trivial, tiny, obscure comments to show whose in-charge even necessary?

Okay, just for the benefit of the doubt. Clients do have loads on their plates too. ROI, reports, post mortems, justification, analysis, sales, meetings, bosses, big bosses and many more responsibilities to shoulder. But does that give them the right to take it out on agencies.

Yes, we’ve heard of the customer/client is always right adage. But we do not sell a product and then forget about it. We are in the consultancy business, which often means full-time involvement. We’re in it for the long run, to grow together, to share the ups and downs… to essentially be a part of the brand.

It is that difficult to realise that we, the agency folks, are consumers too? We eat, buy clothes, go to the mall, own cars, get married, buy a house, plan finances, invest, have children, travel and do pretty much everything ‘civilian’ consumers do. We have our needs, wants and aspirations too. We, the marketing errand boys are in effect clients of our clients, now or perhaps in future.

If we start hating a particular client, we start to hate their brand. This kind of hate, is usually the one that lasts a lifetime. Even the brands we used to like suddenly doesn’t appeal to us anymore. And if we hate a particular brand, how on earth can we make others adore it?

Please guys, give us due respect. Nobody likes to be told how to do their job. Yes, we may screw up occasionally, but it’s part of the leaning process. We really, genuinely want the finest for your brand. If possible, we want to be in love with your brand: to honour, understand and cherish it. If we work for a brand we love, it means you’re getting the best from us.

Let’s make some love shall we?


Advertising & Politics

Somehow, advertising and politics are interconnected. They are both worlds apart, yet uncannily alike. They both have campaigns, ambassadors and a public persona. Appealing to the collective power or the people via mass communication is integral to the success of these two opposing fields. Political parties are like brands: both have logos, taglines, positioning and promise a more fulfilling life.

Here are a few more observations:

1. All images used are for illustration purposes only.

2. Terms & conditions apply, especially when there is a promise of a reward.

3. Campaigns come thick and fast, hit hard… then conveniently disappear.

4. Scams are a tradition, and sometimes earn applause.

5. The people who actually do the work hardly get the credit.

6. When gentle persuasion comes to naught, time for some hard-sell tactics.

7. Strategies are meant to outsmart the competition, and not to offer better products or service to the people.

8. Slogans, catchphrases and tag lines seem credible, yet hardly mean a thing when analysed.

9. Advertisers and politicians make headlines.

10. Misleading is an accepted business practice.

11. It’s all about telling the people what they want to hear.

12. The biggest market share is the holy grail.

13. Politics always use advertising.

14. There is always politics in advertising.

15. It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

Last but not least, advertising and politics are all about vested interests, which is essentially to take money out of the people pockets. Hmmm… maybe there a career for me in politics.


You know you’ve been in advertising for too long when…

Yes, it’s been a while. Work as usual has been coming thick and fast, and hence the mini hiatus. Anyway, this busyness business got me thinking. All these work and briefs and copy and clients are making me feel I’ve been doing this for far too long. And hence the following been-there-done-that points to ponder…

  1. You actually know how a SyQuest Drive looks.
  2. Cows remind you of a certain type of adhesive.
  3. You think Ronson lighter fluid cures all.
  4. You have a neat collection of mounting boards, cutters, double-sided tape and spray mount nicked from the office for personal use.
  5. You realise you haven’t seen an actual illustrator (a person) for yonks.
  6. You start to notice that clients get younger and younger and younger.
  7. You still subscribe to the print version of ADOI.
  8. You look at newbies and think “aren’t they in for a hell of a ride?”, then give them a sinister smile.
  9. You know almost half of all the colour separators, printers and translators in town.
  10. You know a client that has changed jobs 5 times and still keeps in touch.
  11. You start to pick out other ad-sters in a crowded mall just to kill time.
  12. You actually know the difference between AAAA and MAA.
  13. You get irritated by the ads on TV more than anyone else.
  14. You own 15 pairs of jeans, of which you wear only 3 to 4 pairs.
  15. You are an addict of one or more of the following: caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and the worst… work!

P.S.    Damn I feel ancient!


