Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on Dawn.com.

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience

.

DAWN.COM

The dawn of advertising in Pakistan (1947-2017)

The dawn of advertising in Pakistan (1947-2017)

Aurora

THE 21st CENTURY: THE AGE OF THE MILLENNIAL

HARMONISE OR GO BUST

Inconsistencies abound along the hazardous path to mastering digital platforms for agencies and brands. Either synchronise capabilities or screw up, postulates Syed Amir Haleem.

The offices of Adcom ZenithOptimedia, the media buying wing of Adcom Leo Burnett. Ever since S.M. Akhlaq established Adcom in 1965, the agency has kept up with changing consumer trends and media choices. With digital ad spend continuing their upward increase (according to the Aurora Fact File, digital ad spend crossed the Rs 5 billion mark in the FY 2016-17), Adcom had the vision to recruit increasing numbers of digital specialists, including mobile experts, social media leads, video specialists, data analysts and software developers in order to provide their clients with the most up-to date digital media solutions. Imran Syed, CEO, Adcom, has the vision of “making Adcom as much an agency of the future as it is about a legendary past.” (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
The offices of Adcom ZenithOptimedia, the media buying wing of Adcom Leo Burnett. Ever since S.M. Akhlaq established Adcom in 1965, the agency has kept up with changing consumer trends and media choices. With digital ad spend continuing their upward increase (according to the Aurora Fact File, digital ad spend crossed the Rs 5 billion mark in the FY 2016-17), Adcom had the vision to recruit increasing numbers of digital specialists, including mobile experts, social media leads, video specialists, data analysts and software developers in order to provide their clients with the most up-to date digital media solutions. Imran Syed, CEO, Adcom, has the vision of “making Adcom as much an agency of the future as it is about a legendary past.” (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

It was the mid-eighties in Riyadh. Most kids my age were out playing cricket, but I was busy hacking into a computer game called King’s Quest by Sierra. The official versions of computer games were not available in Saudi Arabia; consequently, the usual hints and support were always missing. If you got stuck, you either waited until you, or someone else, figured the way out.

I chose to hack into the code. With that came the need to transfer a large amount of data between friends and in 1990, I brought home a bulky odd-looking device, called a modem, that would connect my landline telephone headset to the PC. Boom! Just like that, this one, unassuming device ushered all of us into the online digital age.

Although I was only a young kid having fun, it hit me how powerful this could be. I had no doubt it was the future. Yahoo came along in 1994, ushering in the internet for people like you and I.

However, in Pakistan, the internet was mostly a space to experiment in and have fun, and I did not use the internet in a professional capacity until 1996, when I tried to share account management data between the Lahore and Karachi offices of Interflow. Even by 1998, when Google was born, only two other agencies were using digital as a means to communicate.

As a natural progression, IT departments at the client end volunteered to develop websites for their companies and as they were techies, they did the most obvious thing… they looked for technology vendors.

As a consequence, Pakistan’s first digital companies were born from small departments, developing websites within larger software development companies. From thereon, until as late as 2006, two years after the entry of Facebook and a year after YouTube came into existence, it never occurred to anyone how user-unfriendly these websites were.

They were fully functional, but they lacked aesthetics and did not even attempt to make the user experience easy. The flaw was that technology people are very good with coding but useless at design and communication.

In 2008, the multinational companies began to wake up to the opportunity and did the smart thing – they asked their advertising agencies to develop their websites or at the least, design them so that the software houses could build a better user experience.

Oddly, most agency owners failed to spot the opportunity this presented. However, along the way, something happened independently that forced the advertising agencies to look at digital as a viable source of revenue.

Between 2000 and 2010, agency revenues had started to shrink. Revenues from print jobs had gone as clients preferred to work directly with the printing presses. Then came the media buying houses and the agencies lost their commission revenue on media. Finally, as more and more film directors started to work directly with clients, TVC production also went, resulting in the closure of in-agency AV departments.

Desperate, the agency owners looked for anything that seemed like an opportunity and the fact that the software houses were so bad creatively, was a good way to generate some revenue.

Of course, in typical Pakistani agency tradition, they did it in the most unprofessional way. Interns, fresh out of college, were hired to handle their clients’ digital requirements. By 2010, blue-chip companies began to take an interest in social media.

Although the first digital agencies had started popping up in early 2000s, it was not until 10 years later that they began receiving serious business propositions. Along the way, clients experienced many frustrating moments, not least because if the software houses lacked creativity, the agencies lacked technological know-how in equal measure.

It has been a long journey. However, today, the frustration has shifted from the client end to the digital agency end, which, to their credit, eventually managed to evolve at a breathtaking speed. It was the clients that were lagging behind.

Even as late as 2015, 26 years after the birth of the World Wide Web, most clients still thought a digital presence meant only having lots of ‘likes’ on Facebook posts; quite astonishing, considering that the version of the software I am using to write this article will be outdated in less than six months. So imagine the frustration digital agencies experience when their clients are still living in 2006.

So, while during the late nineties and early 2000s, agencies spent much of their time trying to catch up with their clients’ digital requirements, today, the clients are the ones who need to catch up with global trends. And they must do so quickly. There was a time when each country could conceivably choose to adopt technology at their own pace; today, this is no longer practical, simply because the speed in the evolution of technology does not permit this any longer.

What is required is the rapid synchronisation in the digital capabilities of the digital agencies and of their clients in Pakistan.


Syed Amir Haleem is CEO, KueBall Digital. He can be contacted at syedamirhaleem@kueball.com

WILL MAINSTREAM AGENCIES SURVIVE THE ONSLAUGHT OF BIG TECH COMPANIES?

In the digital advertising space, business models for creative agencies are under increasing threat due to the entry of the big technology companies, says Amin Rammal.

An Agency of Record (AOR) is commonly defined as an advertising agency authorised by an advertiser to buy advertising space and/or time on its behalf (businessdictionary.com). While this is still relevant from a media buying perspective, the adaptation of this concept in the creative, strategy and execution space may not be so intuitive in a digitally-driven, highly fragmented communications environment.

The relevance of an offering (AOR or any other relationship) depends on what the customer (advertiser) needs. The traditional agency model was a strategic partner relationship with the advertiser to manage their brand communications providing strategic planning, creative idea generation, production, execution and media planning and buying.

The AOR has been a prerogative of multinationals and large national clients. In Pakistan, multinationals adopt brand strategies developed at the global or regional level, with an aligned AOR. Major thematic campaigns are beginning to move in a similar direction, where the trend is towards global and regional creative.

So the selection of AOR agencies by multinational clients is based on regional or global agency alignment. The local agency affiliate is more execution or tactical focused. It is unlikely that this will change in the near future as multinationals are able to better synchronise and manage cost with globally or regionally aligned AORs.

Very few local advertisers invest in strategic planning and the focus tends to be more on execution. In many cases, large local advertisers appoint AORs, but the selection is often driven by price or triggered by new decision-makers in the marketing department. They also tend to maintain flexibility by keeping a roster of execution agencies.

In Pakistan, similar to the rest of the world, media planning and buying has become a specialised area thanks to the advent of media buying houses. Whether an advertiser selects a full-service agency or a media buying house to plan or buy media, economies of scale support the consolidation of media buying to a single or few entities. Hence the support for AOR in case of media, continues to stand for now.

However, some media buying houses are offering creative services, particularly in the content area, by partnering with content producers or smaller creative agencies. While they act as a single AOR for the advertiser, they are forward integrating with smaller entities and freelancers.

There are different permutations of AORs when dealing with specialist areas such as mass media versus digital, versus PR, versus activation. The decision is driven by the advertiser’s legacy system, the organisational structure and capabilities, the agency’s offering in the marketplace (full-service versus specialisation) and the cost structures of the industry.

Although in the short term, the AOR model seems to be working in Pakistan with different variations, the debate brewing globally is will the concept of AOR continue as digital’s share of advertising grows? The answer depends on several factors.

In the good old days, the agency was perceived as the expert on consumer behaviour, a reservoir of creativity and the shrewd negotiator making deals with different media owners on behalf of their clients. A centralised role was important to synergise at least parts of the advertising value chain.

Currently, it seems agencies, at least in developed countries, are going through a midlife crisis experimenting with various business models and flirting with technology companies, while soul-searching to identify who they are. What is causing this?

The likes of Google and Facebook have changed the traditional advertising model. Google has consolidated the majority of website content publishers and Facebook provides a platform for user-generated content to be monetised as media.

The inherent advantages the big technology companies have is their ability to provide the following: centralise negotiations and serve ads through their networks despite the exponential increase in content publishers; seamless content integration through the likes of YouTube or Facebook fan pages; designated representatives to work with large global agencies and advertisers and offer direct advisory services in local markets to better plan their media spends with them; improved customer insights through unprecedented data on users, which they can crunch in real-time and deliver to advertisers and agencies through user-friendly interfaces and predictive capabilities, deploying algorithms to target and engage consumers.

While AORs are common in traditional advertising, they are not necessarily the dominant arrangement in digital. Digital savvy advertisers are developing their own online assets that can be managed internally, or by the agency which either comes up with the idea, or is best equipped for it: AOI (Agency of Idea) versus AOR (Agency of Record).

The impact of digital is also evident on the advertiser side with ‘The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist’ (source: Harvard Business Review, Jul-Aug 2014).

According to the article, “CMTs are part strategists, part creative directors, part technology leaders and part teachers; they champion greater experimentation and more agile management of that function’s capabilities.”

Is the AOR relevant in the fast-paced digital, ideas-driven world? If media planning and buying is being simplified at the tail-end of the communications value chain and a CMT is in place on the advertiser’s front, what services will the agency of the future provide?

Global communications groups are hedging their bets by investing in technology-driven companies with different areas, including data analytics and insight, digital creative agencies, ad serving networks and content platforms, including e-commerce sites.

WPP’s recent investment in AppNexus and Publicis’s interest in Criteo are evidence of their foray into data and technology to provide alternatives to Google and Facebook’s ad serving capabilities.

Which of the bets by the global communications will pan out is the billion dollar question. Whether the ad agency networks will be successful in maintaining AOR status quo in the digital age through its acquisition of technology companies is uncertain.

In the short-term at least, the global debate on AOR is less likely to impact Pakistan given the dominance of traditional media. However, in an increasingly digital world, global trends are likely to disrupt the local scenario.


Article excerpted from ‘Of the record or of the idea?’, published in the November-December 2014 edition of Aurora.


Amin Rammal is Director, Firebolt63, The Brand Crew and APR. He can be contacted at amin.rammal@firebolt63.com

YOUR BRAND’S BEST FRIEND

Syed Ali Hasan Naqvi on why print advertising continues to effectively deliver results in an age of new media disruptions.

Newspaper hawkers in the New Challi area of Karachi, surrounded by stacks of the day’s newspapers and magazines, which will later be distributed throughout the city. Also located in New Challi is the Haroon Chambers building. This was the headquarters of Dawn Karachi from August 14, 1947 where the newspaper was edited and printed, until the Dawn offices were shifted to Haroon House on Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road on October 27, 1968, which remains the site of the Dawn press in the city. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Newspaper hawkers in the New Challi area of Karachi, surrounded by stacks of the day’s newspapers and magazines, which will later be distributed throughout the city. Also located in New Challi is the Haroon Chambers building. This was the headquarters of Dawn Karachi from August 14, 1947 where the newspaper was edited and printed, until the Dawn offices were shifted to Haroon House on Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road on October 27, 1968, which remains the site of the Dawn press in the city. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

Throughout Pakistan’s tumultuous 70-year history, the advertising sector has undergone significant changes, reflecting changing global consumer patterns as well as the development and evolution of local trends. Indeed, as a developing economy poised at the intersection of South and Central Asia and the Middle East, Pakistan’s changing advertising landscape is a witness and an archive of changing mindsets and practices, as well as of wider socio-economic trends.

Throughout these changes, Pakistan’s oldest advertising medium – Pakistan’s print industry – has continued to maintain its position not only as the source of record for news and analysis, but as a medium of choice for advertisers seeking high-impact and high-visibility solutions.

In addition to changing consumers, Pakistan’s advertising landscape has been transformed by the introduction of new media. From 1947 to date, Pakistan has witnessed the growth of radio stations and outdoor advertising options, in addition to the mushrooming of private TV stations in the last 20 years, as well as the more recent explosion of digital advertising. Indeed, as internet penetration continues to grow, particularly on mobile devices, Pakistani consumers are now irrevocably linked to the wider world.

Throughout these tectonic shifts in the media industry, the ability among audiences to access content relevant to their interests (and increasingly on the go) continues to expand further, facilitating the flow of information and ideas.

Despite the introduction of new media for content delivery, Pakistan’s print media has continued to flourish, with advertisers placing their faith in a medium that will gain them visibility and deliver results. The resilience of print advertising can be attributed to three main factors. The lack of advertisement clutter versus other media, the higher attention and engagement rate of readers and the prestige and permanence attached to advertising in print versus other media.

As print publications focus on providing easy-to-read designs centred on providing readers an engaging reading experience, newspapers and magazines are increasingly limiting the quantum of advertising per page, focusing their efforts on delivering high-quality content and maximising the visibility of insertions.

Indeed, the clutter in advertising in other media further enhances the effectiveness of print advertising – while TV commercials or radio spots may be aired a few times, their impact is limited to those moments during which they are aired. As a result, print emerges as the place of record for advertisers to announce new products or lines, driven by the permanence of a print insertion.

A large part of the resilience of print advertising can also be attributed to the dynamics of print readers compared to radio or TV audiences, because print remains (in a world increasingly focused on multi-tasking) a high-engagement medium, requiring the full attention of readers compared to more passive media. For advertisers, print advertising thus provides an opportunity to reach consumers while they give their undivided attention and focus.

As Pakistani consumers have evolved over the last 70 years, the advertising industry has kept pace, providing brands with new and innovative opportunities to target consumers. Throughout all this, with the introduction and mass availability of TV (initially restricted to a few terrestrial channels but now expanding to a multitude of cable channels) as well as the growth of digital advertising options, Pakistan’s oldest advertising medium continues to flourish.

Leveraging the hallowed relationship between readers and their morning newspaper, print continues to provide advertisers across Pakistan the opportunity to reach out and leave an impact on an engaged and loyal readership. 


Ali Hasan Naqvi is Senior General Manager Marketing, Dawn.

BREAKING THE DIGITAL CONUNDRUM

Unless digital publishers in Pakistan are prepared for a comprehensive rethink, they are unlikely to ever achieve a sustainable revenue model, writes Jahanzaib Haque.

As we enter 2018, consensus has largely been reached that digital in its many evolving forms, is the future of publishing. One individual stubbornly continues to disagree though – the accountant. Her lament is built on a point that should have everyone concerned; publishing on the internet is nowhere close to generating the kind of revenue seen in print, and compared to TV, it is a mere blip.

Unfortunately, even card-carrying digital advocates such as myself cannot call this a short-term problem that will resolve itself as digital continues to grow. There are many challenges, some of which will take years to overcome, and some that may never be resolved. Disclosure: in my role as Chief Digital Strategist at Dawn, I am involved in online marketing/sales and oversee the sponsored content desk.

Earning at scale. Let’s start by taking a look at the numbers drawn from the annual Aurora Fact File. Of total ad spend in FY 2016-17, print accounted for 23% (Rs 20 billion) and digital for six percent (Rs 5.5 billion). Print ad revenue increased by 11% compared to last year and digital increased by 22%. Even if digital were to continue growing at this rate, it would be years before it would earn half as much as print.

It can be argued that in the long-term, digital will catch up and pass print earnings but until such a time, the mantra of digital being able to ‘save’ print is mostly myth. If anything, print revenue will have to shore up digital operations for some time. Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Snapchat and other giants are now putting all their weight behind video and making a comparison with TV necessary. To keep it brief, total ad spend on TV in FY 2016-17 was Rs 42 billion – digital will simply not be challenging that.

Frenemies. Then there is the Google/Facebook duopoly to contend with. For publishers, both are a blessing, extending reach, engaging audiences old and new, increasing traffic to sites etc. On the earnings front, not so much.

The two companies earn a majority of global spend on digital advertising, to the extent that a recent forecast by GroupM sees the two attracting 84% of all ad spend next year, excluding China. This is almost exactly in line with the Pakistan market, where the combined revenue of Google and Facebook accounted for 83% of total ad spend in FY 2016-17.

There is little chance for publishers to grab a bigger slice of the pie, especially when it comes to banner ads. Inevitably, programmatic advertising (which both Facebook and Google excel in) will negatively impact anyone involved in the business of creating, procuring and running banner ad campaigns, possibly to the point of redundancy. The problem is further exacerbated by the growing trend of users installing ad blockers for banner ads.

