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Astro: Trumping Competition From Across the Causeway With Authenticity

The Challenge

Johor is Malaysia’s second largest Chinese TV household state. But it has only contributed a fraction to Astro’s total gross Chinese subscriptions. For many years, Astro has tried to lure the Johorean Chinese to subscribe to its services but to no avail.

Hokkien is the most widely spoken dialect in Johor. So we would assume that Astro’s Hokkien Channel, ‘Hua Hee Dai’ (Astro HHD)* or ‘Happy Channel’ would be a success. However, it wasn’t due to the variety of Hokkien programmes offered by Singapore’s MediaCorp.

As far as the Chinese Johoreans were concerned, an Astro subscription is something nice to have but not really necessary since premier Chinese content is already available for free via MediaCorp.

* (Astro HHD is a 24-hour channel offering a variety of drama and entertainment programmes exclusively and originally in the Hokkien dialect.)

The Idea

Trumping Competition PicAlthough MediaCorp offered a variety of Hokkien programmes, there was a slight disadvantage – these programmes were dubbed in Mandarin. This inspired our strategy.

We decided to highlight the flaws of watching Mandarin-dubbed Hokkien programmes on MediaCorp TV. Surely, nothing beats the satisfaction of watching your favourite programmes in its original, authentic form.

The Execution

‘The Life of Night Market’, a popular Hokkien drama on Astro HHD, was also showing on MediaCorp TV concurrently.

So we placed ads in the Southern region newspaper which showed scenes from this highly popular drama with speech bubbles that taunted Johorean Chinese – “I don’t want to watch Hokkien drama in Mandarin!”, “Why should Hokkien TV programmes be in Mandarin?” and “Hokkien drama has to be in Hokkien mah!”.

To further leverage on this, we brought the drama to life through ‘Hua Hee Pasar Malam’. We organised a series of on-ground carnivals in night market style with free food, stage performances and games.

Cast from the drama also made special appearances at the carnivals.

In addition to the content-driven ads, we also created a campaign line for Johor – ‘Hua Hee Johor’, which took a spin from popular Hokkien song ‘Hua Hee Tiu Ho’ (‘Being Happy Will Suffice’).

A ‘Hua Hee Johor’ jingle was also composed and aired at the carnivals which led to the line being a catchphrase amongst Johorean Chinese.

The Results

As above-the-line and on-ground activities complemented each other, it was no surprise the campaign resonated well with the Johorean Chinese.

Not only were the ‘Hua Hee Pasar Malam’ carnivals a huge success, the business results showed a significant growth in subscriptions and upgrades – which in turn prompted Astro to increase the number of carnivals and to extend the campaign to other states, i.e. Penang and Sarawak.


Source: David Mitchell, Naga DDB Insights,