Advertising in Malaysia is very much the same as in every other country. There are guidelines that must be followed so that no complications will arise once a campaign is launched. As Malaysia practices Islam as its official religion and is a multi-racial country, the advertising guidelines are very important so that commercials that appear on mass media are not offensive or seditious.

Background of advertising in Malaysia

In Malaysia, advertising is governed through the ASA or Advertising Standards Authority. Established in 1977, the ASA was set up to promote and enforce high ethical standards in advertisements used in Malaysia media.

Roles of agencies in the industry

The constituent members of the authority are the Malaysian Advertisers Association, the 4As or Association of Accredited Advertising Agents, Malaysia, the Malaysian Newspaper Publishers Association and the Media Specialists Association.

Generally, the ASA is responsible to investigate complaints, identify and resolve problems and any other issues that might arise from advertisements and its standards. This is an important factor because at the end of the day, it is the interest of the consumer is the main reason that the advertising industry exist.

That which was advertised will determine the trust and confidence of the consumer that will then drive the purchasing power and in turn determines the success or failure of a brand.

Therefore, it is very important that advertisements do not mislead the public. If the advertiser misleads the public, it would detriment the brand and compromises the credibility of not only the product but the entire company as a whole.

Code of Conduct in Advertising

Advertisers in Malaysia must abide by the Code of Advertising Practice in Malaysia which was first launched by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the founding father and first prime minister of Malaysia.

This code basically governs and specifies what makes good advertising. The rule of thumb is of good advertising is that they must be decent, honest and truthful. Unlike certain countries in the west, advertisements in Malaysia should project the Malaysian culture and identity.

Where possible, they should reflect the unique and harmonious multi-racial character of the people in the country. One very important element about advertisements is that they must NEVER typecast a particular racial group or gender. The traditional values and backgrounds of the people must always be preserved and upheld.

Depending on where the advertisement will be aired or displayed, they must comply with the local laws and legal system. This is particularly common with billboards where they are usually governed by the local council laws. Advertisers must be responsible to the consumers and to the society so that no false or untrue information are communicated.

Basic guidelines for advertising

  • In Malaysia, advertisements cannot display or put-down its competitors.
  • Fair competition must be observed
  • The use of professionals like dentists and doctors to endorse a brand of medical product like toothpaste or medicine are not allowed
  • Talents used in Malaysian made advertisements must have a percentage of locals, using local locations wherever possible
  • Advertisements cannot contain sexual elements or suggestive messages