SMH B/C #FAIL (Shaking my head because #fail). This brings us to the next great challenge – one that applies to everyone operating in the digital sphere, not just the publishers. To put it bluntly, brands, ad agencies and marketing teams appear to be sailing rudderless, both on the strategic and creative front.

This has given us banner ads with tiny fonts and over 20 words of text; tired, old press releases labelled ‘sponsored content’; 30-second long online video ads that are copy-pasted TV commercials; absurd tenancy requests for ad space; far more absurd requests for permanent access to a publisher’s real-time analytics; paid content published on the worst possible day of the week because offline deadlines matter more than traction; social media posts that require $2,000 of boosting to secure 200 comments because that is the KPI; laughably bad Facebook videos/Insta stories/Snapchat updates posing as content, with the brand integrated with the subtlety of a sledgehammer; requests to run full TVCs on Facebook pages, buying bloggers (and journalists) to shamelessly plug products/services and my personal favourite – paying double to publish a press release because it’s the end of the year and budgets must be spent.

The situation is grim. Brands are allocating more and more to digital spend every year and publishers are pumping money into their digital operations, irrespective of the bottom line. But if 83% of revenue is going to Facebook/Google and the rest is being put into churning out subpar campaigns that audiences are bored by, blind to or block, there is need for a big rethink.

Some of the above challenges admittedly have no clear solution. Those require acceptance, adaptation and more importantly, inclusion when making decisions. For those problems that can be tackled however, a lot can be done, and done fast.

After all, we are blessed with not having to invent or reinvent anything; global trends, strategies, creative ideas and solutions are just one Google search away. It is only the will to change how we conduct business that appears to be lacking.


Jahanzaib Haque is Chief Digital Strategist and Editor, Dawn.com.

BILLBOARDS IN THE STARRING ROLE

Not long ago, OOH was viewed only as a support medium; today, it has moved centre stage in media planning. Ahsan Sheikh examines this great switch.

A billboard for Sprite overshadows another one for Coke in Lahore. Originally hand-painted by talented artists, billboards in the early days were often works of art, derived as much from the imagination of the artist as from the brief given by the agency. They were few and far between and clutter was not a problem then. With the introduction in the nineties of digitally printed larger formats, the artists had to forsake their brushes and billboards became ubiquitous, leading to clutter and much public aggravation and then municipal intervention to restrict their numbers. As they become more interactive, digital billboards are changing public perceptions, becoming a source of entertainment with audiences. In 2017, Kinetic Pakistan won Pakistan’s first ‘Campaign Specialist Agency of the Year’ award for South Asia. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
A billboard for Sprite overshadows another one for Coke in Lahore. Originally hand-painted by talented artists, billboards in the early days were often works of art, derived as much from the imagination of the artist as from the brief given by the agency. They were few and far between and clutter was not a problem then. With the introduction in the nineties of digitally printed larger formats, the artists had to forsake their brushes and billboards became ubiquitous, leading to clutter and much public aggravation and then municipal intervention to restrict their numbers. As they become more interactive, digital billboards are changing public perceptions, becoming a source of entertainment with audiences. In 2017, Kinetic Pakistan won Pakistan’s first ‘Campaign Specialist Agency of the Year’ award for South Asia. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

OOH advertising is one of the oldest mediums, globally, as well as in Pakistan. In Pakistan, we can divide its evolution into three eras: hand-painted signage (1947-1990), large format spectaculars (1990-2010) and outdoor to out of home (2010-present).

Hand-painted signage

(1947-1990)

Lahore’s film industry contributed immensely to the development of hand-painted boards – and some of us may still remember the large format Maula Jatt (Sultan Rahi) and Anjuman portraits painted on cinema façades and their impact in drawing in the crowds.

Initially, only a limited number of brands leveraged the medium. Hand-painted boards were found at railway stations promoting electric fans, beauty creams, tobacco and tea. From the seventies onwards, there was a spurt in the usage of the medium.

Large format spectaculars

(1990-2010)

OOH was given a boost with the advent of large format spectaculars and digital printing in the nineties; companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Pakistan Tobacco Company and Unilever were among the first to invest in these new formats that provided both scale and impact.

All the top brands soon followed suit. Along with this, came a shift in pricing. The earlier hand-painted boards cost only a few thousand rupees annually; now prices went into hundreds of thousands per month. Despite this, huge structures started proliferating across the major three cities and city municipal authorities started to impose taxes on them, which were then used to develop the city landscape.

In this respect, Lahore owes a lot to the outdoor industry, given that the city’s horticulture landscape was mainly funded by taxes collected from the outdoor media. So aggressively did the authorities collect funds in exchange for permission to erect billboards that an unprecedented number of structures went up between 2000 and 2010, especially in Lahore. Inevitably, clutter began to compromise the effectiveness of the medium and in 2008, the Punjab Government took measures to rationalise the installation of outdoor structures.

All billboards in Lahore were removed by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) and bylaws were enacted to prevent their installation. This was a blessing in disguise as the reduction in the clutter enhanced the effectiveness of the medium, and brands started reassessing OOH with renewed interest, leading to a demand for further innovation, such as backlit billboards and large cut-outs.

With new options coming on stream, the need for specialised planning and execution agencies arose and the concept of outdoor media agencies (OMA) started taking hold – pioneered by Unilever with the appointment of Adservice, and Nestlé with the appointment of Adkings.

Outdoor to OOH

(2010-present)

Until 2010, outdoor was considered to be a support medium to TV and print. The artworks were a basic adaptation of print ads, with little thought going into the effectiveness of the communication.

Then, another major shift took place when international specialist agency brands, such as Kinetic, entered the picture and outdoors started evolving into OOH. This included the activation of new touch-points in the OOH space within retail spaces and on-ground.

Clients started focusing on rationalising their OOH media planning in terms of target audience, with increasing focus on the quality of the execution. Monitoring and tracking (once a huge transparency challenge) became a standard service offered by all OMAs.

Today, tools are available to evaluate campaign coverage, assess creative impact, select sites according to specific target audiences and monitor and track results. In 2015, the Pakistan Advertisers Society (PAS) appointed Measuring OOH Visibility and Exposure (MOVE) to conduct OOH measurement and despite the slow traction it has received, this development did provide a number of criteria (reach, frequency, Gross Rating Points [GRPs] and Cost Per Rating Point [CPRP]) for the selection of OOH, based on the target audiences of each brand (rather than selecting the sites most likely to be seen by the brand manager and the marketing directors).

Today, with more capability and professionalism coming into OOH, brands are engaging OMA’s at the strategic level. This is a paradigm shift, given that not until too long ago, OOH was viewed as a support medium and has now moved to the centre of the overall media planning effort.

The factors contributing to this development are changing consumer behaviour patterns (not least the fact that they are spending more time out of home). There was a time, when during the airing of popular TV dramas, the roads would be relatively empty with people glued to their TV sets. Today, there is no TV show that audiences need to stay at home to watch live; they can watch it on their smartphones or watch the repeat the following day.

In fact, consumers are spending 70% of their waking life out of home and finding their entertainment on the go. Another benefit of OOH for advertisers is that it cannot be turned off, blocked or skipped and unlike TV and online advertising, it cannot be so easily avoided. OOH and mobile are becoming increasingly interlinked and more and more brands are leveraging both media.

We will remember 2017 as the year OOH started going digital in Pakistan and digital, once introduced, expands rapidly. In the UK, digital inventories increased from 6,181 to 17,356 (almost 300% increase) in two years between 2014 and 2016 and is expected to cross 50,000 units in 2021 (source: Outsmart / Kinetic).

In Pakistan’s case, the important factor will be how effectively all stakeholders leverage digital in terms of creative execution, effectiveness and placement.  


Article excerpted from ‘From support medium to starring role’, published in the November-December 2017 edition of Aurora.


Ahsan Sheikh is CEO, Kinetic Pakistan.


BERGER PAINTS: YOUR CASTLE’S BEST FRIEND

Berger Paints have been in Pakistan for 70 years. Their branding has gone from a basic to a stylised representation of the modern homemaker’s dream. The theme has always been the product benefit. It is the way this is communicated that has changed.

In the fifties, there was something innocent about Berger’s ads. Focused on the benefits of using the paint, there is naiveté in the messaging. It is simple and straightforward; there is no spin. An explanation of what the paint does, with simple illustrations delivers the point.

The sixties saw the introduction of the ‘Robbialac Look’. It was about having a freshly-painted look throughout the year and the availability of a wide range of colours. The illustrations became better, the copy got a bit creative. In the seventies, the illustrations were replaced by photographs. The headline stated the problem, and the body copy gave the solution.

Every ad illustrated a new USP – appealing to the rational mind of the consumer rather than the emotional side. In the eighties, graphics were introduced. The message was that Berger was a global brand offering high-quality paint. The nineties focused on health. Lead-free paints were introduced and the copy emphasised benefits of these paints. The brand was evolving but not connecting. Human emotion was missing.

This has changed. Berger now engages with young homemakers for whom paint is as important as their furniture. Berger took a huge leap by focusing on a younger target group. A celebrity endorsement has been introduced with Mehwish Hayat, because celebrities inspire people to be like them.

From a rational, somewhat distant brand, Berger has evolved into an emotional, connected and iconic brand. From selling paints to selling lifestyles, the brand has left a footprint in every household.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Social media has drastically changed what consumers expect from brands. Urooj Hussain examines what brands must do to adapt to this altered demand.

Millennials are busy on their devices during a working day at Ogilvy Pakistan, where the average age of all new recruits is approximately 25. For the agency, the secret to attracting Millennials is to offer them flexibility in their working hours and an informal environment. They are pluralists and not inclined to settle on only one thing; they want to do something in the day and something else completely different in the evening. To retain them, employers must always encourage and mentor them in any activity they choose to engage in after working hours. They have great expectations of life. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Millennials are busy on their devices during a working day at Ogilvy Pakistan, where the average age of all new recruits is approximately 25. For the agency, the secret to attracting Millennials is to offer them flexibility in their working hours and an informal environment. They are pluralists and not inclined to settle on only one thing; they want to do something in the day and something else completely different in the evening. To retain them, employers must always encourage and mentor them in any activity they choose to engage in after working hours. They have great expectations of life. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

Social media has changed the way we view the world. The evolution has been exponential; for example, in Pakistan, Facebook has gone from 11 million active users to 34 million in the past four years alone. The way people use social media has also evolved. Nowadays, they don’t go online to connect with family and friends; they go there to express themselves about anything and everything. It has also changed the way we view and interact with the world and the communities around us, and it has changed the way consumers behave online.

What is the effect of all of this on how brands advertise on social media? Pakistani brands have become savvy. They have come a long way from acquiring ‘likes’ on Facebook and realise that simply posting on their social pages will not do anything to give them traction online. High levels of clutter and increasingly distracted audiences means that brands need to invest in breaking through the barrier of limited organic reach and create engaging content.

Here are some examples of how brands are using social media to its full potential:

  1. E-Commerce. E-Commerce has grown in an extremely interesting way on social media. Not only has it benefitted large-scale online retailers such as Daraz and Goto.pk, which use the platform to drive large numbers of traffic to their websites, it has helped a huge number of small businesses reach out to their customers with as little as Rs 100 per post promotion.

  2. Influencer Marketing. The ‘democratisation of stardom’ is what this phenomenon is being called globally. Micro-influencers and vloggers have become huge social media celebrities without ever having been on the big screen. They have grown via popular demand on social media and are people which audiences can relate to. As a result, a lot of brands have signed on social media celebs such as Zaid Ali T and Ali Gur Pir to be their brand ambassadors, leveraging not only their popularity, but their individual social media profile to secure incremental and relevant reach.

  3. Customer Service. In a world where customers want instant gratification, social media provides a platform where the consumer can connect to brands whenever they want. Being always-on and ready to answer consumer queries goes a long way towards building brand credibility. Facebook has made this process transparent by making public the ‘response time’ badges on brand pages, so that customers know the approximate time by when their queries will be answered. This is now considered to be an important KPI for social media management. Brands like Careem and KE have added to their credibility by actively responding to messages.

Social media and the way consumers use the platform will keep evolving at a rapid pace. Media experts need to be ahead of the curve and leverage new trends to their maximum potential. 


Urooj Hussain is Associate Director Digital, Brainchild Communications. She can be contacted at urooj.hussain@starcompakistan.com


IN SEARCH OF CUPID ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Elhaam Shaikh on how Dawn Films are digitally promoting Saat Din Mohabat In.

In today’s age of information overload, the challenge every venture faces is how to break through the clutter to communicate effectively and inspire action. As a result, promotion of films now heavily relies on social media as they can garner huge amounts of buzz through word-of-mouth.

Films are content gold mines; the challenge is to build anticipation within a short period of time. Luckily, films are stories and stories sell, especially when you involve the audience in the story via social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Dawn Films used these platforms in their marketing strategy for their forthcoming film Saat Din Mohabat In, leveraging viral marketing by doing something that would create talkability. The first introduction to the film’s content was to present the audience with the protagonist, who is searching for the love of his life and whom he must find in seven days.

He turns to the audience for help to go about this in the best possible way. His earnest request garnered an equally sincere response from some of the industry’s big stars, as they gave advice on the right way to go about his quest for love.

Numerous blogs and digital content powerhouses picked up on the subject matter, which in turn fuelled interest, adding to the conversation about the young man’s quest. Added to this, glimpses of the romance, drama, humour and action contained in the film gave audiences a peek into the unfolding storyline.

Drumming up interest and seeding your trailer online is always a challenge, but the marketing effort for the film, bridged the gap by offering a storyline and enabling fans to respond, thus generating a buzz. The stage was set and audiences were drawn in with content such as clips, articles, conversations, GIFs and behind-the-scenes shots of the protagonist’s journey, leaving a taste of what is to come.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned to your digital screens for more creative content as we weave in and out of the story, taking fans along for the journey. 


Elhaam Shaikh is Manager Programming, CityFM89.

AN ENCOUNTER WITH ‘ADVERTISING’S THIRD BILLION’

Ayesha Shaikh explores the opportunities and challenges for women pursuing an advertising career in the age of the millennial.

Portrait of Zohra Yusuf in her office at Spectrum Y&R. Zohra Yusuf is one of the most outstanding and highly-regarded professionals in the advertising and media sphere. She has been in the profession for nearly five decades. She entered the advertising profession in 1971 when she joined MNJ Communications as a Copywriter; she was promoted to Creative Manager and subsequently, to Client Services Manager; this, at a time when women did not hold senior positions in advertising. In 1981, she moved to The Star as Editor and in 1986, she joined Spectrum Y&R, where she is currently Chief Creative Officer. Yusuf has mentored a new generation of young advertising professionals, many of whom attribute their success to the training she imparted to them. Despite her challenging career, she joined the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in 1988, and served as the organisation’s chairperson for five years, from 2011 to 2017. Of unimpeachable integrity, Yusuf’s soft-spoken demeanour belies her grit and determination in pursuing the goals that matter to her most. Her cosmic ability to grasp ideological perspectives from every side of the argument has made her an outstanding communicator of her times. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Portrait of Zohra Yusuf in her office at Spectrum Y&R. Zohra Yusuf is one of the most outstanding and highly-regarded professionals in the advertising and media sphere. She has been in the profession for nearly five decades. She entered the advertising profession in 1971 when she joined MNJ Communications as a Copywriter; she was promoted to Creative Manager and subsequently, to Client Services Manager; this, at a time when women did not hold senior positions in advertising. In 1981, she moved to The Star as Editor and in 1986, she joined Spectrum Y&R, where she is currently Chief Creative Officer. Yusuf has mentored a new generation of young advertising professionals, many of whom attribute their success to the training she imparted to them. Despite her challenging career, she joined the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in 1988, and served as the organisation’s chairperson for five years, from 2011 to 2017. Of unimpeachable integrity, Yusuf’s soft-spoken demeanour belies her grit and determination in pursuing the goals that matter to her most. Her cosmic ability to grasp ideological perspectives from every side of the argument has made her an outstanding communicator of her times. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

The period television drama Mad Men set in the high-pressure advertising world of New York during the sixties, was not that far off in projecting the advertising industry as an all boy’s club. Just as Peggy Olsen’s progression from a secretary to a copywriter in the show was fraught with struggles to prove her creative talent and capability before she was taken seriously, women who enter the advertising profession have never had it easy.

When I started working on this story, I was certain that the premise of the article would be that Pakistan’s advertising industry is non-inclusive of women. As I began speaking to women working in advertising agencies, from different disciplines and age groups, to determine if the ad industry in Pakistan is female-friendly, it became evident that my initial perception was erroneous.

There was general consensus on two points. First, the number of men who have reached the highest echelons of power in media and advertising is far greater than the women who have smashed the glass ceiling, despite the increasing number of women who have assumed leadership roles. Second, the industry is far more female inclusive than anywhere else in the world.

