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Malaysia becomes latest airline to order review with hunt for media, creative and social agencies

Malaysia Airlines has become the latest airline to launch a review of its external agencies, with media, creative and social up for grabs.

M&C Saatchi is the creative incumbent, with media handled by GroupM and Society looking after social.

GroupM won the media business from WPP in 2016 on the back of Mindshare and m/SIX pitching a proprietary framework called “AIR” that gave Malaysia Airlines advanced audience segmentation and targeting capabilities.

Advertising and branding has been with M&C Saatchi since 2015 when it won a pitch involving incumbent Ogilvy & Mather, Leo Burnett and Grey.

Society, meanwhile, was recently folded into Reprise along with mobile specialist Ansible to create a full-service performance agency at IPG Mediabrands.

M&C Saachi Malaysia chief executive Lara Hussein told Mumbrella it was a “normal procurement process” with the agency set to “defend the business”.

Malaysia Airlines, which confirmed the review to Marketing, is the latest major airline in the region to approach the market, with Cathay Pacific coming toward the end of its agency search while Singapore Airlines kicked off its process this week.

During its last financial report, in July, Malaysia spoke of “investing in the customer”, with the airline launching a new brand campaign from M&C Saatchi focusing on Malaysian hospitality.

“The aim of this campaign is to re-emphasise the truly Malaysian experience that encompasses all aspects of the airline’s customer experience, reflected in its products and services,” the carrier said at the time.

In an interview with Mumbrella Asia earlier this year, M&C CEO Hussein said it had been “very challenging” given the airline’s double tragedy the year before M&C won the business.

“When we first got the account, they wanted to rebrand and change the entire airline, image, logo and everything: just create a new airline and refresh,” she said. “But when we did research and spoke to stakeholders, everyone felt very endeared towards Malaysian Airlines. Malaysians didn’t want a new airline; they wanted it the way it is. There was no issue locally.”

But international travellers, particularly Australians and Chinese “didn’t want to consider the airline”, Hussein added, revealing it “took ages” to get the airline back into their mindset.

“We had to stall brand-building and just get bums on seats,” Hussein said.

Before turning the marketing focus on hospitality, M&C has essentially run a sales strategy for the past two years under the slogan ‘The airline that knows Malaysia best’.

Mumbrella has approached Malaysia Airlines for comment.

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