Harmandar Singh
Apr 16, 2014

Why would an ad agency turn down Maxis?

Why are agencies abandoning a Maxis pitch in Malaysia?

Harmandar Singh
Harmandar Singh

Incumbent agency McCann Group was invited, along with Leo Burnett, Publicis, McCann and Ogilvy, to pitch for the Maxis Prepaid (Hotlink), Postpaid and Enterprise creative account. Leo Burnett, Publicis, Ogilvy were also invited, together with RAPP, for the brand business, without McCann. 

So far McCann, Publicis and RAPP have pulled out.

Agencies withdrawing from a pitch of this nature is significant. Pitches are called for a few reasons: statutory reasons, brand and creative performance, agency-client relationship or operational issues. The latter are often bedevilled by labour turnover, long hours and fatigue, the 'millennials factor' and misfires in client briefings and internal alignment on briefs. 

Agency set-ups for telcos are really an agency within an agency. Still it is a relatively big ship to fuel and run. Agencies must not only have the appetite but the muscle to run a telco. Only a few agencies in the market are able to do this. Both agencies and clients need to build teamwork and solid relationships in order to have successful outcomes. Relationship issues cannot be allowed to fester till they becomes adversorial with each side blaming the other.

As one industry source puts it, "It is easy to flog the creative agency or look for convenient scapegoats when things are not going your way." 

Maxis has reviewed its agencies twice in the last three years with two of the country’s largest most experienced agencies either being dropped or withdrawing or perhaps being left with little choice but to do the latter. Both DiGi and Celcom meanwhile have built strong relationships with their incumbents over time - the latter have been ambitious with their work and didn’t hesitate at all to pick up the EPL sponsorship. Giving up its past association with EPL may be a fatal error by Maxis as Malaysia has a very significant following in the EPL, cutting across all consumer segments.  

The jury is still out on who will win the Maxis pitch this time, but with significant agency players dropping out it may be a non-event. 

Maxis media budget is reported to be in excess of RM200 million a year. Their media agency is Mindshare. 

Harmandar Singh publishes Marketing Magazine Malaysia and Adoi in Indonesia.

This post first appeared on Marketing Magazine Malaysia 

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