According to Rashna Abdi, Chief Creative Officer, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi, “late sittings are unavoidable at times but that is how the industry works across the world. The advantage is that in Pakistan, if women stay after hours, transportation is usually provided, at least at IAL.”

Abdi’s comment points towards an underlying problem voiced by industry veterans as well as newbies: a lack of structure, benchmarks and standardised policies. This is mainly attributed to the fact that there is no governing body which regulates agency operations.

It is this vacuum that has resulted in variable HR and operational frameworks, since agencies in Pakistan are not required to comply with a designated set of rules in managing their workforce. Agencies therefore, have carte blanche in formulating their HR handbooks. At one end of the spectrum are agencies such as IAL Saatchi & Saatchi that provide transportation and other benefits to ensure a women-inclusive culture, at the other end, are a host of organisations that choose not to, without any fear of consequences.

The two most significant issues that this lack of standardisation has created concern gender-based wage gap and maternity leave. Tannaz Minwalla, GM & Creative Director, Creative Unit, says, “when I started my career as a visualiser at IAL in 1982, and later as the head honcho when Creative Unit was established in 1987, I had to fight for equal pay.” She adds that people objected to women being paid as much as men on the grounds that “they have no dependents or financial commitments and are far more likely to leave when they marry or start a family.”

The issue of disparity in compensation goes well beyond Pakistan and its advertising industry. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) report 2016, women across the world earn 23% less on average compared to their male counterparts working at the same hierarchical level.

Since Pakistan is typically late in adopting and complying with international best practices, it was almost a given that the ad women to whom the question of compensation inequities would be posed would reaffirm Minwalla’s views.

As surprising as it was to learn from Abdi that our ad industry is actually ahead of the curve in terms of creating a female-friendly work environment, it was even more startling to hear Atiya Zaidi, Executive Creative Director North, Synergy Dentsu, say “gender-based wage gap is just a perception. I am proud to say that I am a woman working in Pakistan’s ad industry, earning as much as my male colleagues at the same level.”

Zaidi’s opinion is seconded by Abdi, who believes that the industry is moving towards parity in compensation for both genders. To a large extent, this shift has been triggered by the increasing number of women who have forayed into media and advertising since the nineties, predominantly on the creative side. There was a gradual recognition of the value of their contributions to creative and strategic processes.

This in turn changed the perception of women from being ‘HR liabilities’ to a source of competitive advantage for agencies. As women continued to progress quickly through the ranks, their influence in decision-making increased, as did the salaries they commanded.

Zohra Yusuf, Chief Creative Officer, Spectrum Y&R, has a different take as to why women’s pay scales have been on the rise, attributing it to a strategic change in the way the industry operates. She recalls that when she joined MNJ in 1971 as a copywriter, it was the male-dominated client services department that enjoyed better incentives, including higher pay scales.

This is because at that time, the majority of accounts were won on the basis of personal relations with clients rather than the big idea and therefore, client services executives were considered the most valuable resource. In the last decade or so, as the focus shifted to creative conceptualisation and execution, it is the women-dominated creative departments that have taken centre stage. According to Yusuf, this is the main reason why there has been an across-the-board increase in compensation levels for women.

Abdi adds that Millennials have played a significant role in changing the perception of advertising as a profession. “Compared to previous generations, young people have a very different outlook and they do not see advertising as an inappropriate profession for women. There are a lot of young women who study commercial and communication art and then opt for advertising because they believe it provides opportunities for independent, creative expression.”

There is no question that the working conditions for women in advertising have improved considerably. However, the ad industry still has a long way to go before they can claim gender parity and inclusion in the truest sense.

Nida Haider, Managing Partner and Brand Strategy Director, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi, highlighted one of the most pressing issues affecting organisations across the world; the increasing dropout rate of women from the workforce after marriage.

In her view, “unless the concepts of maternity leave and flexi-hours are not incorporated into HR policies, working mums will find it difficult to resume their careers, particularly if family support systems are not there to lend a helping hand with children.”

While Yusuf concurs that greater flexibility is needed if agencies want to retain valuable, talented and dedicated female employees after they start a family, she points out that it is not financially feasible for advertising agencies to mirror the benefits offered by multinationals.

“Agencies do not even come close to generating the kind of business volume and revenues that large corporations do. Providing on site child care and paid maternity leave are substantial financial commitments that agencies, particularly smaller ones, will not be able to sustain.”

To conclude, it is an undeniable fact that despite the odds, women in the advertising industry have made significant strides by relying on their creativity, talent and grit. While gender diversity in leadership roles and parity in compensation are important wins, there is a long way to go before our advertising industry can claim being an equal opportunity employer for men and women.


Ayesha Shaikh is a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. She can be contacted at aurora@dawn.com


PAKOLA: ENGAGING WITH PAKISTAN’S MIGHTY HEARTS

Pakola was launched on August 14, 1950 and instantly became Pakistan’s favourite drink. How could it not? Here was a drink with a formulation that made it green!

Mehran Bottlers have a strong vision for Pakola; they understand the love Pakistanis have for the brand. Pakola has become the essence of what defines Pakistan. The satisfying taste drives the loyalty of consumers at home while for Pakistanis abroad, Pakola evokes intense nostalgia whenever they see the brand.

Pakola’s vision is to provide our consumers the world over with a variety of premium quality beverages that guarantee satisfaction while refreshing the national spirit. These efforts are indicative of the brand’s progressive attitude and a determination to continue the journey of being the drink of the people of Pakistan. In recent years, Pakola has revamped itself in order to appeal to younger audiences, both in terms of the message and the look.

A recent example of Pakola’s new approach to create brand love was our 70th Independence Day campaign, where we launched limited edition Pakola cans along with a social media campaign ‘#PakolaAurPakistan’ and ‘#70thBirthday’. The cans paid tribute to the Quaid-i-Azam, while Pakistan’s flag and truck art motifs were incorporated on the cans, thereby emphasising the brand as being the drink of Pakistan. This resulted in people posting photographs on social media and creating a buzz online.

Pakola is a brand that evokes pride, love and patriotism. Pakola connects our hearts and minds with the national spirit. After all: ‘Dil Bola Pakola!’

THE 21st CENTURY: WHEN CONSUMERS AWAKE

REVVING UP RETAIL

Ayesha Shaikh explores a new diversification in consumer preferences and factors fuelling an exponential growth of retail in Pakistan.

Syed Babar Ali is seated in his office at the Packages headquarters in Lahore. Standing behind him are his son Syed Haider Ali and his daughter Henna Babar Ali. Syed Babar Ali is one of Pakistan’s most respected entrepreneurs and industrialists. He is the founder of Packages Limited, Pakistan’s largest paper and board mill, which he established in 1956, as a joint venture between the Ali Group of Pakistan and Åkerlund and Rausing of Sweden. One of the most recognisable and successful brands under the Packages corporate umbrella is the premium-quality tissue paper Rose Petal, launched in 1982. Syed Babar Ali also set up Tetra Pak, Milkpak and Nestlé in Pakistan as joint ventures with multinationals. A defining characteristic of Syed Babar Ali is his ability to identify changing consumer dynamics and then develop business solutions to cater to them. Given the increasing demand for organised retail in Lahore, his latest venture was the launch of Packages Mall in 2017. Designed in line with international standards, the mall has redefined the shopping experience for the people of the city. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Syed Babar Ali is seated in his office at the Packages headquarters in Lahore. Standing behind him are his son Syed Haider Ali and his daughter Henna Babar Ali. Syed Babar Ali is one of Pakistan’s most respected entrepreneurs and industrialists. He is the founder of Packages Limited, Pakistan’s largest paper and board mill, which he established in 1956, as a joint venture between the Ali Group of Pakistan and Åkerlund and Rausing of Sweden. One of the most recognisable and successful brands under the Packages corporate umbrella is the premium-quality tissue paper Rose Petal, launched in 1982. Syed Babar Ali also set up Tetra Pak, Milkpak and Nestlé in Pakistan as joint ventures with multinationals. A defining characteristic of Syed Babar Ali is his ability to identify changing consumer dynamics and then develop business solutions to cater to them. Given the increasing demand for organised retail in Lahore, his latest venture was the launch of Packages Mall in 2017. Designed in line with international standards, the mall has redefined the shopping experience for the people of the city. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

There was a time when every neighbourhood had its kiryana store. Families had fixed monthly grocery lists that were handed over to the shopkeeper, who would put all the items together, bag them and hand over a chit with the billed amount scribbled on it. Apart from the haggling (it was expected), the next customer decision was whether to pay in cash or put the amount on a monthly tab and whether or not to have the groceries delivered.

Product choices were limited and the purpose of the ‘shopping’ was to ensure enough rice, flour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, banaspati ghee, masalas and spices to last the month.

In those days, Naheed and Imtiaz in Bahadurabad and Agha’s, Motta’s and Paradise in Clifton, were among the few retail outlets where customers had the luxury to browse shelves stocked with limited varieties of imported brands and/or local packaged goods. Other than those, shopping excursions were limited to Juma bazaars or visits to Laloo Khait (now Liaquatabad), Empress Market or Jodia Bazaar – the wholesale hubs of Karachi.

It was only in the noughties, when due to increased exposure, Pakistani consumers became more aware of what was happening internationally and a significant shift in lifestyles and buying patterns started taking place.

Varied product assortments, greater convenience and accessibility, better merchandising, improved service and an enhanced store experience became the new retail rules. Quick to recognise this shift, local retailers began to invest in improving store layouts and their product mix.

There was renewed focus on customer service, rather than relying on price competitiveness. As a result, this growing retail potential put Pakistan on the radar of global retailers.

A new dynamic

According to a study conducted by Standard Chartered Bank last year, between 2011 and 2015, the size of the retail pie in Pakistan jumped from $96 to $133 billion, a 38.5% increase.

The current value of Pakistan’s retail sector is estimated at $152 billion, as per Planet Retail (a global retail consultancy). It is the third largest contributor to the economy (after agriculture and industry), accounts for 18% of the total GDP and is the second largest employer (after agriculture) providing jobs to more than 16% of the total labour force. (NB: As most of retail in Pakistan is unorganised, therefore undocumented, industry analysts agree that the on-ground figures are much higher).

With an annual growth of eight percent, retail sales are expected to cross the $200 million mark by the end of 2018. The main factor fuelling this, apart from increasing urbanisation, is an improving employment-to-population ratio which has led to higher disposable incomes, thereby expanding the middle class and increasing consumer spending manifold (estimated at $293 million in 2017 and projected to cross $333 million by 2018).

The other trend disrupting traditional retail is e-commerce. Although still at a nascent stage, internet retail is expected to become a significant complement to brick-and-mortar grocery and non-grocery retailing in the coming years.

The morphing of ‘mall’ culture

Dolmen Centre in Tariq Road (established in the nineties), was the first vertical shopping complex in Pakistan built on a multiple floor layout. Before that the concept of indoor air-conditioned shopping areas was alien in Pakistan. If people wanted branded products, Zainab Market or Panorama and Rex Centres were the go-to places.

However, the mall did not turn out the way it had been envisioned. There were not enough local brands because many did not want to assume the high rents Dolmen Centre demanded. It was almost a decade later that Pakistan had its first shopping mall, when Park Towers opened in Karachi.

The mall morphed into a social venue, where people went to enjoy the amenities rather than to buy. The opening of Dolmen Mall Tariq Road in 2002 proved to be a game changer. Dolmen Group’s prior experience had taught them that the only way to convince the big names to come onboard as tenants was to ensure customer traffic.

The two strategic decisions that paid off were the establishment of Sindbad’s Wonderland and a food court. Positioned as a family recreational spot, the mall began to bustle with activity convincing retailers to invest in space. Over the next 15 years, a number of malls were established (mostly in Karachi), redefining the shopping experience. The entry of Hyperstar in 2012 (operated by the Carrefour retail chain) as an anchor tenant at Dolmen Mall Clifton was another game changer.

Hyperstar became a retail success, prompting other mall operators to adopt the idea of having anchor tenants. North Pakistan is now at the forefront of the retail race and several multipurpose malls are under construction in Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi.

A facelift for grocery shopping

This shift in consumer shopping preferences, from a ‘product-price focus’ to an ‘assortment-experience’ focus, did not go unnoticed by local grocery retailers, such as Naheed and Imtiaz supermarkets, which underwent a 360-degree remodelling and transformation after 2008, by adopting a multi-level department store format.

Both supermarkets began as small kiryana shops in Bahadurabad. While Imtiaz’s strength remained budget grocery offerings, such as flour and masalas, Naheed differentiated itself by introducing imported brands.

Naheed expanded its footprint from the original 1,100 square feet of retail space to a 32,000 square feet, four-level departmental setup. Imtiaz followed and established outlets in DHA, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Nazimabad, three of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Karachi.

A roadmap for retail

Macroeconomic indicators point to a sustained boom in Pakistan’s retail industry and modern grocery retail market represents a key area of expansion. Increased competition is likely to further boost the sector and the entry of foreign players will force local retail giants to rethink, revamp and remodel their businesses.

A second area of opportunity is projected to be in the ‘mall culture’, particularly in the northern part of the country, as well as in second-tier cities where there is a demand-supply gap. A policy initiative increasingly asked for by the stakeholders is the establishment of a national retail association that can represent the sector’s interests, negotiate with the government over tax reform and introduce consumer protection laws. Abbasi sums up the future of retail in Pakistan: “One thing that will not change is that people will continue to shop; what will change is what, where and how they shop. For retailers who are able to read the market pulse and predict future buying trends, the sky is the limit.”


Article excerpted from ‘Retail revs up’, published in the May-June 2017 edition of Aurora.

Ayesha Shaikh is a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. She can be contacted at aurora@dawn.com

ENTER THE CONSCIENTIOUS CONSUMER

Marylou Andrew on how technology has forged a new consumer activism.

The Interflow team discuss with Amean J, the GSK campaign to raise awareness about calcium deficiency among women across Pakistan. An increasing number of brands are moving from a product to an ‘activism’ focus in their branding in order to engage with Millennials. This shift in strategy stems from a realisation that young people prefer to spend on brands they believe are making a positive contribution to society. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
The Interflow team discuss with Amean J, the GSK campaign to raise awareness about calcium deficiency among women across Pakistan. An increasing number of brands are moving from a product to an ‘activism’ focus in their branding in order to engage with Millennials. This shift in strategy stems from a realisation that young people prefer to spend on brands they believe are making a positive contribution to society. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

As consumers of brands, we have come a long way in the last 30 to 40 odd years. Gone are the days when we accepted advertising at its word, didn’t read brand labels and assumed that big (and small) businesses always functioned in moral and ethical ways. We now live in the age of the ‘better informed, more sceptical and less likely to take bullshit from brands’ consumer. And just how did we get here? In a word: technology.

Before the advent of the internet and social media in particular, access to unbiased opinions from consumers wasn’t nearly as easy, despite living in an increasingly globalised world. News travelled slowly, people had less access to information and most importantly, only a handful of people – be it politicians, lobbyists, journalists or brand managers – controlled (and often censored) the narrative that was fed to the public.

Until the fifties, phrases like ‘doctors recommend’ were commonplace in tobacco advertising and even as late as the eighties and nineties, smoking was considered cool remember, ‘Come For The Style, You’ll Stay For The Taste’ type ads; the unethical practices of companies like Monsanto, among others, were hidden from the public eye and consumers put their confidence in advertising that sounded good but lacked authenticity (Dove, I’m looking at you).

Fast forward to the present, where my favourite columnist, Nicholas Kristof, in a recent article wrote: “Millennials want to work for ethical companies, patronise brands that make them feel good and invest in socially responsible companies... doing good is no longer a matter of writing a few checks [cheques] at the end of the year, as it was for my generation; for many young people, it’s an ethos that governs where they work, shop and invest.” (New York Times, January 24, 2018)

Driven by an unprecedented access to information and opinion, younger consumers ‘care’ about who stitches the clothes they wear (big fashion with third world sweatshops beware), who makes the movies they watch (no more Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby please) and whether their food is safe and healthy (think crackdowns on MSG, hormone and antibiotic pumped dairy).

But while this concern can occasionally – although not always – be shallow in that it doesn’t always translate into action (some of us still shop at Zara right?), what is unwavering is the trust that consumers place in the words and opinions of others, over that of brand messaging. To put it another way, unbiased peer reviews trump advertising… Every Single Time.

While brands have accepted consumers’ rights and ability to express their opinion freely in a socially connected space, what has been harder to stomach is the fact that the consumer decision journey has changed almost entirely. People have always sought to gain value from their purchases and that remains the only constant.

What people perceive to be of value and how they obtain it, looks very different from what it did a decade ago. Although price and quality remain important, the brand’s ethos, the ethics of the company’s executives and most importantly, what other consumers think about the brand, are paramount to the expression of value.

What is interesting, and disconcerting, is that sometimes a brand that doesn’t necessarily have the best in class product or even offer the best value, can become a hero, based on how it is perceived and portrayed by ‘influential’ consumers.

