Sunday May 7, 2006
Stamp of approval
They are really flying high! Not only have they hit the headlines, our academic top scorers are also finding themselves increasingly sought after to endorse products and publicity campaigns. SHARMILLA GANESAN checks out this emerging trend.
Being featured in advertisements or public service messages is no longer just the domain of models or celebrities. Many companies and organisations are using high-achieving students and children in their campaigns, whether to promote products or messages.
It is not unusual to see successful sportspeople lend their name and endorsement to certain advertising campaigns, and entertainment artistes are often top on the list of desirable spokespeople.
The practice of using regular students whose claim to fame is academic excellence, however, is still in its infancy, though steadily growing.
Names like Nur Amalina and Esther have become synonymous with achievement; yet, the students retain a “normal” air, making them the perfect spokespeople to appeal to the younger market.
Nur Amalina Che Bakri, for example, who obtained 17 1As for SPM 2004 and named one of the top scorers in the country, was featured in advertisements by stationery brand Stabilo and Astro.
Nur Amalina’s mother Sabariah Hassan explains that her family’s intention in allowing Nur Amalina to do the advertisements was not to commercialise her success or to acquire money.
“The companies were very persistent, and we decided to do the advertisements to help them out,” says Sabariah during a phone interview from Johor. “Besides, the positive side to it is that seeing students like Nur Amalina in the advertisements may inspire others to emulate her success.”
Nur Amalina is currently away in London, doing her A-Levels at Cheltenham Ladies College.
Last year’s top scorer Esther Elizabeth Jack of Klang has lent her name and voice to promoting something too: an anti-drugs public service announcement for radio station Hitz.fm.
Station programme manager Brian Vinesh Veeriah says the idea to use Esther for the message was mooted by The Morning Crew DJs JJ and Rudy, who are always on the lookout for interesting anecdotes about Malaysians.
“Esther is a perfect role model for students, as her incredible achievement in the SPM, combined with her passion for music, sends the message that you can be an achiever and ‘cool’ at the same time,” says Brian.
Esther says she was happy to set a good example for other young people.
“It was my way of giving something back to society, and I wouldn’t expect payment for something like that.
“If I did influence some students for the better, that would be good enough,” she adds.
According to Brian, the response to Esther’s message has been great. “People are talking about it, and it definitely gets a positive message across,” he says.
When it comes to endorsing products, however, Esther is more wary. She says she would carefully consider the matter before agreeing to do such advertisements.
“I would only do an advertisement for a product if I felt that people would really benefit from it, or if I used it myself,” she says.
Needs a lot of thought
This is a sentiment shared by many of the high achievers.
STPM straight As-scorer Tan Chin Kimg of Penang says she would not endorse products or appear in advertisements as she was not comfortable doing them. This was her reason for turning down an offer that came her way soon after her results were announced.
“The ad was for a chicken essence product, which I don’t consume. Therefore, I didn’t even bother to get further details, as I didn’t want to endorse something I don’t even use,” says Chin Kimg.
However, she might consider doing public service campaigns, she adds.
Ng Sher May of Petaling Jaya also says she would only use her achievements to do public service campaigns.
“It’s not my kind of thing to appear in advertisements to endorse products, and it has to be something I really have faith in,” she says.
“Not only is it rather cheap, it isn’t effective. I don’t think students would actually be impressed, and they might end up feeling jealous instead. The only people who might be taken in are parents,” she says.
SPM 2004 high achiever Anushree Lalitha Subramaniam of Petaling Jaya concurs, adding that most of the time, doing product endorsements was just “pure advertising”, with no correlation between the item and the spokesperson.
The 14 1As-scorer was approached by several parties to appear in advertisements after her results were announced, but she turned them down.
“It seems rather degrading to my success if I were to endorse products.
“Of course, it also depends on what the item is. If it was something that I really felt was beneficial, I might agree,” says Anushree.
Her fellow 2004 top scorer Leong Tian Seng, who scored 13 1As, says whether he chooses to do advertisements or not depends on the objectives of the campaign.
“If they ask me to claim that I received good marks as a result of using a particular product, then I wouldn’t do it,” says the student who hails from Ipoh.
“There isn’t any basis to that, and it would just make me look silly.”