Is it time to Tambi?

  • Creative Juice launches campaign urging Malaysian advertising agencies and brands to take the Indian community seriously as a consumer segment
  • Website issues call for agencies to submit work featuring or targeting Indians

Is it time to Tambi?A NEW website and accompanying campaign aims to shine the spotlight on the Malaysian Indian community, and their lack of presence in advertising considerations.
Launched just before Diwali (the Hindu festival of lights) which takes place on Nov 13 and called Tambi, short for ‘Tolonglah Advertise To Malaysian Born Indians,' the video-based website features local comedian Kavin Jay serving as the face of the campaign.
The website states that: "We figured it's about time someone made a fuss about why Indians aren't really featured in Malaysian advertising."
The campaign was conceived and executed by creative agency Creative Juice, which collaborated with The Greatest Hits, the same team behind PopTeeVee, to produce the video, script and music on the site, which took three weeks to develop.
Speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA), the agency’s creative director V.J. Anand said the campaign idea was borne out of years working in the advertising industry and sitting through countless meetings where the Indian community was never listed as a target audience, only the Malay and Chinese.
“I found it quite odd. There used to be a lot of advertising featuring and targeting Indians during the 1970s and 1980s, and even in 2003 there were some, but lately, the lack has become increasingly apparent,” said Anand.
“Overall as an industry, much of advertising has taken more of an aspirational approach in terms of its creative and messaging. Which is great but we’re also losing out on leveraging cultural insights to reach out,” he added.
He said the main aim of the campaign was to raise awareness on the matter, to collaborate with other advertising agencies in conceiving Indian-centric campaigns and to also urge brands to take a serious look at the Indian market in Malaysia.
“It’s something that many in the industry already know about and before it was all just talk, but we want to bring the issue out into the open,” he said.
Creative Juice is no stranger to overtly bold campaigns, having made a name for itself with broadband and 4G service provider P1’s ‘Sudah Potong?’ campaign back in 2009.
A former public relations consultant who has worked on cross-discipline campaigns with advertising agencies shared with DNA his experience when working on a marketing plan for an instant noodle company for its new variant.
The brief presented stated that the target audience was "60% Malay, 40% Chinese," but after discussions with his team, the question, “Shouldn’t there be an inclusion of Indians?” was asked.
The client's response was simply, “No, our target is only the Malay and Chinese markets.”
“I’ve have sat through so many marketing discussions and none ever considered having Indians as a target audience. It always goes back to numbers, statistics and purchasing power. It felt like the clients were oblivious to the potential of the Indian market,” he said.
Truth, lies and advertising

Girish Menon, chief executive officer of media agency GroupM Malaysia, concurred with the campaign’s main peeve – the lack of advertising directed at the local Indian community.
“Yes, I do believe that to a large extent the Malaysian Indian community is not specifically targeted by most advertisers, to the extent that Malay and Chinese communities are targeted,” he said.
Girish said that the situation is such primarily due to the size of the audience, with Indians representing 10% or less of the population.
“In terms of economic status, the average Indian household has the same affluence level as the average Malay household. Chinese household affluence levels are a bit higher. So, perhaps because of the relatively small base and because they are not over-indexed on affluence, the Malaysian Indian community is not being specifically targeted by most brands,” he added.
Tai Kam Leong, strategic planning director for creative agency Naga DDB, wonders if the campaign might be “barking up the wrong tree.”
“If I was targeting ‘affluent upwardly mobile Malaysians who would buy an entry level executive sedan,' would the behavior of such a segment vary dramatically amongst the races?” he said.
He argued that the real question should be: Are the behavioral and cultural characteristics of Malaysian Indians well understood or documented and leveraged as insights in the overall targeting of Malaysians by brands?
“The answer is likely, no,” he said.
Tai agreed that Malaysian Indians are often overlooked in the quest to develop strategies but added that this could be due to language barriers, the industry practitioner's habits and cultural norms, as well as simply a numerical one.
“That last point is particularly pertinent. Numerically, even if some marketers use race as a key criteria for targeting, then Malaysian Indians simply don't make business sense to most for-profit organizations. Most would simply go after numerically larger behavioral tribes or cultural communities,” he said.
“To quote the campaign, there are 1.8 million Malaysian Indians. I suppose the really important question is, how many of those fulfill the behavioral criteria that major brands and for-profit organizations are looking for?” Tai added.
He said that the stereotype that Malaysian Indians rank relatively lower in key segment demographics such as population size, affluence, education levels, purchasing power seem to hold some truth.
“There may be a gap between perception and reality, but it is unlikely to be a large gap,” he said.
Regardless of the trend of advertisers to overlook the Indian community, be it due to insufficient research, statistics or insights, Girish believes that it might soon be moot and brands will have to take a closer look at their segmentation strategies, not just toward Indian consumers.
“I believe that sales growth will become harder to come by, as the market becomes more competitive and as the global financial challenges impact local markets. In such a scenario, brands will need to explore all possible options in order to secure every additional percentage point of growth,” he said.
According to him, this will result in marketing target audiences becoming more granular, not just in terms of looking at Indians, but also in terms of looking at specific psychographic segments within Malay and Chinese communities, which can be sharply targeted with customized communication.
“I think the days of ‘one size fits all’ are gone. We will have to rely more heavily on addressable and targetable channels like social, mobile and interest-based or affinity-based TV channels, such as Indian TV channels or education channels or international channels to effectively target consumer segments,” he added.
Is it time to Tambi?The next step
Despite his reservations about the campaign, Tai concluded that as a piece of pure creativity “it is highly amusing and entertaining.”
“I adore the campaign. It is well executed, a nice idea, but a bit of a strategic novelty. I do believe that a more productive component could be added; perhaps a goal or drive to gather more 'did you know' insights about Malaysian Indians, would be nice,” he said.
When asked what the feedback has been like from the industry since launch, Anand reported that while many thought the campaign itself was a good idea, the commitment to participate has been quite mixed, with some very open to the invitation and others dismissing the campaign as they saw no real benefit to their agency.
The website has a gallery section featuring Indian-centric advertising and invites fellow agencies to submit past work which features or targets the Indian community or along with any upcoming ones.
“So far, we have about four agencies planning to submit to the site and a couple of production houses who plan to do the same,” he said.
The site is open for submissions for the next one to two months, and depending on feedback from the industry, the submission period could be extended.
Anand said that he hopes Tambi would go beyond being just a Diwali campaign to become a hub and showcase of Indian-centric advertising, past and present.
In the meantime the campaign’s message, as delivered by Kavin, remains: “We demand to be cleverly manipulated into loving brands like everyone else … so go ahead, exploit us.”

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