The top three campaign winners of the 2009 HKMA/TVB Awards for Marketing Excellence all used cutting-edge strategies in their campaigns to stand out from the competition. Some of this year's campaigns were unusual in that they involved one-off events, either in terms of the company's history, or that of Hong Kong. Comparing the campaign of a fast-moving consumer good to a once-in-a-lifetime event is challenging because the benchmarks are not exactly the same. The Gold Prize winner was the MTRC for its merger with the KCRC. According to Annie Leung, senior manager for marketing and sales at the MTRC, the challenges of merging two large companies were both internal and external. 'Planning in the years and months before was key in being able to change 147,000 signs overnight.' Furthermore, a poll conducted in the latter half of last year suggested most employees felt their jobs were more secure than before as two separate companies. 'We also hosted a big cultural event before the merger where all 12,000 staff and their families from both companies could sing and play together as one company,' said Leung. Pre-merger workshops and teambuilding exercises were also undertaken to build team spirit. Three thousand frontline MTRC staff also had a say in the design of new uniforms - which were modelled by employees at a fashion show attended by fashion designers and celebrities. 'They were proud to show off their new uniforms,' she said. A passenger survey six months after the merger suggested that more than 50 per cent of them felt service was better than before and that 48 per cent felt the MTRC's image had been improved by the campaign. Financially, the company offset its expected shortfall by increasing passenger numbers and maintaining the same revenue and market share. The campaign focused on a unified brand and emotional bonding with the public through TV advertisements and a merger song, stressing the company's 100-year history and emphasising the benefits of a unified transport rail system which resulted in higher incremental usage offsetting predicted losses. The Silver Prize winner was McDonald's McCafe premium coffee. Recognising the growing demand for quality coffee locally, it launched its 'Democratising Premium Coffee' initiative: 'McDonald's believed that premium coffee should not be limited to a certain segment of society but available to the masses, and with over 200 stores it had the strength of retail presence to make this happen,' said Randy Lai, vice-president of leadership marketing, supply chain management and business strategy at McDonald's. Apart from traditional advertising and public relations events, they launched a large-scale trial campaign giving away 1 million cups of free McCafe Ground Coffee. Besides opening a McCafe Coffee Corner in Causeway Bay, they had two Mobile McCafes travelling around Hong Kong at varying times introducing its premium ground coffee to the public, she said. American Express (Amex) took home the Bronze Prize for its 'American Express Cathay Pacific Credit Card - Fly Faster' campaign. According to Y. C. Koh, chief executive for Greater China and Southeast Asia at Amex, Cathay Pacific share Amex's vision 'for customer service and product offerings, and we have a similar customer base. We targeted [frequent] travellers and high spenders,' he said. Amex's campaign stressed customers could 'fly faster' by building points faster. Both companies are 'unique brands' with highly regarded offerings, said Koh. An aim of the campaign was to form a mental connection between the credit card and travel. 'With the image of a travel-hungry audience in mind, I would use the metaphor of Amex ... helping you build your dream holiday through the ease and speed of point build-up to get you to your dream destination,' Koh said. Despite the overall economic decline during the first two quarters of 2009, Amex cards grew by more than 10 per cent during that period compared with the first two months of 2008 in terms of transactional value. 'During the first six months of the launch, twice as many people applied for the new credit cards than the rest of our credit cards altogether in a year. 'It's a strong indication many new customers are drawn to our franchise,' Koh said.