This is the dark underbelly of the new consumer revolution, one in which consumers, because of their sheer reach and influence, have the power to destroy brands, and will sometimes use this influence maliciously while at other times, they may ‘sell’ themselves out to brands that seek to harm the competition.

Still, it is fair to say that more brands use consumer influence in positive rather than negative ways and converting social media influencers into brand advocates has proven to be a very effective strategy.

These brand advocates, as evidenced by hundreds of full disclosure statements on blogs and Facebook groups, are generally very concerned about transparency because they know that it is easier to lose followers over dishonest reviews than it is to gain them.

While there are many international examples to speak of, in the Pakistani sphere, there are two areas in particular where this strategy has worked exceptionally well for brands. The first is food (the industry in which I currently work) where influencer recommendation and/or criticism can pretty much make or break a business.

Consumers have become incredibly particular about what they eat, what goes into their food, and under what conditions it is manufactured. Going further up in the Maslowian order, ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ product offerings are embraced with great enthusiasm and the influencer who is able to cover the most launches and offer the best reviews, is most likely to have the greatest following. And it is natural that where consumers go, brands will follow.

Another area of growth in the realm of influencer marketing is women’s products and by this I mean fashion items, makeup, baby paraphernalia, books and anything else that a woman is likely to buy. Now this is pretty much the Holy Grail for Pakistani marketers because every product, with very few exceptions, is targeted towards the ‘housewife’.

Facebook groups like Soul Sisters Pakistan, Soul Bitches and a plethora of others have followers in the thousands and the word of the handful of women leading the group is considered gospel. As always, it is a time of challenge and opportunity for brands, but more pertinently, it is an incredibly exciting time to be a consumer of brands.


Marylou Andrew is Head of Product Excellence, Hobnob. She can be contacted at marylouandrew@gmail.com

LOST ON THE ACTIVATION HIGHWAY

Social media has provided activation a new lease of life. So why are activation agencies not taking advantage? Umair Kazi explains why.

Earlier this year, Dawlance, through their activation agency, Bulls Eye DDB, organised an event in Lahore to promote their multi-purpose stoves and ovens. Founded by Shoaib Qureshy, Bulls Eye DDB was Pakistan’s first specialist activation agency. Since activation events create more opportunities for personalised interactions and engagement with their target audience, an increasing number of brands have upped their marketing budgets for activation. According to the Aurora Fact File, in the FY 2016-17, ad spend on activation increased by 25%. (photo: Syed Murtaza Ali/ Dawn White Star)
Earlier this year, Dawlance, through their activation agency, Bulls Eye DDB, organised an event in Lahore to promote their multi-purpose stoves and ovens. Founded by Shoaib Qureshy, Bulls Eye DDB was Pakistan’s first specialist activation agency. Since activation events create more opportunities for personalised interactions and engagement with their target audience, an increasing number of brands have upped their marketing budgets for activation. According to the Aurora Fact File, in the FY 2016-17, ad spend on activation increased by 25%. (photo: Syed Murtaza Ali/ Dawn White Star)

Somewhere along the line, activation practitioners in Pakistan have lost their way. After the gloss of this ‘new and exciting’ marketing medium wore off, brands realised that they had to justify their spend on activation compared to their spend on ATL. This realisation brought into question the infamous ‘cost per contact’ metric that drives the activation landscape today.

Agencies responded by designing marketing activities, optimised to deliver the biggest bang for their buck in terms of cost per contacts. In all this hoopla, we collectively managed to critically wound, if not kill, the ‘experience’ part of experiential marketing.

Walk into any decent grocery store today and you will see this in action. In every aisle, there is a brand ambassador waiting to tell you about this and sell you that. In-store sales promotion is the official term of such activations, although ‘physical person-to-person spam’ would be more appropriate. The crème de la crème of activation channels, the mall, also saw a sharp decline in the engagement factor and potential ‘contacts’ had to be lured in with prizes and other incentives.

Most consumers, including myself, started avoiding activation campaigns like the plague. At the same time, social media took off and by 2014, most brands had become increasingly confident with the medium. They had gathered a sizable number of likes on their pages and needed content. This paved the way for a new addition to the activation brief; the social media angle.

Today, almost all clients want a social media element to their activation.

The evolution social+activation campaign

The social and experiential relationship has grown over the years in a number of ways. The first was simple captive integration. The idea is to create an activity that allows people to connect to their social media accounts and post stuff (ideally branded) about the activity and their part in it.

The problem with this approach is that it is restrictive, even with the help of customised software that can make the posting process smoother. In simple terms, participation is low because no matter how engaging the content is, it is a chore to post from a system you are not familiar with. For privacy nuts, it is an even bigger source of concern to enter sensitive login details from an untrustworthy location.

The second phase came with the advent of 3G and 4G technology. Now, people could do more than just check-in from their phones. This independence of social posting became a huge opportunity for the activation industry.

The formula for most activations was accordingly adjusted; custodians realised that if the activations were engaging, people would post about them, enabling a ‘multiplier effect’ online. The cost per contact was now being addressed by an online footprint as well, thereby unshackling it from strict activation targets. This helped brands refocus on creating a richer experience, even if it came at a higher cost and paved the way for visually engaging activations that encouraged people to whip out their phones, take a picture and post it.

The third stage came in the form of social-maximised campaigns. This is where an activity is executed on-ground with the sole purpose of acquiring word-of-mouth on social platforms. The idea is a limited experiential marketing campaign that targets only a handful of people on-ground, but is then fed online and spread from influencer to influencer.

This sort of experiential marketing is the rage internationally, but has only been exhibited a few times in Pakistan so far. A powerful example of this was recently executed by Olper’s. Rallying around their campaign concept that memories are made around the dinner table, they surprised couples dining in a restaurant by footing their bill.

Video content was created around their surprised expressions of joy, showcasing a range of emotions and even tiny interviews. The video was released on their social media properties. Although the number of contacts for the activity was minimal, the seeding of this on-ground campaign, along with its feel-good factor helped it spread fast and wide online.

A future with better experiences

As SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile) gains traction throughout the world, Pakistan is still playing catch-up. With a massive 140 million mobile phone userbase and a strong data liberation movement from our telecommunication operators, conditions are perfect for brands and agencies to move towards better integrated experiential campaigns that seamlessly harness the power of social.

An obstacle standing in the way is institutionalised thinking and a strong affection for the status quo. We need to take greater risks and encourage social to be a frontrunner instead of an add-on. The other big hurdle is disconnected campaign planning. The trust deficit between agencies working on different aspects of the campaign needs to be addressed and multiple partners need to work in tandem, not in silos.

The experiential marketing industry must quickly shape up and provide a pivotal and supportive role in this transformation. If we stay silent and limited to doing just ‘our bit’, we will become the ‘necessary nuisance’ that ATL has become and be chucked out in favour of a better online experience. 


Article excerpted from ‘Activation agencies need to come up to speed or be left behind’, published in the July-August 2015 edition of Aurora.

Umair Kazi is Partner, Ishtehari. He can be contacted at umair@ishtehari.com


STATE LIFE: ENCOUNTERING STIFF COMPETITION

At the time of independence, there were only a few local insurance companies operating in Pakistan along with a few foreign companies; within 25 years, the number rose to 32. In 1972, under a Presidential Order, life insurance was nationalised in Pakistan.

This took place in two stages. Firstly, the management of the 32 life insurance companies was taken over by the government. Secondly, a single corporation called the State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan was established with three units called A, B and C. These three units are still incorporated in our logo in the form of three petals. The third unit, C, was in East Pakistan. In October 1975, the three units were merged and five zones were created (they are also part of the logo, between the three petals).

Initially, we advertised on radio and print, because the majority of our policy holders did not own a TV set then. The ‘Ae Khuda Mere Abbu’ campaign was developed in the 1980s, and showed a father-and-daughter situation; the emotional appeal of the little girl praying for her father’s life won people over and the TVC became an iconic ad.

We did a remake of the TVC in the 2000s, which showed the girl as a grown up, but it didn’t do well, because times had changed and so had the target market. Earlier, a father was the sole breadwinner; today, almost everyone in the family earns.

Furthermore, earlier, the perception was that life insurance is only of benefit after death, whereas today people can use the money they have invested over 20 years time. This was the idea we tried to communicate in our Eid TVC. Earlier, it was about a father who had to stay alive, now it is about a wise father who has invested in insurance for his children’s future. The branding of life insurance products has changed.

We have reduced our advertising on radio; our ad spend is equally divided between TV, print and digital.


Razia Dossa is Manager Corporate Communications, State Life Insurance Corporation Pakistan.

FROM CRUNCHING NUMBERS TO STORYTELLING SCENARIOS

To remain relevant to brand supremacy, market research companies need to rapidly effect a paradigm shift, writes Noaman Asar.

Within 20 years of Independence, economists were eyeing Pakistan as one of the fastest emerging economies; countries like South Korea were studying its model to replicate it. It was in this time of prosperity that Pakistan’s first market research company began operations.

Composed by Marium Ali
Composed by Marium Ali

Their first office was a humble setup on Tariq Road in Karachi in 1966. The proprietor of this innovative enterprise was Mahmoodul Hasan, a young graduate of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA). His tenet for the business was that there could be no compromise on the quality of data because clients would be making strategic business decisions based on this information.

The company thus ensured that the data collectors were well-trained, but it was also important to guarantee that the sample selection was scientifically done and representative of the universe under study and that the questionnaires were designed in a way to make sure they asked the right questions to get the right answers.

The people attracted to this field were comfortable with numbers and with inferring learnings by deploying statistical and mathematical tools. The pioneers were graduates from Ivy League universities, such as Dr Ijaz Shafi Gilani and Dr Javed Ghani.

Initially, clients were multinational companies,familiar with market research. In fact, companies like Unilever used to have a market research department as big as any research agency. This was the case up into the nineties, when Unilever, along with other multinationals moved away from this model and outsourced to specialist agencies.

This development led to the growth of the market research industry. Many local advertising agencies opened their doors and the industry saw a boom. It was around this time when mainframe computers were introduced, a development that saw a change in client expectations, as they then began to demand faster turnaround times and reports that would give them learnings rather than outputs.

In fact, clients expected their market research companies to have ‘marketing’ sense and this created the need for a new a mindset, whereby numbers were interpreted to generate insights. As technology gathered pace and new tools were introduced, clients wanted their research companies to be their partners rather than data providers. They were demanding insights with a clear direction on how to meet their business challenges.


Clients expected their market research companies to have ‘marketing’ sense and this created the need for a new a mindset, whereby numbers were interpreted to generate insights.


However, market research companies failed to step up to the plate and the emphasis remained on sharing data, with their output lacking focus, as the ‘data miners’ were mining sand rather than sieving for ‘diamonds’ (insights) and stories.

Market research companies require a paradigm shift. They need to transform themselves into marketing consultants. They need to understand the business, use the right design to test hypothesis and present findings that are relevant to their clients’ needs. Of course, market research practitioners need to be comfortable with numbers, but they also need the ability to create ideas that can break through the clutter. This transition is important in terms of how the future is shaping up.

It is expected that the market researcher’s job will be replaced by technologies and androids due to AI and machine learning. These machines will master what humans are good at by using their ‘left’ or their ‘rational’ brain. However, this does not mean that technology will replace humans. Humans will still be superior because of their ‘right brain’ or ‘emotions’ and will continue to interpret data and offer recommendations to grow brands based on insights and stories. Market researchers will have to become strategists and planners.


Noaman Asar is MD, Kantar Pakistan. He can be contacted at noaman.asar@kantar.com

THE THRILL OF INSTANT PURCHASE

Tariq Ziad Khan traces the resurgence of consumer finance and banking.

The team from Manhattan International are in London, shooting their TVC for Standard Chartered Bank and Emirates’ co-branded credit cards. Last year, SCB collaborated with Emirates to launch a customised product to cater to Pakistan’s growing frequent-flyer community. SCB and Emirates have taken advantage of the uptick in consumer financing via credit cards as well as the significant increase in the country’s leisure and business travel spending, which according to Jovago Pakistan, is projected to cross $20.9 billion by 2026. (photo: Shahnawaz)
The team from Manhattan International are in London, shooting their TVC for Standard Chartered Bank and Emirates’ co-branded credit cards. Last year, SCB collaborated with Emirates to launch a customised product to cater to Pakistan’s growing frequent-flyer community. SCB and Emirates have taken advantage of the uptick in consumer financing via credit cards as well as the significant increase in the country’s leisure and business travel spending, which according to Jovago Pakistan, is projected to cross $20.9 billion by 2026. (photo: Shahnawaz)

Any discussion about Pakistani banking tends to elicit divergent opinions. This is understandable because for an economy as undocumented as Pakistan’s, accurate numbers are hard to come by, even in an industry as heavily regulated as Pakistani banking.

Pakistan is unique in the sense of being one of the few countries that can boast of a number of banks that operate within its geographic boundaries for periods that predate its existence. As the young nation struggled to get off to a promising start, banks formed the core of the services industry and were key employers for the educated members of the workforce, which included a large number of refugees from India.

Pakistani banking grew as did the economic prospects of the country. An increase in multinational interests brought many mercantile banks from abroad, while many major business houses established locally-owned commercial banks.

However, this changed with the nationalisation of the major banks in 1974, as part of a larger economic reorientation in the country. While many people tend to remember nationalisation as the nadir of Pakistani banking (which it unfortunately did turn out to be), not many of them remember that it was part of a broader vision to provide banking to a larger segment of the population, as well as improve access to banking services in under-served and rural areas.

The fact is that post-privatisation, Pakistani banks had a readymade critical mass of low-cost deposits across the length and breadth of the country, as well as a branch network that served as an example of market potential, is forgotten.

Come the nineties and the post-martial law governments reoriented the economy to a more outward looking slant. Also, like Pakistani banking, Pakistani consumers changed too. The opening of the economy, along with the rise of satellite TV, the Gulf boom, mobile telephony and the arrival of the internet, significantly changed consumer preferences. Despite the ‘on again, off again’ recessive tendencies of the economy, increased competition among banks forced them to look beyond corporate and high net worth customers. This broadening of the target audience brought consumer banking in its true form to the Pakistani market.

The rise of consumer banking fed an almost insatiable urge among Pakistanis for brands in terms of automobiles (including Honda, Toyota and Suzuki), consumer durables and electronic appliances such as Haier, Orient, Pel, Super General and Waves. With the opening of the economy and the entry of foreign brands, banks capitalised on both, secured and unsecured lending with a ballooning portfolio of credit cards, personal loans, auto-financing and even mortgages.

Reporting for Aurora during those exciting times, I met a number of bankers across the three main segments of the industry. These were the large, formerly nationalised banks and subsequently dubbed the ‘Big Five’, multinational banks and locally-owned private banks (which were thriving by catering to middle-class customers). Being part of a marketing publication, my focus would be on optics of growth in the industry as well as the advertising that it produced.

Those were exciting times as for the first time, banks opted for high-cost productions, TVCs, cross branding, merchant alliances, brand partnerships and direct-to-consumer campaigns. Product development was in overdrive and products from other Asian economies were replicated at lightning speed, along with a drive for deposits and lending that mimicked a full-scale pricing war. Added to this, much work was undertaken in alternative delivery channels such as internet banking and ATMs (with the launch of two countrywide network switches).

My discussions with consumer bankers during that time had three broad themes: consumer banking was causing the overall growth in sectors such as travel, automobiles, home appliances and consumer electronics; the industry was extremely profitable (by some estimates, among the top five most profitable in the world), but subject to consolidation in the future resulting in fewer, albeit larger players; and although default rates were low (as low as 1.5%), this could change as borrowed assets aged or if the economy experienced another downturn.

Fifteen years and a stint working with two major banks later, I saw all these trends play out in different ways. Pakistan’s economy did once again see significant recessive tendencies during the post Musharraf/Great Global Recession period, and with major implications for consumer banking, particularly in terms of unsecured lending.

When I left Pakistan, the industry seemed to be on the cusp of a major consolidation and the focus had once again shifted to core banking products, particularly low-cost deposits, SME-secured lending and inward remittances. Banks had started parking more money in high-yield government securities.

Added to this, the increasing paid-up capital requirements and other regulatory tightening by the State Bank of Pakistan on marketing, coupled with limited legal recourse against defaulting customers, had made consumer banking outreach fairly limited for most banks.

Five years later, things are starting to change. With the maturing of a lot of those high-yield government securities, along with pressures on traditional banking revenue streams, it seems banks are now flush with cash and are once again willing to look at consumer banking as a way to augment revenue in the face of low discount rates.

With the mainstays of consumer banking (automobiles, electronics, travel and mortgages) again on the uptick, coupled with factors such as a consolidated banking sector with fewer players and the opportunities presented by CPEC, the fundamentals of the Pakistani economy show enough promise to keep banks interested.

