Gabey Goh
May 18, 2016

Malaysia Airlines refreshes agency roster

MALAYSIA - Malaysia Airlines Berhad has refreshed its agency roster, appointing GroupM, Rally Worldwide and Mirum Singapore to support the national carrier’s global marketing and branding strategy.

Malaysia Airlines refreshes agency roster

According to sources, m/SIX and Mindshare, under GroupM Malaysia, will jointly manage the media account.

It is understood that m/SIX MD Sheila Shanmugam has been named the global business lead on the account, while planning and buying services will be managed by Mindshare, supported by GroupM Connect for search and biddable media and by Xaxis for programmatic media.

The scope of work covers nearly a dozen markets across the world, including Southeast Asia, China, Australia, India and the United Kindgom.

The incumbent media agency was IPG Mediabrands' UM. It is less clear which creative agencies who are on the airline's roster. Last year, M&C Saatchi was appointed to manage a proposed rebrand while Loka Labs created a long-form video commercial for the brand in May 2015. The last global campaign run on behalf of the brand was "Journeys" by Ogilvy Malaysia in 2013. 

It is understood that the entire process from pitch presentation to decision took about nine working days, an unusually quick decision. Other agencies participating in the pitch were Starcom, Zenith and Havas.

IPG Mediabrands' Rally Worldwide has also been appointed, and will be working with GroupM to assist the airline in  social media, community management and influencer engagement.

The airline has selected Mirum Singapore for its digital account, with a mandate to improve the airline's consumer user experience through technology, data and a robust creative and content strategy over the website and all digital applications.

The agencies will be supporting the airline for two years, effective 1 May, with an option to renew for one year.

According to Nielsen, the airline spent RM8.6 million (US$2.14 million) in 2015 within the Malaysia market alone.

In a statement, Malaysia Airlines chief commercial officer Paul Simmons said: “Group M, Mirum Singapore and Rally Worldwide fulfilled our requirements and have a firm grasp of the challenging environment of the aviation industry. The agencies believe in our brand values and they have a pool of diverse and young talent, to support Malaysia Airlines to compete across the globe."

The selection of new agencies follows a bumpy year for the national airline. The holding company was re-named Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), from Malaysia Airlines System in September last year.

In mid-April chief executive Christoph Mueller—who was brought in last March to turn the business around after two aviation disasters—announced that he will be stepping down in September before his three-year contract expires, due to “personal circumstances”.

A proposed rebrand was floated in October last year, but sole shareholder Khazanah, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, disagreed. The notion was also slammed by The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam), which called the exercise a “huge waste of money.”

More recently on 10 May, the airline stated its intentions to redesign its uniforms, announcing a strategic partnership with fashion brand Farah Khan to “re-energise the design aesthetic” of the national carrier's iconic kebaya and other uniforms, including its flight deck, cabin crew, airport and engineering outfits.

It also announced an “extensive redesign” of its Golden Lounges at Kuala Lumpur International (KLIA) and London Heathrow, which is expected to be completed by the middle of next year while revamped regional and domestic lounges at KLIA will be unveiled later this year.

However it is not all bad news, with the airline reporting it’s first quarterly profit, a modest RM14 million (US$3.48 million), for the period between January to end-March this year, thanks to cost-cutting exercises and lower fuel costs.

A year ago, in the same quarter, the airline had reported an RM450 million (US$111.93 million) loss.

This article was edited to clarify that Rally Worldwide's remit extends only to social media, influencer engagement and community management. An earlier release from Malaysia Airlines stated that Rally would also work on search, channel planning and business revenue development. 

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