The Drum
Brand Strategy
How Cadbury and Ogilvy Malaysia Created a Unique Merdeka Campaign This Year

The team behind Cadbury Dairy Milk’s Malaysia Independence Day campaign tell The Drum how they’ve tried to escape the ‘sea of sameness’ that pervades the nation’s momentous holiday.

Holidays pose a classic challenge for advertisers – the more popular they are, the harder it is to stand out since they become part of every brand’s playbook.

Malaysia Independence Day, or Merdeka, is one such occasion that has been increasingly attracting brands’ attention in recent years. And because of its growing importance to marketers, it’s giving them a headache.

As Nizwani Shahar, chief executive for Ogilvy Malaysia, puts it: “The challenge for Cadbury Dairy Milk was to stand out in the sea of sameness.”

Merdeka has become equivalent to the Super Bowl in Malaysia, says Miller, and there is huge clutter with brands jumping on this momentous occasion with their campaigns.

Creating a distinct Merdeka story

Malaysia got its independence on 31 August 1957 and since then the day is celebrated as Merdeka by citizens. One of the iconic parts of the celebration was the speech given by Tunku Abdul Rahman as the first prime minister of Malaysia. His words, and the stadium they were uttered in, have become national treasures.

So to celebrate the present Merdeka in an original manner, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk is taking a trip into the past with ‘Merdeka Unseen‘.

The campaign features Johan, a gentleman who was present during the first Merdeka Day in 195, reliving his experience of that momentous occasion. We see him walking through the stadium as memories are projected onto the seats where those moments happened, reiterating the feeling of the generosity of human nature.

The campaign deploys technology to bring to life the many symbolic moments that happened that day, defining the spirit of what it means to be Malaysian.

Shahar says Cadbury’s own history in the country, where it has been sold for more than 100 years, gives the brand the legitimacy to reflect on the occasion. It felt quite relevant for Cadbury to talk about owning the occasion of the country’s special day, since the brand has been around in Malaysia for more than 100 years, adds Shahar.

Colleague Adrian Miller, the agency’s chief creative officer, adds: “The creative brief centred around the question of what we could do differently while tapping into the brand’s ethos of generosity.”

Merdeka Unseen Film

Cadbury may have a long history in Malaysia, but it recognizes that a key challenge is to become regarded as a Malaysian brand. That’s according to Nikhil Nicholas, marketing lead for chocolates Southeast Asia at Mondelez, who wants to emulate the brand’s success in India and Australia.

The brand has been on this journey of becoming locally renowned by investing in campaigns around Chinese New Year, Ramadan and Merdeka as well as product innovations that include launching and celebrating the local flavours of Malaysia – for example CDM Durian and CDM Pandan Coconut.

This article was originally published on The Drum.

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