How DiGi converted a viral video into a PR win

It was a classic guerilla act. Malaysian telecommunications firm DiGi converted a road-rage incident into an exemplary public-relations win when it offered to pay an elderly man for the damage his car incurred in a road accident.

The viral footage, taken by a passing motorist in the town of Kuantan, shows a visibly angry young woman hurling abuses at an older gentleman even as he remains calm. She is heard calling him ‘stupid’ and is believed even to have made racist remarks. The video shows her demanding RM2000 in immediate compensation for an accident, the details of which are not fully known.

The woman also repeatedly hammers the elderly man’s vehicle with a steering lock. The victim remains calm despite the woman’s outburst and offers to pay the damages, pleading for her understanding and insisting that accident was unintentional.

Netizens, incensed at the woman’s rude behaviour, quickly pieced together the woman’s identity, contact details and Facebook account, including information about the place where she works.

It's understood that DiGi's agency of record, NagaDDB, spotted the opportunity and presented it to their client, which approved the move within 24 hours of the video going viral. The gentleman in the video, identified as a Mr Sim, is currently in talks with DiGi to take them up on their offer. So far, Kiki Kamaruddin, the angry young woman, has not approached the telco.

"We saw the video and were truly impressed with 'Uncle Sim’s' calmness and patience in such a volatile situation, and we thought it would be a good deed to help him out in picking up the bill for his car repair," a spokesperson for DiGi Malaysia told PRWeek Asia. "This is in conjunction with our Ramadhan campaign #30haribaik [30 days of good], where we are promoting goodwill in the holy month of Ramadhan." 

Industry observers are impressed. "This is very clever marketing from DiGi so top marks to them," commented Scott Pettet, vice president, Asia-Pacific with Lewis PR. "A great example of how effectively social media can be used in a way that is very different from traditional media,"

Pettet called the PR tactic "Impressive, bold and courageous".

Although some have questioned the relevance this action has to the DiGi brand (DiGi is a telco, not a car-insurance firm, for example), the overall response to the brand's action has been positive. "Sure, there’s the odd critic, but for the most part it is viewed as a genuine gesture by DiGi," added Pettet.

DiGi has a track record of being consistently on the pulse of social and community issues, and using these issues to engage their audience in a positive way, said Adrian Koh, partner at Omnifluence. "I love their "Sambal Belacan" campaign, which they released years back in response to the racial tensions in Malaysia during the time," he said. "DiGi is showing they care about being an active voice and leader in the community."

It's encouraging to see that social media can be used for more than shaming people in the name of justice, and be used to powerfully spread goodwill and empathy, continued Koh. "Companies should see that generosity is as vital to a person's character as it is to a brand. It doesn't just make you more likeable; it makes you a part of the community, and part of their conversations. This is how brands inspire loyal followings. "

Meanwhile French automaker Peugeot (the brand Kamaruddin was driving) has also offered to compensate Sim—and pay for anger-management classes for Kamaruddin. 

DiGi reported a 5.6 percent year-on-year increase in revenues last week. Its revenues rose to MYR 1.75 billion (about US$551 million) in the second quarter of 2014, driven mostly by a rise in use of data.

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