GLCs sidelining Bumiputera-owned advertising agencies, CEO claims

(MM) – Advertising agencies owned by the Bumiputera have been unfairly sidelined by government-linked companies (GLCs) who favour internationally owned agencies instead, a chief executive officer has said.

Datuk Shafri Mohamad, who also works in the local multi-billion advertising industry, claimed that local agencies were unable to compete because of an existing prejudice against their ability to deliver work of international standards.

“This is the bitter reality and biased attitude that has to be continually faced by Bumiputera advertising agencies, although we actually have wider experiences, skills that are on par internationally and proven capabilities,” Shafri wrote today in Utusan Malaysia’s business section, having pointed out that many Malaysians in the advertising industry here had picked up awards.

Earlier, Shafri voiced support for the prime minister’s call for GLCs and ministries to boost the Bumiputera’s stake and participation in the economy, saying that it was unfair for the country’s largest group to lag far behind other ethnic communities.

He said few Bumiputera-owned agencies win tenders to produce advertisements for GLCs and local giants, saying that they were usually awarded a small slice in comparison to international agencies who take the bulk of the contracts.

On top of the local advertising agencies’ inability to rely on international firms for projects, local firms have displayed a preference for internationally owned advertising agencies, Shafri lamented.

“This is the dilemma that we still face until today. The attitude of berat sebelah (biasness) and preference of internationally owned agencies has stunted the growth of locally-owned agencies,” the founder of local advertising agency Astana International Sdn Bhd wrote in the piece titled “Agensi periklanan bumiputera turut dianaktiri oleh GLC” (Bumiputera advertising agencies treated like stepchildren by GLC”).

He then proposed to setting up of the Accredited Bumiputera Advertising Agencies association, inviting agencies fully owned by Bumiputera to join it.

“Through this unity, we will be able to open up brighter opportunities to improve the competitiveness, share skills and experiences to increase the percentage of Bumiputera involvment in the national economy,” he said.

On November 3, Utusan blamed government-linked companies (GLCs) for using allegedly “racist” advertising agencies that placed a low priority on advertisements in Malay-language newspapers, claiming that it would affect the national language.

Utusan claimed that many of the leaders of GLCs had handed over decisions on advertisements to the advertising industry, which in turn have many “racists” and foreigners calling the shots.

In an opinion piece under the name of Awang Selamat, the moniker used to represent the Umno-owned paper’s collective editorial voice, Utusan suggested that such GLCs were risking the “sovereignty” of the national language in the local advertising industry by opting to take their business to English-language and vernacular newspapers.

Utusan also suggested that consumers should withdraw their support from such GLCs.

On November 9, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan reportedly said he had directed GLCs to send more advertising ringgit to Umno-linked Utusan and Berita Harian.

Pointing out that the top 35 GLCs spent only 3.7 per cent on their combined advertising budget to Utusan, Ahmad Maslan said Malay language newspapers must receive more support in light of their “struggle” for the country.