July 17, 2008

Celebrating Excellence

By Yvonne Chong

IT WAS A FESTIVE ATMOSPHERE at the Malaysian Media Awards 2008, punctuated with clapping and boisterous cheering - a typical occurrence in any high-profile media and advertising gathering, more so at an awards show.

The Media Specialist Association (MSA) media awards, now in its fourth year, has become the benchmark for media excellence. Response to the awards has grown over the years.

The 2008 instalment saw some 1,000 people - leaders in media planning, advertising and strategising - gathered at a hotel to celebrate the crowning of their best works.

The awards, which recognise and celebrate good media strategies/ ideas and execution, have helped raise the bar for the industry, says organising chairman Margaret Lim.

`The quality of entries this year has improved, but so have expectations. The quest for innovative approaches is a continuous move for media specialists to be more results-driven,' she says, noting that it is increasingly tougher to find new ways to use traditional media in today's environment.

`I believe the awards have raised standards and competitiveness in the industry. I hope that in time it will help us be competitive globally,' adds Lim, who feels that compared to global standards, the local media industry is `getting there'.

MSA president Tan Siang Lin says Malaysians are moving from traditional media to a total communication channel.

`The media people must go beyond numbers and educate their clients to look at the qualitative and other value-added services,' she says.

Tan maintains that mainstream media must continue to evolve to remain competitive. The increased entries for this year's awards is an indication that companies have more belief in their work and are keen to raise their standards.

A total of 236 entries competed for awards in nine categories; up from 209 received last year, 219 in 2006 and 189 in debut year 2005.

MindShare Malaysia showed its dominance in the event by bagging the most awards as well as bringing home the coveted Agency of the Year award - its third consecutive win. The agency earned itself an accumulative 28 points after bagging four gold, six silver and two bronze medals - 12 out a total of 27 awards up for grabs.

In addition, it clinched the Grand Prix award for its Hotlink Gwen.FM radio strategy.

MindShare's four gold awards were for Best Use of Radio, Best Use of Digital (Online, Interactive or Mobile), Best Use of Sponsorship and Best Use of Small Budget (under RM100,000).

Carat Media Service was second with 13 points after winning two gold, a silver and five bronze. Its gold awards were for Best Use of Newspapers and Best Use of Out of Home Media.

Vizeum Media Services won two gold and ZenithOptimedia a gold and a bronze. Universal McCann and MediaCompete won a silver each, and OMD a bronze.

The Advertiser of the Year award went to Perodua Sales Sdn Bhd. Vizeum's media strategy for Perodua's Viva, entitled `Creating Love at First Sight', won two gold - Best Use of Television and Best Integrated Media Campaign.

Increasing the talent pool

The MSA recognises that education plays a vital role in raising standards. Not unlike other industries, the media industry is short of `good people'. Staff pinching is high and largely the norm.

As part of efforts to alleviate the acute talent shortage, and hopefully minimise staff pinching, MSA is pushing for a more intensive training programme.

Lim explains that someone fresh to a media or advertising agency would be in a learning mode for the first six to eight months and generally not very productive. This results in low starting wages, which in turn puts off university graduates from joining the industry.

`We are now working with the Ministry of Higher Education to come up with an intensive training programme - lasting somewhere between six weeks and two months - for undergraduates so that when they start working, they can hit the road running,' says Lim.

Education would be one of MSA's largest projects this year, under the new leadership of Tan who recently took over from Lim, who had been MSA president for four years.

The proposed intensive training programme would feature lectures and workshops focusing on case studies on various aspects of the media specialist's job, such as research, client interaction and marketing and mass communication-related skills.

Tan says although the programme is still in the planning stage, several MSA council members have already held presentations in a few universities, including Universiti Sains Malaysia.

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