One hopes that the best days of the industry still lie ahead.


Tariq Ziad Khan is a marketing professional who has worked with major brands in banking, advertising and the media in Pakistan. He is currently based in the US and can be contacted at tzk999@yahoo.com

AROUSING ASPIRATIONS

Durriya Kazi on the evolution of Pakistan’s most beloved and popular art form – truck art.

From left to right: A colourful depiction of a wild goat (possibly a markhor or urial) can be seen on the rear of a truck; other subjects that are favoured by artists include roses, peacocks, parrots, eagles, lions, tigers, the buraq, Sufi saints and colourful mountain landscapes; In 2010, Granta featured Truck Art on the cover of their Pakistan issue. The Karachi-based artist Islam Gull used the same industrial paints with which he embellished Pakistani trucks to create the cover. The Pakistan issue included the works by some of Pakistan’s most celebrated writers including Nadeem Aslam, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Mohsin Hamid, Kamila Shamsie, Aamer Hussein and Mohammad Hanif who was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz in March 2018; Truck art, a quintessentially Pakistani art form is characterised by bright colours, such as red, green, yellow and shocking pink, complex floral patterns and poetic calligraphy. It requires painstaking attention to detail by the artists who spend weeks, if not months, decorating trucks which are mainly used to transport goods across Pakistan’s highways.
From left to right: A colourful depiction of a wild goat (possibly a markhor or urial) can be seen on the rear of a truck; other subjects that are favoured by artists include roses, peacocks, parrots, eagles, lions, tigers, the buraq, Sufi saints and colourful mountain landscapes; In 2010, Granta featured Truck Art on the cover of their Pakistan issue. The Karachi-based artist Islam Gull used the same industrial paints with which he embellished Pakistani trucks to create the cover. The Pakistan issue included the works by some of Pakistan’s most celebrated writers including Nadeem Aslam, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Mohsin Hamid, Kamila Shamsie, Aamer Hussein and Mohammad Hanif who was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz in March 2018; Truck art, a quintessentially Pakistani art form is characterised by bright colours, such as red, green, yellow and shocking pink, complex floral patterns and poetic calligraphy. It requires painstaking attention to detail by the artists who spend weeks, if not months, decorating trucks which are mainly used to transport goods across Pakistan’s highways.

When Pakistan came into being in 1947, ways to identify institutions of a new country needed to be devised. Currency, postage stamps, passports, remembering to say Radio Pakistan rather than All India Radio and government stationery – all required attention.

Trucks used for transport of goods developed stencils for the three main companies. New Muluk (New Country), Sitara-e-Hilal (Crescent and Star) and Taj Mahal. Some tentative painted decoration crept in when Haji Hussain, a palace decorator from Kutch Bujh settled in Karachi. In the economic boom of the sixties, the fortunes of transporters grew as industries in Karachi needed raw materials from all over Pakistan.

The pride of the new transporters was mirrored in the emergence of excessive decoration that has become the hallmark of Pakistani trucks. When in 1963, Gohar Ayub acquired the monopoly to exclusively import Bedford trucks, it inadvertently created a standard form for decorative elements that continued for decades until adapted for more modern, long-wheelbase trucks.

Vehicle decoration spawned an industry. The trucks, imported as cab and chassis, are constructed according to the needs of the decorators. The format of the original wooden structures is maintained for newer metal bodies to create continuity of compositional techniques. Seats are decorated, interior ceilings, flashing lights, reflective stickers and of course, spaces designed for poetry.

While the transport company underwrites the cost, the motifs are selected by the truck driver, who needs to be encouraged to undertake gruelling journeys on badly-lit and dangerous roads. The decoration industry is also an art school with apprentices learning from ustads.

Access to transport has always been greatly valued. The conquest of distance and time is empowering. In 2005, 250,000 commercial vehicles travelled over 270,000 kilometres of roads in Pakistan, most of which were decorated and whose images, verses and messages were viewed by most of Pakistan’s population. This public sharing of art and personal philosophy is remarkable and, along with wall chalking, performs the role of an elaborate public access newspaper and art gallery.

Images reflect social and religious values, spiritual longing, personal pride, favourite personalities, humour, nature – beautiful landscapes, fantastic gardens, hunting scenes or animals whose qualities are admired (lions, tigers, the poet Iqbal’s falcon or shaheen). The most repeated theme is love and sweet romance, with hearts crossed by arrows, bleeding with unrequited love and veiled beauties staring enigmatically.

Politics has gradually entered with images of Benazir, Mir Murtaza, Akbar Bugti, the urials of Balochistan or stickers of kalashnikov wielding Baloch. Little known are the coded stickers placed on the dashboard that indicate on whose payroll a truck is when it is stopped for bribes.

The composition devises reference from Rajasthani miniature painting. However, rather than nostalgia for past glory, one can see it as a subversive acquisition of the lifestyles of the privileged. This is indicated by use of terms like taj (crown), road da badshah (king of the road) and mirror work ceilings reminiscent of palaces. The truck itself is feminine, with parandas and beautiful eyes: “Waqt ney aik bar phir dulhan bana diya” (time has once again made me a bride).

The images used are symbolic, intended less for sharing a physical observation and more for arousing particular kinds of emotions and aspirations. The saturated colours communicate the intensity of experience. As Horkheimer writes, “authentic culture persuades through its forms rather than commands through its content.”

The trucks have a more sophisticated aesthetic than one is immediately aware of. Regional styles have evolved: Peshawar trucks are formally restrained with greater emphasis on the older style of Victorian lettering and cameo images placed two-thirds down the panel. High-bodied Rawalpindi trucks have every available space covered with intricate layering of coloured plastic filigree designs. Karachi trucks, followed by Lahore, still have the most painted imagery. A truck has to be seen at night on unlit highways, with its excess of reflectors and florescent stickers, to be truly appreciated.

Enduring images include the Buraq, a flying white horse with a woman’s face, symbolic of the spiritual journey (Mairaj) of the Prophet Mohammed; anything cherished is shown nestling within a rose, associated with the Holy Prophet. The peacock symbolises heavenly beauty, the parrot, humour and the eagle, ambition; the lion symbolises majesty, the tiger, aggressive power, the flowering plant in a vase or emerging from the mouth of a dead fish – prosperity and spiritual rebirth.

The cypress of Indo-Persian poetry also becomes an image of ‘home’ for many truck drivers who are from mountainous areas of the north. The wrapping of decorated metal over objects or architectural details is an old custom as seen on the doors of the shrine of Shah Latif Bhitai.

The truck is a talisman. The source of livelihood must be honoured for barkat or prosperity. Clues to superstition are all over the decorated truck: the eyes that ward off the evil eye: the manat cloths or religious pledges that hang from the truck body, a child’s shoe hidden in the radiator; poetry that suggests that the owner owes his prosperity only to God or his mother’s prayers.

Every truck route is lined with shrines, outside which stand people day and night to collect a token coin or rupee to ensure a safe journey. The act of decorating the truck is perhaps a parallel to placing a covering of scented red rose petals or brocade cloth on the grave of a Sufi saint in return for his prayers.

Ultimately vehicle decoration is a cultural text. It has not only absorbed displaced craftsmen from all over the country, from Kashmiri wood carvers to the taazia makers of Karachi, but reflects the ideals and aspirations of ordinary people, trying to survive the difficult realities of everyday experiences. The aesthetic convention is invigorated, changed and renewed as a reflection of the present, speaking for the life of the individual in that moment of time when he has no other voice.


Durriya Kazi is a Karachi-based artist and heads the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Karachi.

TURN OF THE CENTURY: MEDIA IN COLLISION

WHEN E-COMMERCE CLIENTS BECOME LARGE ADVERTISERS ON TRADITIONAL MEDIA...

Fouad Husain, CEO, GroupM, outlines how advertising planners have transformed the mediascape over the last two decades.

Fouad Husain (left) CEO, GroupM, and Kiran Khan (right) Chief Strategy Officer, GroupM, study the advertisements they have released on behalf of their client HBL. This series of advertisements released by GroupM were contained in 16 Special Reports of 70 Years of Pakistan & DAWN, published by The Dawn Media Group between August 19 and December 25, 2017. The Special Reports were the second instalment of The Dawn Media Group’s tribute to 70 years of Pakistan. GroupM is a leading global media investment management company for WPP media agencies, which include Mindshare, Wavemaker, Mediacom and M/six and Xaxis. The first media buying house to open in Pakistan was Pak Mediacom in 1996, followed by Mindshare in 1999. In 2008, consolidation took place under the GroupM banner and included Maxus, Media Edge and Mindshare. In Pakistan, GroupM contributes approximately a 40% share to the industry as a traditional media agency, and a 50% share as a digital agency. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Fouad Husain (left) CEO, GroupM, and Kiran Khan (right) Chief Strategy Officer, GroupM, study the advertisements they have released on behalf of their client HBL. This series of advertisements released by GroupM were contained in 16 Special Reports of 70 Years of Pakistan & DAWN, published by The Dawn Media Group between August 19 and December 25, 2017. The Special Reports were the second instalment of The Dawn Media Group’s tribute to 70 years of Pakistan. GroupM is a leading global media investment management company for WPP media agencies, which include Mindshare, Wavemaker, Mediacom and M/six and Xaxis. The first media buying house to open in Pakistan was Pak Mediacom in 1996, followed by Mindshare in 1999. In 2008, consolidation took place under the GroupM banner and included Maxus, Media Edge and Mindshare. In Pakistan, GroupM contributes approximately a 40% share to the industry as a traditional media agency, and a 50% share as a digital agency. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

The entry of Mindshare Pakistan

In 1994, the media departments of J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather, both WPP advertising agencies, merged and formed Mindshare, the Group’s first global media agency network overseas. The idea behind it was to combine the media budgets of the agencies’ clients in order to negotiate better rates and maximise their brands’ visibility across media.

In 1999, Mindshare came to Pakistan, prompted by Unilever (their media planning globally was handled by Mindshare).

Early days of media planning in Pakistan

Media planning was a new skill-set, which the creative agencies had not acquired. The most important thing for Mindshare was to convince clients to view media buying houses as organisations that could optimise ROI on their media budgets and bring transparency to the media buying process.

Mindshare not only consolidated their clients’ business from the media buying side, they also focused on media planning to ensure that the clients’ communications objectives were met.

How media planning has changed

In 1999, there were three channels in Pakistan: PTV, PTV World and NTM (which shut down a year later). Dealing with TV then was easier; half of Unilever’s budget went to print and the other half to TV. Print was more complicated as there were more magazines and digests. Then, when the satellite channels came in, the floodgates opened.

Today, there are over 80 TV channels and digital is now a primary medium. As a result, media planning has changed. For one thing, it is now called media communications management (MCM) and media buying and planning are functions within this ambit.

Furthermore, the profession has become more challenging. We are functioning in a complex media environment and we have to create media plans that correlate to our clients’ communication objectives, keeping in mind which media our target audience is consuming and which geographic cluster they fall into; and finally, utilising the right media in an optimal way to communicate the brand message, all the while keeping our clients’ budgets in mind.

Media effectiveness

Mindshare is part of GroupM, which consists of two other full-service media agencies: Mac (soon to be called Mediacom) and Maxis. Mindshare has over 50 clients across most sectors and accounts for at least 40% of the media planning business in Pakistan. Measuring effectiveness on TV is relatively simple due to the Peoplemeters.

As far as print is concerned, Mindshare has been advocating a national readership survey for the last 18 years but that has not happened yet. Similarly, there is no tracking tool for radio, which is why these media have been adversely impacted by TV and digital, both of which can be tracked.

Mundane TV entertainment

Entertainment channels should reflect what their audiences want to see and not what they think audiences want to see. People say they want to see women crying and beaten; that’s wrong. This trend began after saas bahu dramas began to air on Star Plus.

Ask any channel if they conduct formal research regularly, and the chances are they don’t. The plays PTV made in the early eighties were far superior in quality. Today, you have actors who have become directors and producers and their production houses are aligned with one channel or another, which is why programming has become stale and mundane. Abroad, channels outsource a lot of their entertainment programming.

Digital: a rising star

Digital will account for at least 20 to 25% of the total media budget in the next five years and TV will lose out. Within a year of its launch, the revenue of YouTube in Pakistan exceeded that of the major entertainment channels because so many people are watching content on Youtube (this may also include programming of local entertainment channels).

What will also happen in the next five years is that e-commerce clients will become bigger advertisers than FMCGs like in India, where Amazon is at par with Unilever. Mindshare’s digital wing opened three years ago and it is the largest digital agency in Pakistan in terms of billing. Digital accounts for six to seven percent of the overall media billing which is very low; in countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, ad spend on digital has reached 12 to 13%, and they are aiming to increase it to 15 to 18%.

In Pakistan, brands must understand that they can’t just post a TVC on Facebook or Google and think they are ‘doing digital’. People are more expressive on digital; it is an interactive medium and brands have to tailor their communications accordingly.

E-commerce proliferates

When Foodpanda came to Pakistan, not many people thought it would work, as most restaurants had a delivery service. Yet, they made it. Amazon wants to come to Pakistan, as do Alibaba and Travago. Similarly, Careem is a phenomenon in Pakistan. The key to their success is the simplicity behind their idea, which is missing in a lot of businesses in Pakistan.

A great deal of work needs to be done to simplify and make things easy for consumers. Due to increasing internet penetration, e-commerce is worth an estimated $200 million in Pakistan. We have 45 to 50 million smartphone users but from a service perspective, we have not been able to tap into this audience because most transactions require cash on delivery. We have not been able to break those paradigms.

To succeed, we have to make things more convenient for consumers, as well as change the way we think. E-commerce clients will start to become significant advertisers on traditional media in the same way the telecom sector did several years ago.


Fouad Husain was interviewed by Mamun M. Adil, a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. Mamun can be contacted at mamun.adil@gmail.com


TIBET SNOW: SEARCHING FOR PAST GLORIES

Ads for Tibet Snow, Tibet Talcum Powders and Tibet Soap from 1956, 1965 and 2018 respectively.
Ads for Tibet Snow, Tibet Talcum Powders and Tibet Soap from 1956, 1965 and 2018 respectively.

In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this – wrote the ever quotable Terry Pratchett. This may be true for some older brands as well.

In this context, the brand that comes to mind is Tibet, a 40-year-old brand, famous for making Tibet Snow cream; the beauty cream of the east.

Tibet’s earliest ads had the actress Sabiha as brand ambassador. In terms of TV commercials, they featured white Caucasian models on speed boats singing of the joys of using Tibet Soap. Tibet was a household name then and your mom or grandmother may well have used them.

However, like the cats, Tibet has not forgotten its legacy and somehow the brand has become stuck in time. There have been attempts over the past few years to come out with new SKUs, packaging and fragrances and this makes me happy; I am a staunch supporter of all brands Pakistani.

The attempts at humour with comedian Danish Ali and the fruity soap, showing a constantly hungry guy, are good and brave attempts by a brand that refuses to forget its legacy. Clearly the brand wants to evolve but is it evolving fast enough? The logo has not, and even with some fantastic storytelling (the freshman ad), the brand feels dated.

There are lessons in the constant engaging with new audiences that we see among legacy brands such as Lux, Shell and Levis. Other brands, such as Rooh Afza, have also been victims of the cat mentality and new players like Jam-e-Shirin are surpassing Rooh Afza and Nauras, who are stuck as seasonal Ramzan brands.


Atiya Zaidi is Executive Creative Director, Synergy Dentsu.

FAULT LINES BEYOND MEDIA

A growth in media choice has exposed flaws within advertising – not least among them a paucity of talent, declining design standards, and the absence in our narratives of a uniquely Pakistani identity, writes Asad-ur-Rehman.

Journalists Wusat Ullah Khan, Mubashir Zaidi, Zarrar Khuhro (left to right) are engaged in lively debate. For more than three years, the trio comes together on the popular current affairs talk show Zara Hut Kay every week night from Monday to Friday and enlightens – and entertains – their audiences with witty banter and political insight as they discuss a host of topics. Zara Hut Kay is a Dawn News programme. The channel was launched in 2007 and is widely respected for its credible reporting, free of the sensationalism prevalent in most other Pakistani news channels. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Journalists Wusat Ullah Khan, Mubashir Zaidi, Zarrar Khuhro (left to right) are engaged in lively debate. For more than three years, the trio comes together on the popular current affairs talk show Zara Hut Kay every week night from Monday to Friday and enlightens – and entertains – their audiences with witty banter and political insight as they discuss a host of topics. Zara Hut Kay is a Dawn News programme. The channel was launched in 2007 and is widely respected for its credible reporting, free of the sensationalism prevalent in most other Pakistani news channels. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

History, it is said, is made up of hundreds of different narratives. Which one of these we choose to tell, depends on who is telling it, and to whom we are telling it.