The Mamak Stall Syndrome

Like all things Malaysian – such as total disregard for punctuality and being suckers for free things – loafing at Mamak stalls while sipping Kurang Manis tea (which is still manis anyway) is a popular pastime. You could hang out at a Mamak with your best buds, your significant other or just by yourself. It has a universal appeal, quite comforting and always welcoming.

But what separates a good Mamak from a bad Mamak? The atmosphere doesn’t really play a part. Food across all, if not most Mamaks are quite consistent. And prices don’t differ much from one stall to another. When you think about it, it’s the level of service that determines which Mamak stall you frequent. It’s the rapport you build with the servers and how it takes only 10 minutes to tuck into your favourite greasy dish every time, no matter how busy they are. This however may not hold true for everyone, but I think quite a few of us could relate to this observation. Service is important to me anyway.

Now that I’ve some sort established what a good Mamak is, let’s look at the bad ones. Imagine this scenario:

Bang, mari bang. Duduk bang. Maggi goreng ade, mee goreng ade, nasi goreng ade, nasi lemak ade, roti ade, murtabak ade, western ade, tose ade, chapatti ade, semua ade bang. Minum ape pun ade bang, tongkat ali ade, fres oren ade, neslo, horlo, koteh pun ade bang!


Come brother, come. Sit brother. We’ve got fried instant noodles, fried noodles, fried rice, lard rice, greasy pancakes, stuffed greasy pancakes, western food, Indian pancakes, Indian toasted pancakes, all we have brother. Drinks also we have it all brother, ali’s cane (an aphrodisiac), fresh orange, nescafe+milo, horlicks+milo, coffee+tea also we have brother!

Hmmmm… strangely the English version is longer than the Malay version.

Anyway, after this friendly Mamak fellow advertises his offerings, which in fact confuses you further, he leaves you to deliberate while repeating the same thing to the next bunch of walk-ins. While this strategy packs in the customers, it leaves the already seated customers out in the cold. I’ve been to places where they don’t even bother to collect my payment as they are still busy preying on new customers. Needless to say, I’ve never been back.

Now a question. What do many businesses in Malaysia have in common with our common Mamak stalls? Yup, you guessed it. It’s this unhealthy fetish to attract new customers, while neglecting the ones they already have. Even when it’s common knowledge that acquiring a new customer is more expensive than retaining an existing customer. And the new customer may not even be as profitable when compared to an existing customer.

While advertising is critical to attract new business and for brand building, not giving due attention to existing customers could have dire consequences. Because in the increasingly wired consumer world, one unsatisfied customer could deter many potential customers, no matter how good your product, advertising or brand is. For the uninitiated, the process of endearing yourself to existing customers is called Customer Relationship Management or CRM for short. Serve well, keep in touch and reward your customers occasionally. They will show their appreciation via word-of-mouth to their peers, friends, family and acquaintances. And nothing beats that.

Teh tarik kurang kurang kurang manis satu!


The Revolution Pt.1

The revolution will not be advertised.

The revolution will not make the art director swear any more than he already does. It will not make him tell his children (if he ever has a social life to have any) never to become a designer. It will not make him make revisions just to get the job out of the way. It will not make him want to claw his eyeballs out when the clients wants the creative to be more colourful. It will not make him tired, spent and suicidal by the time he is 35.

The revolution will not make the copywriter thinking of becoming a chef. It will not make him stay up late writing lame scripts and short stories. It will not make him regurgitate copy written for another client about 2 years ago. It will not make him a go-to guy to write proposals, letters, memos and whatnot. It will not cause excessive substance abuse to calm frayed nerves. It will not make him contemplate a move to the ‘other side’.

The revolution will not make the creative director re-hash the same concept over again for different clients. It will not make him think that things were better and the new blood are all shit. It will not make him sacrifice great ideas for client preference. It will not make him want to open a quiet little pub with his life savings. It will not put him through the misery of another pitch where his team is just there to make up the numbers. It will not make him curse the client behind their backs.

The revolution will not be advertised, because the revolution is alive.

To be continued… by the way, no gender bias intended.