Hotlink

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Siti Nurhaliza puts on her acting chops in a three-part commercial that is, in a word, hot! reports PHILIP GOLINGAI. >> 24 july 2005 – THE STAR

SITI Nurhaliza and her friends are hanging out in a trendy cafe when they spot paparazzi snapping photographs of the pop diva. To escape the photographers, Siti and two friends exit the cafe through the kitchen and they jump into a fiery-red BMW M3 convertible.

A high-speed car chase ensues as the paparazzi in an ominous-looking black 4WD doggedly pursue the celebrity through the streets of Putrajaya.

In her convertible, Siti, using her 3G handphone, snaps a short clip of the pursuing pixmen and video-mails it to her friends.

And help comes ….

Well, if you want to know what happens next, watch the 60-second trailer of Hotlink’s three-part 40-second commercials on its 3G services tonight.

As Hotlink’s brand ambassador, Siti is the star of the commercials featuring Hotlink’s 3G services such as multiplayer games, video messaging, traffic check and video calls.

On Tuesday, the press was given an exclusive screening of the trailer and three commercials – themed “cafe,” “chase” and “concert” – in Menara Maxis, Kuala Lumpur.

What’s new about these commercials, where advertising in Malaysia is concerned, is its format.

“We are not presenting just one spot (of one commercial) and that’s it,” explains Mohamad Shah, creative director of BBDO (Malaysia), the advertising agency responsible for the commercials.

“We took cinema as the ultimate visual experience and we broke the storyline into three parts. Like movie blockbusters, we even have a trailer for the three spots.”

Adds Chee Loo Fun, Maxis general manager and head of prepaid marketing, “You have seen commercials where there are car chases, a concert or a group of friends hanging out all in one go. What’s new about our commercials is we put those scenes into three commercials.”

Continues Shah: “The commercials show how 3G acts as a social tool where a group of friends can have a more meaningful time together, how it becomes a problem solver and how a video call makes two-way communication more meaningful, heartfelt and intimate.”

After this preamble, it’s time for Siti to talk to the press about her experience shooting the commercials.

“We are trying to get Siti to answer some of your questions,” says Chee of Hotlink, at about 11.25am. “She’s in Singapore for a concert there. The last we checked, she was just coming out of rehearsal.”

While that is being set up, Shah gives us a little background on the shoot.

“When Siti was on set, it was quite exciting. There would be a sizeable crowd waiting for her shoot to be over. Most of them just wanted to shake her hand,” he relates of the four-day shoot.

“What is commendable is her professionalism. We had three rounds of pre-productions before we went to the locations (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Malacca).

“The shoot at the St Paul’s Church in Malacca on May 30, for example, took 12 hours and we wrapped up at about 5am. Siti was always on time and she never complained about anything.”

In the “concert” commercial, the storyline involves the 26-year-old songbird holding a concert that is watched by her male friend (played by heartthrob Farid Kamil) on his phone via video call.

“We went through many names for an actor to play the guy (Farid), before we found someone who was right and with whom Siti was comfortable with,” reveals Shah.

Shah is saved from further quizzing by news that Siti is on the video call.

“Siti, can you see them (the three journalists invited for the exclusive screening)?” asks Chee.

“I can’t,” she replies.

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Siti only sees a blank wall on her screen as the 3G handphone is placed on a coffee table so Chee instructs a reporter to hold up the phone.

“Siti, how often do you use the video call in a day?” I ask.

Frequently, she replies, since the unveiling of Maxis3G on July 1 because she is more comfortable with the video call service.

“Even if (the person she is talking to over the phone) is far, I feel she is close because I can see her,” she explains in Bahasa Malaysia.

The singer also uses the video call service to communicate with her staff as it “makes her work easier.”

“And my staff cannot cheat,” she quips with a laugh.

Making the commercial is a new experience for Siti: “When I was given the storyboard, I was excited because there was a bit of action. There is a scene where I am chased by photographers,” she says.

Siti, who is the guy you dedicate the song to? The room erupts in laughter, with the diva joining in.

“It is only acting,” she explains. “It is part of the storyline. It is more of friendship. Maybe if people look, there’s a bit (of love) but in truth it is more about friendship and together (in the commercial) we (the characters) compose a song (Aktifkan Dunia Baru).

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“After the song is composed, my friend returns to his house. And I perform the song for him through video call.”

The journalist from a Chinese newspaper asks Siti whether speaking Mandarin in the Chinese version of the commercials was easy.

“I don’t have any problem singing in Mandarin because the melody makes it easy for me to memorise pronunciation.

“But when you speak, you really need to pronounce the words properly. For this commercial, it was not too difficult as I only had to speak a few words. I practised a few times in the studio before I did the voiceover in Mandarin,” she replies.

The journalist from the Malay newspaper then asks a question which must be pertinent to her readers. “What is Siti’s expectations from the commercials because many people say that Siti menghilangkan diri (has disappeared from the public eye)?

“Siti did not menghilangkan diri,” she says, sweetly. “Maybe among the journalists it is difficult to meet Siti because Siti is busy with work outside and inside Malaysia. Siti has not run away to anywhere. Siti is still here.”

What did she find challenging during the shooting of the commercials?

“There is a short scene where my character plays the guitar. The (director) did not want me to pluck the wrong note so I had to learn on-the-spot how to play that note from a guitar instructor,” she says.

The final question: “Does she ever worry about paparazzi chasing her?

“Not in Malaysia because we have our own culture and we respect people’s privacy. Maybe overseas there are such things,” she says.

Chee suddenly calls out to Siti: “Can you see the journalists interviewing you?”

“I could at first. Now I can only see a thumb,” Siti replies. Our human phone holder had accidentally placed her digit over the camera lens.

During the 10-minute video call through a Hotlink prepaid line, there is a few seconds of lag time but we can see and hear her well.

Despite the smallness of her image, her appeal and charm comes through loud and clear. Malaysia’s best-selling, most successful songstress, adored by millions selling mobile phone services by acting in ad where she is chased by paparazzi? Why not, after all, didn’t Brad Pitt do something similar for a beer commercial?

You can download the trailer from hotlink.com.my or access it through your Hotlink 3G prepaid service. What you will see is a montage of the three commercials.
The trailer airs tonight on TV3 (7.30-8pm), 8TV (7.30-8pm) and Astro (8-11pm on AXN and MTV), followed by the first “episode” on July 28, the second on Aug 4, and the finale on Aug 11.

Fans and Hotlink members can also download for free the catchy new song, Aktifkan Dunia Baru, by pressing the star symbol (*) followed by 131 and star again, then 0007# before pressing ‘send’ or ‘call’.

p/s: Cam gitu rupanya jalan st0ry nya.. baruler paham… Hehex..