We have not captured history well when it comes to advertising and media in Pakistan. The range of narratives in Pakistan’s advertising history is not only wide – it is mostly a function of our collective or individual memories.

Let me present a short appraisal of the ad industry over the past 70 years, with some attempt at foresight. What follows is simplistic in some cases, descriptive in some, and in others, a mere opinion.

The evolution of the media has triggered growth in ad spend

Growth in ad spend is a function of a few factors. The strength of the economy, belief in the effectiveness of advertising and the cost of media. Progressive developments in media tend to drive the cost of media up. Pakistan spends relatively less per capita on advertising than most markets.

It is also one of the cheapest markets in the world to buy media by CPM comparisons. The size of Pakistan’s ad industry is about $700 million. It has grown consistently and there is still substantial room for growth, which will be a combination of the factors mentioned above. Increases in advertising expenditure have mostly been a function of developments in the media landscape.

Launch of cinemas, TV in the sixties, colour TV in the seventies, the launch of reputable print publications (Herald in the late sixties and fashion magazines later), satellite channels in the nineties, NTM and then the private TV channels. These developments provided new ways of reaching consumers and consequently, drew more investment from brands and marketers.

Digital media channels have driven the growth of the industry in the recent past and will continue to do so for some years. Digital CPMs are higher than traditional media CPMs, so there will be inflation in the cost of media. Data from digital channels brings in greater evidence of ROI, leading to confidence in making greater investments.

Estimates say that Pakistan’s ad spend will grow at seven to eight percent over the next few years – making the size of the industry comparable to some emerging markets and greater than some others.

Demand on talent will become even tougher

Pakistan’s ad industry has mostly been driven by legacy (and legendary) entrepreneurs. Prince Abbas Mirza (D.J. Keymer and of pre-partition heritage), Anwar Rammal, Shaukat Fancy, Naseer Haider, Javed Jabbar, the Thavers, S.H. Hashmi, C.A. Rauf, Bashir Khan and countless others. Later, Taher A. Khan, Shahnoor Ahmed, Jawaid Iqbal and Imran Mir built great advertising businesses.

Most of these people transferred the management of their agencies to their sons and daughters or to a trusted second-in-command. The objective of this transfer in management (nay power) was to ensure that the business and its reputation remained intact.

During most of our history, the advertising profession has never been the first choice of career for most professionals. If you graduated from IBA and joined an ad agency, your friends and family thought you had no career aspirations. If you wanted to study the arts or humanities or aspired to a creative career, you had to justify why you did not want to be a doctor or an engineer.

It is no surprise that agency owners had no option but to transfer the power to ‘familiar people’ because there were few ‘people of skills’ available. In the late nineties, the international networks started to invest in Pakistani agencies. WPP were the first with Mindshare. The challenge then arose of developing professional managers who did not necessarily come from the families of agency owners.

The industry had the arduous task of building a talent pipeline. At that time, Pakistan went through its share of political and social turmoil. Consequently, there was a massive brain drain. People such as Karim Rammal (although the son of an owner was the first professional CEO of an international agency) to amazing talent such as Qaiser Bachani, Wahab Ghaznavi, Yasir Riaz and Cyma Zulfiqar, left the country to pursue international careers.

Others decided to pursue other careers or start their own companies. Sarmad Ali (perhaps the most talented advertising person of our times) decided to join the media (Jang Group), Imran Irshad first went abroad and then came back to open his own agency, Shoaib Qureshy also opened his own agency and Raihan Merchant made a fortune by going solo early on in his career.

A few good leaders emerged in the 2000s – among them Starcom, Ogilvy, JWT and BBDO. There is hope that these networks will continue to develop and nurture managerial talent. The industry is going to put greater demands on talent and there is a need to build different areas of expertise. The skill profile of the ad person of the future will be vastly different from what it is today.

New expertise, such as experience design, data management and technology are becoming central to the profession. Academic or vocational training for such skills is presently non-existent in Pakistan.

Stagnation in ‘commercial design’ sense

The National College of Arts (NCA) is the oldest art and design school in South Asia. The Karachi School of Arts was founded in 1964, the Arts Council in Karachi started in 1948 and the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture in 1995.

All these institutions have had substantial impact on our fine arts and textile design. But how much have they influenced the collective ‘commercial design’ output of Pakistan? Drive from Sindhi Muslim Society through to Tariq Road and on to Bahadurabad in Karachi to get a feel of our design sense.

This three kilometre stretch is packed with retail outlets. It is also representative of our largest purchasing power segment – the middle class. The shop signs are a visual cacophony. Go to Zamzama in Karachi, Mall Road in Lahore or Murree Road in Rawalpindi, and the experience is similar – if not worse.

Our design schools have had virtually no grass-root impact on the ‘visual health’ of Pakistan. Part of the reason is the lack of design literacy among business owners themselves. This permeates, it could be said, ‘bad design’ per se. However, not all our design work has been in vain.

Take Imran Mir. His rebranding of Muslim Commercial Bank in the late nineties, followed by a change of signage for their 1,400 branches nationwide, was perhaps the most refreshing design upgrade the streets of Pakistan have seen. Those of you who saw Abdul Khaliq Allahwala’s shop and sign design will acknowledge the level of design upgrade Imran gave us.

Mir came from the heritage of Creative Unit at Dawn where Tannaz Minwalla and Mannan Hatim Ali were doing their bit in promoting brilliant design. At the same time, A.G. Khaled was redefining the art of publication design at The News. A young man named Akmal Cheema was winning international design awards for his work for Libas magazine. Shahzad Nawaz had come in with One:2:One and introduced an offbeat design genre.

At Asiatic/JWT, two young Indus graduates, Shahbaz and Murtaza, were setting new standards in advertising. They later went on to make their careers with IPG, Fallon, Razorfish, Digitas and Under Armour.

Rohail Hayat sharpened his tools at Pyramid Productions, pushing the envelope in production design and animation. Those were perhaps the best commercial design days Pakistani advertising has ever seen. The trend unfortunately did not carry on.

Memorable advertising has been archetypical and not easy to find

There is a class of Pakistani advertising that has proven unforgettable and which we have grown up humming to. Naurus, Binaca, Dentonic, Rhythm of Unity, State Life, Brooke Bond Supreme, Shaan, Ciba Geigy Polytrin C, Dollar Ink, Mohammad Farooq Textiles, Gillette Blue II and UFone are a few examples.

Even Coke Studio falls into this category, although it is not a piece of advertising but a brand-funded programme. This class of advertising is culturally iconic, fundamentally ‘Pakistani’ or archetypical in nature, and has the middle class at its heart as the audience. It is driven by cultural insights, and is not given the ‘aspirational’ makeover much of our advertising seems to fall into. You can recognise it from miles away.

This work stands as a contrast to most of the advertising that shies away from embracing our culture. When I worked in advertising in Pakistan, creative concepts were written and presented in English and then translated into Urdu for execution. Urdu copywriters were a rare breed and often not at the top of the food chain.

Quite a lot of our great advertising ideas have thus been lost in translation. Reactions to advertising concepts in the boardrooms have far too often been mistaken for the presumed reaction consumers would have to our advertising. If we look to India, this has not been the case. The Indian advertising that inspires us is embedded in the language of the streets.

It is ironic that some of Pakistan’s recent advertising work that is archetypical in nature, has been written by Indian writers. There could be deeper cultural reasons for this phenomenon, but we will never have creative excellence without mass cultural insights.

The work people like Ali Rez are doing (and which is winning international recognition) has this phenomenon at the heart of it. This type of work needs to become an everyday practice. It will not, unless ad practitioners restore their pride in their own culture. 


Asad-ur-Rehman is leading Unilever’s Digital Transformation & Media in Middle East / North Africa. The views presented in this article are his own.

AUDITING RISK IN MEDIA

M. Saqib Haroon & Philipp Vogeler discuss the importance of instituting independent media audits as a means to manage risk and ensure transparency.

ILLUSTRATION BY ROHAIL SAFDAR
ILLUSTRATION BY ROHAIL SAFDAR

Pakistan’s media landscape has evolved tremendously in the last decade, with some experts maintaining that it is saturated, while others are still seeking the opportunity to launch more consumer contact points.

This evolution has been well-managed by the Pakistan Advertisers Society through its efforts to acquire data for better media planning and buying. The introduction of the Peoplemeter software-based media tracking systems and the Consumer Multimedia Index by MEMRB, as well as research initiatives by Nielsen Pakistan and GroupM have generated sufficient data to design optimised plans for at least 60 to 70% of the spend goes to television.

The communications industry has also seen the proliferation of TV channels and the shift of the media buying function from the full-service agency to specialised media buying agencies. We now foresee the amalgamation of the smaller media buying agencies in order to gain synergies, as well as advertisers moving to larger media groups to obtain better value for their spends.

These changes have introduced the concept of a specialised review of the media planning function and its execution – independent of the media buying companies. This means that post-campaign analysis is now evaluating whether the business objectives were met as well as the overall value the client achieved.

Given that advertising spend is considered to be one of the largest administrative costs of a company (comparable to trade discount margins), clients need to ensure that this spend is closely monitored and that the ROI is calculated.

However, there is a need for a shift in mindset whereby spend is seen as an investment rather than an expenditure by the client, while media agencies will need to assume the role of investment managers and make ROI their single most important performance measure.

According to Thomas Bridge, the Founder and CEO of Media Management Inc. (MMI): “As US brands expand to other markets, the need for an independent media audit becomes even more important. The media investment risk increases with complexity of the media buy.”

MMI has developed a software called Circle Audit to help advertisers answer the 3 Questions regarding their media investment. They are:

  1. Did I get what I paid for?

  2. Did I pay a reasonable price?

  3. Were my media buys managed to my specifications?

The Circle Audit however, allows advertisers to go beyond answering the 3 Questions. A MMI media audit consists of data acquisition, quality control and media analytics. Each step within the Circle Audit platform is designed to ensure that clients are obtaining full return on their media investment.

By going into the minutest of details, media audits are able to give an independent view of what has happened from briefing to planning and buying to invoicing. It also identifies gaps and defines procedures and controls to ensure that future campaigns deliver the maximum achievable to the client. The audit is not a platform to point out failures and missed targets (and put the media agencies on the spot); it is above all, a method to bring maximum transparency and clarity to the media supply chain process.

The objectives of a media audit are not to eradicate risk in media buying, but to help clients manage it better and help advertisers and media agencies equip themselves with risk management tools that will give them the space to use the entire gamut of media choices.

Although a relatively new concept, media audits have been accepted as key value providers in giving clients an independent view on media performance. By identifying critical gaps, brand teams are then equipped with technical, media-specific knowledge that will help them better evaluate agency planning as well as communicate a better brief to their agency.

It will also force the media agencies to treat the spend as an investment and to look at all the variables beyond the cost of buying ad space and sponsorship deals.

Given the risks associated with high ad spends, it is encouraging to note that most advertisers in Pakistan have realised the importance of media management and are treating it as a specialised department within the marketing and communications function. There is a need for media audits in Pakistan because the performance measure of a good agency versus a great agency depends on how well they are achieving their cost per rating point (CPRP).

The impact of the CPRP is critical. It can determine the fate of an account, a bonus payment, the longevity of the business and whether the performance targets stipulated in a contract have been met or not. (Think about the difference it makes whether TV audiences are bought at $200 per rating point or at $250 per rating point).

Most media procurement departments are weary about what is going on in the industry in terms of number crunching and how easy it is to manipulate a CPRP. This is where auditors come in, as they will scrutinise media plans, evaluate media buys and set benchmarks for future agency work. Furthermore, when scrutinising the media buy, media optimisation looks into the most advantageous ad breaks that will deliver good CPRPs.

However, here the chances are that the spots will have plenty of company and the more spots in a break, the less their impact. Media auditors regularly evaluate spots during ad breaks and the position of the commercial in the ad break as both dimensions significantly enhance the value of each commercial and hence the effectiveness and efficiency of the overall media investment.

Media audits are a step towards making the media supply chain process transparent and improving the overall value of the investment by the client. The need is to make the process robust and completely independent at both the client’s and the media agency’s end.


Article excerpted from ‘Managing risk’, published in the May-June 2011 edition of Aurora.

M. Saqib Haroon is Co-Founder, Sight Media. Philipp Vogeler was formerly Founder and CEO, Al Jisr Company.


ROOH AFZA: THE ETERNAL ELIXIR OF THE EAST

Rooh Afza ads in 1952 and 1985
Rooh Afza ads in 1952 and 1985

Rooh Afza’s recent ‘Zindagi Mubarak’ campaign by Hamdard Pakistan showcases the unconditional love of a father for his daughter when he sends her Rooh Afza as a gift, so that she does not miss the fragrance and flavour of home. This TVC devised by RG Blue Communications took audiences by storm, and the Mubarak platform was extended to Ramzan Mubarak, Dosti Mubarak and Sardi Mubarak; engaging the daily relationships of life.

Everything began in 1906, when a red syrup was introduced by a small matab in India. After Partition, this refreshing syrup was launched in Pakistan by Hamdard. The advertising campaigns of the first two decades were based on functionality, taste, colour and being the drink of the East.

The brand was promoted with captions such as ‘Splendour of the East’ and ‘Knowledge and Wisdom’ (due to its rich history). In the early eighties, Rooh Afza positioned itself as a pioneer, with the caption ‘Every New Syrup Is Red but Every Red Syrup Is Not Rooh Afza’. In this way, Rooh Afza became the pioneer of the red syrup category in Pakistan and paved the way for many other ‘me too’ products.

Rooh Afza ads in 2012 and 2017
Rooh Afza ads in 2012 and 2017

Given changes in consumer behaviour and new trends in the beverage industry, Hamdard made the transition from a glass to a PET Bottle. Inspired by this success, the media was bombarded by functionality based advertising by our competitors and the younger generation slowly started drifting away from the pioneer brand. When Usama Qureshi took over as CEO of Hamdard, he felt there was a need for a stronger brand connect with young people and decided on a total revamp of the brand.

The challenge was to position Rooh Afza as a family brand that can be consumed all year round. This approach has resonated with consumers, one reason being the honest, yet heartfelt, storytelling approach.

As a result, the perception of Rooh Afza as only a Ramzan or a summer drink has changed and Rooh Afza is now seen as a family brand and a drink for all seasons and occasions.


Syed Qasim Raza is a content writer at RG Blue Communications.

HOOKED TO FM RADIO

Munizeh Sanai on how advertisers and radio stations must work together to benefit from the full power of the medium.

Internationally acclaimed actor, writer and stand-up comedian Saad Haroon enjoys his breakfast during a break while hosting the Breakfast Show on CityFM89. Haroon was one of the first comedians in Pakistan to perform in English. He co-founded Blackfish, Pakistan’s first English-language comedy troupe in the early 2000s. Later, he began performing as a solo stand-up comedian. Cheeky, irreverent and witty, Haroon brings his own brand of enthusiasm to the Breakfast Show which was previously hosted by the much loved Khalid Malik. CityFM89 is part of The Dawn Media Group and started broadcasting in 2004. It rapidly acquired a sizeable audience due to its innovative and eclectic programming. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Internationally acclaimed actor, writer and stand-up comedian Saad Haroon enjoys his breakfast during a break while hosting the Breakfast Show on CityFM89. Haroon was one of the first comedians in Pakistan to perform in English. He co-founded Blackfish, Pakistan’s first English-language comedy troupe in the early 2000s. Later, he began performing as a solo stand-up comedian. Cheeky, irreverent and witty, Haroon brings his own brand of enthusiasm to the Breakfast Show which was previously hosted by the much loved Khalid Malik. CityFM89 is part of The Dawn Media Group and started broadcasting in 2004. It rapidly acquired a sizeable audience due to its innovative and eclectic programming. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

Given the lack of entertainment options (and electricity), Pakistanis are turning to their electronic devices to connect with others and enjoy the things they like best. Whether it is a chat show, music specials or interactive game shows, audiences are involved and engaged. Radio’s greatest asset is its reach; it has become a built-in feature in people’s lives.

For FM channels to move forward, it is essential that they maintain the delicate balance in providing equally for their audiences and their advertisers. It is equally important that advertisers leverage their relationship with a radio station in order to gain the maximum exposure for the least expenditure.

Global surveys have shown that people tend to believe that ‘a lack of advertising indicates that a business is struggling’. These surveys also report that a large majority of consumers think businesses that continue to advertise are competitive and/or committed to doing business.

Radio needs to position itself as a medium that can provide that reassurance.

Advertisers need reach and they need it at low costs and a good, collaborative relationship between radio stations and their advertisers will ensure that the medium makes progress, and that soon enough, marketers will be ready to pay premiums for innovation.

