Subaru Ads Mock Malaysian Prime Minister

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been the source of controversy amid claims of corruption. Most recently he has been linked with the siphoning of hundreds of millions dollars from the state owned economic development company 1MDB to his own personal account, prompting U.S. federal officials to launch last week one of the biggest asset seizures in American history. 

Now, these rumors and allegations are the inspiration behind a Subaru ad running in the Malaysian newspapers. This is the first time the auto brand has ventured into the political space in the region. 

Designed by San Francisco-based agency Cibo as part of the Subaru XV campaign in Southeast Asia, the ad pokes fun at Razak by prominently featuring the words 'Powerful,' 'Crooked,' and 'Dirty' with 'to drive on' and 'muddy roads that get the Subaru XV' in much smaller and nearly invisible type. These words are in English - not Malaysian - to increase the creative's visibility and awareness.  



This campaign is unique and controversial. While poking fun at the government and those in power is commonplace in the U.S., it is much less frequent in Malaysia. 

Still, Cibo developed the concept to work on two levels: as a way to tell a story around reducing the price of certain vehicles in Malaysia and to take advantage of the political situation and editorial coverage on government corruption. 

The campaign is "designed to push the envelope and differentiate away from traditional auto ads in a competitive Asian market" as well as to avoid running a "typical price reduction campaign like dealers here in the U.S.," the agency says.  

Cibo is developing similar ads for other countries. The shop works for Subaru in nine countries in Asia where its client, Motor Image Group, is both the exclusive dealer and manufacturer of Subaru automobiles. 

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