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National Day is synonymous with brands in Malaysia doling out messages of unity, harmony, and peace. Sure, most of them present as saccharine and escapist given the state of affairs in Malaysia, but Ad Nut thinks some of them manage to convey hope and humour better than others. Here are five campaigns that have stood out to Ad Nut over the years.

‘One Little Indian Boy’ by Petronas (1996 & 1997)

This is the OG Merdeka ad. The one that launched storytelling and character-driven narratives as a norm in National Day campaigns. In the film, a little boy is reluctantly woken up from his sleep to accompany his father to watch Tunku Abdul Rahman’s speech to declare independence from British rule. They get dressed up and cycle to the Merdeka Stadium, and his aging father lifts him on his shoulders. It’s a powerful, strongly written ad with stunning black-and-white frames that hold up even 26 years later.

‘It’s Ok, We’re Family’ by Maxis (2014)

A white man who arrives in Malaysia is introduced to Malaysia by way of… name-calling. Throughout the film, he is called various customary names by his barber, waiter, taxi driver—all which directly translate to affectionate family terms. It ends with a clincher that says: ‘Your family is larger than you think’. Ad Nut also wants to point out that this ad is an exercise in humour and delivery. A case in point is the woman in 0:57 who absolutely nails ‘dua ringgit, sayang’ with a wink. Ad Nut’s only wish is that the same endearing nicknames be afforded to all migrant workers in Malaysia—and not just to those who are Caucasian.  

‘Tan Hong Ming’ by Petronas (2007)

You didn’t think a best-of-all-time list would escape this one, did you? Perhaps one of Ad Nut’s favourite ads ever—Merdeka or otherwise—this Yasmin Ahmad production is a classic for a reason. Originally captured as an accidental outtake, the film features a very real conversation with an endearing little boy called Tan Hong Ming who professes his love for a fellow classmate. That little jaw-drop at 1:12 when he finds out that she likes him too makes Ad Nut think all is right with the world. Oh, and should you want to feel old, both characters in the film are basically adults now.  

‘Ketepikan Perbezaan Warna’ by RHB (2019)

While Malaysia appears harmonious, racial undertones and discrimination are not uncommon in everyday life. These incidents are rarely talked about, but this ad attempts to do so by representing the different races with different colours of clothing. A Chinese parent might advise to avoid playing football with kids of a different race; people of a similar race might rush to the scene of an accident to help a victim; or the sight of an Indian man on a train might cause one to flinch. While this ad may not solve casual racism, Ad Nut thinks it’s commendable it manages to spark talking points without any actual dialogue.

‘Hello Boss?’ by Celcom (2021)

This Celcom ad shows that the best ones don’t necessarily have to cost millions to produce. And there’s also no need to write in contrived moments of unity between all races to showcase care for others. This video starts with a call from his boss to an employee who is scheduled to present an important project to a client tomorrow. His boss proceeds to tell a couple of unimaginably terrible dad jokes, and ends with a touching line no number of sappy Merdeka ads could match: ‘Aku saje call to check out that you’re not too stressed out about tomorrow?’ It’s a tender moment that makes Ad Nut root so hard for the boss character. Well done, Celcom.

 

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