Advertising on radio is one of the cheapest ways to put a message out. The cost of creating a radio spot is affordable and can be very effective if the message is kept simple. Radio spots do not afford the time to be complicated, cute or tricky. They need to focus on benefits, not features; demonstrate value and encourage their audience to take an action. Attempting to pack in more than this within 30 seconds and still be effective is rarely possible.

The trend in Pakistani radio is one of heavy show branding and product talk. Show hosts give huge amounts of detail on products and leaving audiences with a suboptimal experience. Although advertising minutes are not supposed to exceed 10 minutes of every hour, it often goes on for as long as 15 to 18 minutes.

Brand managers have become exceedingly pushy and will only offer business depending on how hard a station is willing to hammer their brand’s name (at a discounted rate). It would be far more effective for all stakeholders (radio stations, advertisers and audiences) if the advertisements were effective, subtle and based on the show or time band in question.

At this point, where much of the Pakistani public is both open to suggestions and to becoming active participants in their entertainment, radio stations and TV channels must take care not to clutter their advertising with little other than spiels about bank products, snack food, telecom options, etc.

A balance has to be found so that intelligent and informed programming is not perceived as boring, thereby encouraging advertisers to seek affiliation with a programme based on its quality and reach. Advertisers need to have a strategy in mind when they place their communication.

Marketers should look at undertaking brand activation on air and thereby create a situation where the brand and the audience come together. Giveaway competitions will ensure the product is frequently mentioned and provide top of mind recall, while at the same time, enabling the radio station to offer a new experience to its audience.

To maintain their connection with their audience, radio stations need to sustain a stream of creative programming and be constantly attuned to what they want. Audiences want to be a part of the global conversation; they want information; they want to share their opinions and they want to be entertained.

There are plenty of directions a radio station can take in terms of programming, but it is also vitally important that all of them uphold the integrity of the medium. It is a sensitive time but a very good one for radio stations to stop competing against each other and come together to sell the medium’s strengths.


Article excerpted from ‘From nowhere to here’, published in the May-June 2008 edition of Aurora.

Munizeh Sanai is former General Manager, Programming and Marketing, CityFM89.


THE ENDURING CREDIBILITY OF PRINT

In a world of proliferating media choices, print remains the ‘go to’ media when it comes down to authenticity and credibility, writes Zohra Yusuf.

When General Ziaul Haq exercised total control over the media, initially through direct censorship and later by imposing self-censorship, little did he know how rapidly state control would become ineffective and the media scenario would change a few years after his death.

Shortly before his death, in the wake of his government’s weakness, following the sacking of his prime minister, he brought in stricter restrictions for hosts and newsreaders on PTV, giving it the appearance of an almost black-and-white medium. So the introduction of satellite broadcasting, three years after his death, was like a breath of fresh air.

ILLUSTRATION BY SOONHAL KHAN
ILLUSTRATION BY SOONHAL KHAN

The monopoly (and the monotony) of PTV were finally broken in the early nineties, when communication satellites began to orbit above our region. If ever there was an effective means to break down cultural barriers, this was it! The beauty of satellite power was that it remained free from the reach of local censors. Suddenly, audiences in Pakistan were experiencing the pleasure – unhindered – of getting hooked on Indian soaps.

News and current affairs programmes were perceived as more contentious but accessing other, even if contrary, points of view did help open up minds. Satellite dishes became ubiquitous on rooftops in urban areas. The high cost of purchase, however, did limit its spread and it was cable television that later brought globalisation to even the remotest parts of Pakistan. PTV itself started full-scale satellite broadcasting in 1991-92 and PTV 2, the first ever satellite channel of Pakistan, was launched in 1992.

However, it was Rupert Murdoch’s Star network that took the lead in capturing the attention of the South Asian audiences. Often criticised for being more India-centric, Star’s entertainment channels exercised a major influence in many aspects of the life of Pakistanis – from quick adoption of Bollywood styles to weddings scheduled so as not to clash with the timings of popular Indian soaps.

The impact of satellite and cable was also noticeable on the print media. Traditionally staid, Pakistan’s print media was suddenly faced with audiences increasingly drawn to both a sensational type of reporting (best exemplified by the ‘breaking news’ phenomenon) and the glamour of the entertainment world. Moreover, the hunger for content soon became insatiable. This created an opportunity for the expansion of the print media.

The News, launched in 1991 from three cities, encapsulated some of the elements that made the new age television so attractive. Its display and segmentation of features through magazines published every day, followed some of the principles of television programming. The Nation from Lahore followed soon after and then, The Daily Times which through its crisp editing (no stories were continued on other pages) addressed the new media audience’s impatience with long news items or features.

As cable television proliferated in the region, Pakistan under General Musharraf also opened up the broadcast media. Large media houses, confined to print until then, were among the first to launch satellite and cable channels. A greater interdependency was evident as the same reports began to be used across multimedia channels by the same group.

A positive outcome of this cross-media ownership was that many stories, particularly of human rights violations, once confined to the pages of newspapers, began to be reported on the cable channels of the same media group leading to greater awareness and – in many cases – action by the authorities.

The Urdu print media did show some growth as evening newspapers proliferated. Most tried to capitalise on the hunger for glamour and gossip promoted by cable television. Express, a qualitatively better Urdu language newspaper in terms of editorial content, layout and printing, was launched from more stations than even Jang.

However, evening newspapers became early victims of the 24-hour news channels, where every news item appeared as ‘breaking news’. One by one, the English language evening papers shut down.

The entry and phenomenal growth of digital media in Pakistan had an unimaginable impact on all aspects of life in Pakistan. Print certainly took a bigger hit as the internet became the preferred source of news for an increasingly techie generation. In fact, all publications quickly responded by having their own internet editions. For many young people today, the world is in the palm of their hands as the smartphone opens the door to all the information and entertainment they desire.

Advertisers, once sceptical of the effectiveness of the digital media, are now seeing the benefits of having a presence in cyberspace. Concerns about ROI, while not yet addressed, are no longer hindering the creation and placement of campaigns on the social media.

Meanwhile, advertising agencies are scampering to take a lead in digital communication in fear of losing clients to digital agencies. However, according to data published by Aurora in its annual issue, there has been no decline in the ad spend on print or increase in spend on digital in the past year.

Television advertising, on the other hand, shows a decline of two percent.

Although the multiplicity of cable channels had brought with it issues of placement of ads, the information deluge on social media has created its own challenges. Advertisers and agencies have been forced to deal with a shrinking attention span among the people they wish to reach.

Even 10 seconds is now considered to be ‘too long’ on social media. Unlike print and electronic, audiences feel far less trapped and leave a post the second interest flags. One newspaper at least reflects the relative inattentiveness of the digital age. The Express Tribune is scattered with what can best be described as sound bites – brief nuggets of information that suit the impatience of the new generation.

The challenges to the print media are many but in one important criterion, it has sustained its lead. This is credibility of content. The poor quality of most TV news channels and their talk shows, as well as the untrustworthiness of social media ensures that people turn to newspapers for authenticity.


Zohra Yusuf is Chief Creative Officer, Spectrum Y&R.

IN QUEST OF DRAMATIC EXCELLENCE

Entertainment channels and their production houses need to work in tandem to achieve the best possible quality in their offerings in a sustainable way, writes Marylou Andrew.

Sultana Siddiqui, President, Hum Network, photographed during the shoot of Hum’s morning show Jago Pakistan Jago. Sultana Siddiqui began her career as a newscaster on PTV, after which she shifted her focus to production and direction. In 2005, she established Hum, an entertainment channel, and became the first woman in South Asia to establish and lead a television network. Since 2009, Hum, with dramas such as Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai, has played a significant role in reviving Pakistani dramas through engaging storytelling and realistic character portrayals. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Sultana Siddiqui, President, Hum Network, photographed during the shoot of Hum’s morning show Jago Pakistan Jago. Sultana Siddiqui began her career as a newscaster on PTV, after which she shifted her focus to production and direction. In 2005, she established Hum, an entertainment channel, and became the first woman in South Asia to establish and lead a television network. Since 2009, Hum, with dramas such as Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai, has played a significant role in reviving Pakistani dramas through engaging storytelling and realistic character portrayals. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

Until a few years ago, Pakistani audiences turned to the news for entertainment. This was primarily because seeing politicians drilled on the media and watching talk shows that were the verbal equivalent of a WWF wrestling match was a novel experience for a society that had lived through martial law and media repression for much of its existence.

Another reason was the fact that the local entertainment channels were not producing content that was good enough to hook audiences. Yet, in the space of five or so years, the entertainment channels have turned the situation around, diverting both audiences and ad spend from the news channels to their channels.

Getting the show on the road

The introduction of the Peoplemeters changed the face of media planning and content creation on Pakistani TV. Channels and media planners which had once relied on the Gallup Diary and their gut feel now had real data to sink their teeth into – and not all of it was good news.

Although Peoplemeters didn’t cover Indian channels, such as Star Plus, Sony and Colors, the fact of the matter was that this was where the ‘eyeballs’ were. As a result, channels such as Hum and ARY began to move towards reviving what used to be a great Pakistani tradition – producing solid drama series and hits such as Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan, Meri Laadli, Maat, Daastan and the much-acclaimed Humsafar followed, capturing audience attention and imagination.

Parallel to this, the quality of Indian programming and the local fascination with it declined. Local channels took advantage of this and with the help of large production houses such as 7th Sky Entertainment, MD Productions, A&B Entertainment and Six Sigma Entertainment, started producing quality content.

PEMRA’s ban on the Indian channels in 2012, was the final nail in the coffin, giving local entertainment the impetus to surge forward and such was the demand for drama that production houses such as A&B started doing 55 to 60 productions a year (previously production had worked on three to four dramas annually).

The Turkish drama invasion of 2013, heralded by Ishq-e-Mamnoon, wrought further changes. So riveted were audiences by these dramas that channels started investing in them to the detriment of local productions, until the production houses banded together and launched a protest against what they said was a threat to their business.

Caving in to this pressure, the government levied a Rs 100,000 per episode tax on foreign content shown on local channels. Although the popularity of Turkish dramas eventually waned, their achievement was that they did manage to transform the entertainment landscape in a variety of ways.

From Turkey with love

Despite the success of local dramas from 2009 onwards, Pakistani producers were fairly complacent in that their productions were run with little thought to efficiency and ROI, and if the channels are to be believed, vast sums of money were charged simply because these dramas were shot in foreign locations (even though the script did not require such an expenditure).

Yet, with 90% of an entertainment channel’s FPC made up of outsourced content, the production companies were in a good position to dictate terms. However, the threat posed by the entry of Turkish content forced local producers to cut costs.

A race for ratings

Now that the entertainment channels have achieved a level of success with local content, the challenge is to keep viewers hooked, to secure the all-important ratings. Yet, fulfilling this demand requires a fine balance in terms of quantity, diversity and quality.

One of the big challenges is that despite the presence of four large production houses, several smaller ones and more individual producers (or briefcase operators as they are called) than you can count, the content demands of the entertainment channels are still so massive that they are not completely met and Turkish and Indian content are used as ‘fillers’.

Although channels are also producing game shows, internationally franchised shows and the ubiquitous morning shows, the bulk of an entertainment channel’s FPC is based on dramas. However one of the issues is that the storylines are similar or the same (and regressive), leading audiences to conclude the dramas they see on different channels are essentially a variation on the same theme.

In the industry, there is a strong sense that once a drama or any other kind of show manages to garner high ratings, that show becomes the new ‘formula’ for success with every other channel copycatting it in the hope of replicating that success. This completely ‘ratings dependent approach’ to programming leaves little room for experimentation.

It’s all about the money

Developing the market does not appear to be a top priority for either channels or production houses, as both are facing shrinking profitability issues. For context, channels pay production houses between Rs 700,000 to 800,000 per episode for a drama (some dramas sell for as high as one to Rs 1.3 million per episode). On the other hand, a leading channel’s advertising rate during primetime is roughly between Rs 125,000 to 170,000 per minute.

A consequence of this reduced profitability is that production houses have formed alliances with channels to remain afloat. Although this generally means that production houses will get somewhat less than the market rate from their partner (usually cost plus a small premium), the flip side is that they now have a number of confirmed projects for the year.

Another way channels are addressing shrinking profitability is by reselling their dramas to foreign channels (of which, Zee Zindagi appears to be a major recipient, albeit not the only one). So far, the proceeds from the resale of content are kept by the channel, despite the fact that according to the production houses, the original copyright belongs to them.

Channels respond to this by saying that if production houses want a share of the royalties, they should sell the content to local channels at less than market price and then sell it to the foreign channels themselves.

Another issue is that most channels (with the exception of Hum TV and Urdu1) do not pay their production houses on time, making them wait for months until they are paid by the advertisers. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that channels have only one stream of revenue, i.e. advertising, and are at the mercy of advertisers, some of whom are not known for paying their dues promptly.

And that’s a wrap

Despite the many challenges, entertainment is big business in Pakistan and looks set to become even bigger as most industry insiders say that there is room for more entertainment channels in different genres. Ultimately, the success of the entertainment industry is dependent on the triumvirate of channel, production house and advertiser.

Channels need to invest more in content and consider capping advertising to enhance the viewership experience. Production houses need to be run like proper businesses and grow in size because only then will they have any say in the decision making.

Finally, if advertisers want to see better content on entertainment channels, they should not be buying a time slot; rather, they should invest in the show or the content.


Article excerpted from ‘The business of entertainment’, published in the November-December 2014 edition of Aurora.

Marylou Andrew is Head of Product Excellence at Hobnob. She can be contacted at marylouandrew@gmail.com

DOLING OUT REEL ADVICE

Pakistan’s cinematic revival poses new opportunities for brands to exploit effectively. Don’t misuse them, declares Amber Rauf.

The Nasheman Cinema is located on Waheed Murad Road in Saddar, Karachi. The lobby has a false ceiling, psychedelic flooring and colourful posters hanging on the walls. The facade is rather unusual and according to the ushers, is shaped in the form of an elephant. Nasheman Cinema was inaugurated on August 1, 1975. Most of the cinemas located nearby began to close down as the quality of local movies deteriorated and it became impossible for cinema houses to keep them open. The Nasheman, however, survived, although by showing Pashto films to a rather dodgy clientele. Pakistani cinemas may have experienced a revival since 2015; however audiences these days prefer to flock to slick multiplexes, equipped with plush seats and modern technology. It is difficult to imagine that an entire generation in Pakistan grew up without ever having seen the inside of a cinema hall, but now, thanks to the revival, the cinema going culture has arrived once again. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
The Nasheman Cinema is located on Waheed Murad Road in Saddar, Karachi. The lobby has a false ceiling, psychedelic flooring and colourful posters hanging on the walls. The facade is rather unusual and according to the ushers, is shaped in the form of an elephant. Nasheman Cinema was inaugurated on August 1, 1975. Most of the cinemas located nearby began to close down as the quality of local movies deteriorated and it became impossible for cinema houses to keep them open. The Nasheman, however, survived, although by showing Pashto films to a rather dodgy clientele. Pakistani cinemas may have experienced a revival since 2015; however audiences these days prefer to flock to slick multiplexes, equipped with plush seats and modern technology. It is difficult to imagine that an entire generation in Pakistan grew up without ever having seen the inside of a cinema hall, but now, thanks to the revival, the cinema going culture has arrived once again. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

The hippest, trendiest statement on today’s media landscape has become: “I’m working on a film!” Leaving many ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ in their wake, dizzy with the idea of cashing in. And for the most part, it is true. We are experiencing a new wave of cinematic revival.

This trend is fuelled by a generation with a passion for creating stories that relate to the modern Pakistani cinema-goer, hungry for localised content, at the swanky new multiplexes mushrooming across the urban centres.

So if everyone who is anyone is currently yearning to make a film, where are the big bucks coming from to fuel this new-found passion? Without any real infrastructure in place for the development of the cinematic arts and box office sales, and private funding only partly contributing to the bottom-line, it falls to the filmmaker to find alternative sources of funding.

Pakistani filmmakers come from a diversity of backgrounds and industries: advertising, film-school graduates, documentarians, writers and storytellers. Their artistic vision and integrity to storytelling comes from different spaces and hence, their approach to ‘where is the money coming from?’ will lead to different internal conflicts.

What comes next may seem like it may involve selling a little bit of your artistic soul, but if used intelligently, can spell success for all involved. The big bad world of brands!

Already opening up as one of the major sources of revenue generation to bring the vision of young filmmakers to life, brands are beginning to see films as a space through which to connect with audiences; something that goes beyond simply ‘sponsoring’ the screening of the latest Bollywood/Hollywood summer flick, but which will actually allow them to engage with audiences in a real and captivating way; in fact, an opportunity to align their brand’s values within a larger context. In short, this becomes a case not of what you say, but how you say it!

