In conjunction with this momentous occasion, we sat down with founder and head honcho Peter Gan to see what nuggets of wisdom may be gleaned from 21 years of navigating the sometimes shark infested waters of advertising and marketing in Malaysia.
Let’s start with how ganforhire came into being.
Our official birthday is April Fool’s Day in 1997, and it was just me, my wife Agnes and an assistant in the beginning. We were both from advertising, so starting our very own agency seemed like a natural evolution. That year Malaysia actually suffered an economic downturn, so we were very lucky to not have suffered much, in fact, we scored our very first client and took off from there.
What was advertising like back in 1997? Was it all big budgets and whiskey at 4pm?
Back then you knew, if you advertised in the Star and TV3, you would definitely be reaching your target audience. There was a certainty in that you knew what media people consumed because there wasn’t a huge amount of choice, it was clear where the mass market was. There was also more room to be creative; I especially liked the radio medium because all you need is a fertile imagination; you didn’t need an expensive production budget.
And what has changed in the past 21 years?
When the dotcom boom happened, it triggered the great demassification of the market, which started fragmenting into little niche markets. The internet is so great because it saves a lot of time, you can get a lot of knowledge in very little time. But one of the side effects is that people now can consume their media in lots of different ways, and that has made our work all the more challenging.
What’s important when it comes to staying relevant?
We have to work harder now to provide value. It’s no longer about creating pretty pictures for the sake of pretty pictures. I mean, there are lots and lots of people out there creating pretty pictures, some for very little money. We need ideas that transform businesses, to show clients that genuinely creative people can help them thrive. And that comes from understanding the product, interrogating the product, asking the hard questions to uncover the real personality behind the brand, and then crafting a message that strikes true with the target audience.
You’re fond of saying we don’t do advertising, so what is it that Ganforhire does?
I prefer saying that we do strategic positioning work for our clients. For example, I still remember our very first client- Southern Unit Trust. Back then unit trust was viewed as something like the stock market, get in and get out, make a quick profit. But our clients actually wanted to change the perception that unit trust was just for short term gain. So we positioned them as The Retirement Specialist, and all our communications was geared to cementing their position as people who cared about helping their audience retire comfortably. And we did succeed, because unit trust is now considered a tool for long term savings.
What advice do you have for people looking to do their own thing?
Mindset is important. We were created to succeed not to fail. You’ll never be ready. Just venture forth, start your own thing, fuel it with your passion, you will succeed. But remember, it must be what you’re good at. Each and every one of us has a talent, find it and fuel it with your passion.
Thank you for being with us these 21 years, we hope there will be many more to come!
How would your brand participate in the golden age of the geek?
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