So, how to intelligently and seamlessly weave a brand into your story, getting the best for both, yet not grabbing the attention of savvy consumers in a way that interrupts the narrative? We must remember that when a brand’s consumer becomes part of an audience for a film, their receptiveness to branded content decreases; the thought of brands interrupting the sacred space of film has long been eyed with disdain by filmmakers and audiences.

It is for this reason that the days of blatant product placement are over... whether you look at it globally or locally. We are dealing with smarter audiences.

A much quoted and well-loved example of product placement comes from the Spielberg classic; E.T., a film that gave me one of my earlier cinematic experiences and a fondness for Reese’s Pieces (candy product) that am yet to outgrow!

The intelligent use of the brand that became famous as ‘alien candy’, both through the film and the tie up with the brand’s advertising campaign, allowed the brand to catapult to success, leaving M&Ms, the brand which was originally approached (but declined), in tears!

Whilst this was fantastic at the time, and may still work well today, it is the very least level of sophistication we need to be aiming for locally. Our current times allow us to up the ante to a different level and move towards integrating content and making it part of the storytelling narrative.

The fact is that films often, and to varying degrees, imitate life. If we are surrounded by brands in the real world, it would be silly to assume that characters would not be. It is natural to see brands appear on screen; a Starbucks logo, a FedEx van or even a can of Coke – what is disruptive is when you hear the voice of the brand rather than the voice of the filmmaker.

A classic example of how to nauseate an audience comes from the film Mac and Me... panned by critics and audiences alike as, “a thinly-veiled feature length commercial for McDonald’s and Coca-Cola” (Rotten Tomatoes). This is clearly an example of the brand telling the story rather than the filmmaker. Whether this was intentional or not, is a different story.

So then, how does one strike gold? By making your product central to the story; the instrument that moves the narrative forward. And here begins the true challenge: the magic, art and science of seamlessly meshing branded content into films.

You’ve Got Mail and its partnership with AOL is a great example of how the brand integrated its offering directly into the script. The brand’s service and the novelty of the technology was so inspiring to the writer, Nora Ephron, that she wanted to leverage this new high-tech way of meeting people into her storyline, turning AOL into almost a ‘character’ that became a tri-tagonist, essential to driving the narrative forward. She even agreed to modify the film’s title from You Have Mail to AOL’s signature You’ve Got Mail.

Sometimes examples like these happen purely by luck and sometimes by design. In Pakistan, often the first port of call for filmmakers and clients is the agency, because as partners of both filmmakers and brands, they seem best positioned to discuss the bringing together of both worlds.

However, for agencies to contribute to this endeavour, they need to be brought on-board as early as possible. We often get requests to ‘sponsor’ a film after it has been made or find brands that would be interested in sponsoring a film when it is about to go into production.

Not many filmmakers have these conversations at the outset of the process. The reality of the big bad world of brands is often that the subject matter of the film will play a major part in deciding which brands will be interested or even should be approached.

Whether you enter into such an endeavour as a filmmaker looking to bring your creation to life, or as a brand wanting to support a promising initiative, there is an art and science to the process. Make the inclusion of a brand as natural to the storytelling as possible, and the language as colloquial. If it is used as in ‘real-life’ conversation, it will stick out less; it should never be a force fit; the objective is to immerse the brand into a storytelling context.

An authentic partnership is not always just about the brand being present in the film, but the film being present in the brand’s communication, as Spielberg did with E.T. and Reese’s Pieces.

Integrating a brand’s content into a film can be hugely rewarding, but must be fair to the brand, the artistic vision of the filmmaker, and the larger art of filmmaking.

However, no matter how you look at it, or how brands and filmmakers work or don’t work together, the revival of the film and silver-screen culture is as promising as it is exciting.


Article excerpted from ‘Reel advice’, published in the July-August 2016 edition of Aurora.

Amber Rauf is Director Strategic Planning & Corporate Communication, MullenLowe Rauf. She can be contacted at amber.rauf@mullenlowerauf.com


CHERRY BLOSSOM: IMPECCABLY POLISHED

Cherry Blossom ads from 1952, 1953 and 1989
Cherry Blossom ads from 1952, 1953 and 1989

Every Pakistani child has gone through the drill, but have you ever wondered, how did we go from merely buffing our shoes with a cloth to using shoe polish? Cherry Blossom had a lot to do with the transition.

In the early sixties, Cherry Blossom was one of the most aggressive and engaging advertisers across mediums. The print ads showed a man who caught everyone’s attention by his polished look, obviously a result of his impeccably polished shoes.

Taglines such as: ‘Of course he uses Cherry Blossom Boot Polish’, drove the message home. Targeting the right audience with the right message is another aspect to success.

An advertisement a few decades later showed a young girl whose shoes not only shined throughout the day, they also benefitted from longer life. Here, Cherry Blossom draws on a mother’s love for her child, with a clear message: Cherry understands the activities a child does during the day and is there to help mom keep her child’s shoes shiny; it also protects the shoes.

Having established the brand promise of shiny shoes, Cherry Blossom then focused on the ancillary but important set of benefits it provides. Subsequent campaigns focused on the top reasons to use Cherry Blossom.

Through campaign evolution, Cherry Blossom established its equity. Cherry Blossom then shifted the focus to achieving maximum reach and in-store execution. Moving forward, Cherry Blossom will yet again need to reinvent itself to remain relevant. This is how it has remained successful for over five decades.

Marketing is about deciding which combination of tools is going to win over consumers and keep them riveted to the brand promise. Cherry Blossom remains focused on predicting the evolving needs of the consumer and then tailoring its strategy accordingly.


Itrah Sohail is a management trainee at Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan.

THE DAWN BRAND: PRESERVING TRADITION, SPEARHEADING CHANGE

Mamun M. Adil writes about how Dawn’s communication strategies have kept up with the times, won several national and international awards, all the while staying true to a unique newspaper’s vision.

Ali Habib, Head of Corporate Affairs & Marketing at UBL, assesses the response to his bank’s Rahbar-e-Taraqqi-o-Kamal print campaign, with his team. UBL’s print ads were published in Dawn to coincide with the 37 days between May and August 2017 when the newspaper’s campaign, The Dawn of Pakistan 1906-1948, appeared. UBL’s ads carried as baseline “UBL celebrates Pakistan’s 70th year of Independence with Dawn” and showcased individuals, landmarks and icons that are intrinsically Pakistani, including personalities such as Madam Noorjehan, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Abdul Sattar Edhi and Dr Adeeb-ul-Hassan Rizvi, as well as chaunsa mangoes, the K2 mountain range, truck art and the markhor. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Ali Habib, Head of Corporate Affairs & Marketing at UBL, assesses the response to his bank’s Rahbar-e-Taraqqi-o-Kamal print campaign, with his team. UBL’s print ads were published in Dawn to coincide with the 37 days between May and August 2017 when the newspaper’s campaign, The Dawn of Pakistan 1906-1948, appeared. UBL’s ads carried as baseline “UBL celebrates Pakistan’s 70th year of Independence with Dawn” and showcased individuals, landmarks and icons that are intrinsically Pakistani, including personalities such as Madam Noorjehan, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Abdul Sattar Edhi and Dr Adeeb-ul-Hassan Rizvi, as well as chaunsa mangoes, the K2 mountain range, truck art and the markhor. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

Ask any marketer what is the secret behind creating a successful brand and one word that will come up is consistency. In this regard, Dawn, the brand, has remained consistent in the positioning the paper deploys in its advertising communications, be they corporate or product campaigns.

The link with Mr Jinnah

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah founded Dawn in Karachi on August 14, 1947 (he also founded Dawn Delhi on October 19, 1941, but it ceased publication after its offices were burnt down by Jan Sang demonstrators on September 14, 1947). Mr Jinnah stood for principle and integrity and these are the two values Dawn holds to, in both its editorial and advertising expression.

The link with Mr Jinnah is not simply that he founded Dawn, it is reinforced by the fact that he agreed to be photographed reading Dawn on his 71st birthday – and there can be no more a dramatic brand endorsement than this. As a result, a significant number of Dawn’s corporate communications campaigns centre on Mr Jinnah’s words; the objective, apart from reinforcing his association with the newspaper, is to further his vision of Pakistan.

For example, Dawn’s 60th birthday campaign consisted of advertisements that included Mr Jinnah’s words on the importance of young people as nation builders and the treatment of women. The centrepiece of this campaign was an inspirational comic strip that focused on an incident taken from Mr Jinnah’s childhood, which won praise by Stanley Wolpert (the distinguished historian and author of Jinnah of Pakistan), the Press Trust of India, as well as online forums such as Pakistaniat.com.

In 2011, the Jinnah Campaign highlighted Mr Jinnah’s views on women (the campaign kicked off on 100th International Women’s Day), minorities, the duties of a democratic government and the importance of education. The campaign’s theme was: ‘Mr Jinnah’s bequest is Pakistan’s leading media conglomerate – The Dawn Media Group’. The campaign won the Pakistan Advertisers Society (PAS) Award in the Best In Media category in 2012.

The most recent campaign to centre on Mr Jinnah was The Dawn of Pakistan 1906-1948. The objective of this 37-episode photo feature (which featured in Dawn, DawnNews and Dawn.com) was to engage a new generation of readers by bringing to life and documenting the story of the subcontinent’s freedom movement through the full-page display of rare, iconic and sometimes never seen before photographs.

The last episode’s photograph was of Mr Jinnah reading Dawn on his 71st birthday; the detailed caption below it included the lines: “Never in his career has Mr Jinnah ever endorsed what today we would consider to be a ‘product’ or ‘brand’. And yet, at the behest of his colleagues, he picks up the copy of Dawn at his side and agrees to be photographed reading it...”

A focus on Pakistan’s heritage

Another factor distinguishing Dawn’s communications is the emphasis on Pakistan’s heritage. Nowhere is this more apparent than the launch campaigns for the Lahore and Islamabad editions of Dawn in 1996 and 2001 respectively.

The Lahore campaigns had a distinct Lahore/Mughal flavour and centred on the city’s prominent Mughal and colonial buildings (in the form of historic prints from the F.S. Aijazuddin Collection, as well as contemporary photographs by Arif Mahmood).

The Islamabad campaign highlights the fact that Dawn is once again published from Pakistan’s capital city, as envisioned by Mr Jinnah (this had changed after the capital had been transferred from Karachi to Islamabad in the sixties).

The campaign featured photographs taken by Tapu Javeri of historic landmarks in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Taxila and Murree. Here again, everything is documented in terms of the historical context of the images and then linked to Dawn.

For example, an advertisement for the Islamabad campaign had for headline ‘Dawn means contemplating the finer things in life’ and focused on the Cecil Hotel, with details about this historic Murree landmark: “Built in 1855 as a 12-room residence for British soldiers, the house was converted into a hotel in 1910 by a British national known simply as Mr Cecil.”

Both the Lahore and Islamabad campaigns included television commercials. The Lahore campaign won the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA) First Place Award for Television Promotion, an award recognised as the highest distinction in newspaper marketing. The commercial was the result of a stellar team put together by Dawn and which included Imran Mir, Zohra Yusuf and Arshad Mahmud.

Ultimately, what has characterised Dawn’s campaigns is that they are extensively researched and thereby stay true to the newspaper’s mission to report authenticated and credible information. This does not mean that Dawn’s advertising is in any way staid; on the contrary, they have their own subtleties. Take the finale of the Lahore campaign – Fragments from a Vanishing Millennium.

The campaign was based on the portraits of seven characters associated with Lahore that were especially commissioned to young artists from the National College of Arts in Lahore. The characters were Qutbuddin Aibak, Anarkali, Nur Jehan, Jehangir, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Rudyard Kipling and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. All are portrayed either reading or holding Dawn.

The storytelling was about how each character was faced by a problem and was searching for a way (medium) to solve it; the subtlety lay in the fact that Dawn was never mentioned as the solution – each character reaching out to the ‘medium’ that gave them the most satisfaction (for example Aibak goes off to ride his polo ponies, while Anarkali picks up her paint brush).The choice of the miniature style was also very Dawn. Miniature paintings in their heydays were considered a form of communication (as is all art); it is also a vanishing one, which Dawn pays tribute to.

Innovation to create an affinity with the young

​Da​wn Spelling Bee: 'A Super-Charged Spelling Adventure!' - Winner of the WAN-IFRA Bronze Award in the Best in Newspaper Marketing Category (2016)
​Da​wn Spelling Bee: 'A Super-Charged Spelling Adventure!' - Winner of the WAN-IFRA Bronze Award in the Best in Newspaper Marketing Category (2016)

In 1998, Dawn launched the Dawn in Education Programme (the only in-paper education programme in Pakistan) to address younger audiences. An offshoot of the programme is the Dawn Spelling Bee, a hugely successful initiative, now in its 14th edition and cited by INMA as being among “the industry’s best recent ideas for increasing youth newspaper readership” in 2005.

Each edition of the Spelling Bee is promoted in Dawn. The 2014 campaign positioned the Spelling Bee as a video game (a spelling saga of bee-licious proportions) and campaigns over the last three years have centred on a cast of characters which make up ‘The league of extraordinary spellers’ – a super-hero team, dedicated to improving spelling among schoolchildren while battling villains who are trying to disrupt the effort.

The 2015 print campaign won the PAS Award in the Best in Media category, and in 2016, the WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers) Bronze Award in the Newspaper Marketing category.

The Spelling Bee is now a calendar event among leading schools in Pakistan; every year, the event attracts participation from over 1,000 schools and 8,000 pupils. Following on this success, last year, Dawn partnered with EdEqual to establish the Math Challenge, an inter-school competition slated to become an annual event like the Spelling Bee.

Dawn: Preserving Heritage, Spearheading Change - Winner of the PAS Award in the Best in Media Category (2014)
Dawn: Preserving Heritage, Spearheading Change - Winner of the PAS Award in the Best in Media Category (2014)

In 2013, Dawn introduced a redesign of its masthead and pages. On Mr Jinnah’s birthday (December 25), the newspaper published a full-page advertisement which charted the evolution of the paper’s brand identity. The visuals accompanying the text, in addition to Mr Jinnah’s photograph reading Dawn, were the newspaper’s mastheads which since 1947, changed in 1948, 1955, 1966, 1982 and 2013.

The text stated: “As we move to embrace younger audiences through a powerful new communication matrix, we do so within a cogent spirit of preserving our traditions and yet spearheading change. The kind of change fuelled by Mr Jinnah’s vision for a better, brighter Pakistan – the dawn that our masthead so proudly heralds.”

The advertisement which ran with the headline Preserving Tradition, Spearheading Change, won the Best in Media PAS Award in 2014. The headline perhaps best expresses Dawn’s vision.

Design excellence

​​DawnRelief: 'These Canvas Walls Shall Not Be My Prison' - Winner of the INMA Award in ​the ​Community Service Category (2006)
​​DawnRelief: 'These Canvas Walls Shall Not Be My Prison' - Winner of the INMA Award in ​the ​Community Service Category (2006)

One of the key aspects of building a successful brand is design and to this end, Dawn has been ably supported by Creative Unit, a Karachi-based design agency led by Tannaz Minwalla and Mannan Hatim Ali.

Creative Unit have been responsible for most of Dawn’s advertising communications since the nineties and have therefore been an integral part of the newspaper’s brand journey; many of the advertising communications that they have designed for Dawn have won national and international awards.

In addition to Dawn’s advertising communications, Creative Unit have been extensively involved in designing the The Dawn Media Group’s publications, including Dawn, Aurora and Herald, each of which have a distinct identity.

Brand Recognition

The Dawn Media Group and Creative Unit have won several international and national awards for their advertising communication, including four International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA) Awards (considered to be the highest honour in the newspaper profession).

These included four first place awards in the circulation promotion, TV promotion, printed materials advertising and community service categories for the Herald (1986), Dawn Lahore (1988), Dawn-the internet edition (1999) and Dawn Relief (2006) respectively.

The Dawn Media Group and Creative Unit have won three Pakistan Advertisers’ Society (PAS) Awards in the Best in Media category in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and a Bronze WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers) Award in the Best in Newspaper Marketing category in 2016 for the Dawn Spelling Bee.


Mamun M. Adil is a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. He can be contacted at mamun.adil@gmail.com

AN ENGAGEMENT WITH A GODDESS CALLED AURORA

Faraz Maqsood Hamidi traces the evolution of Aurora.

Aurora, named after the goddess of Dawn, is published by The Dawn Media Group and was launched in 1998 with the objective of providing in-depth information and analysis on all aspects of Pakistan’s vibrant advertising, marketing and media industries. Published every two months, the magazine tracks, reports and comments on developments in what is today a fast-paced industry. Aurora is read by C-suite marketing and agency professionals, brand and account directors and people involved in the creative process, as well as by faculty and students at Pakistan’s leading business schools. Its contributing writers include almost all the top names in Pakistan’s ad industry. As part of its mission to promote excellence in advertising, the magazine has instituted the Aurora Awards, which recognise the best advertising across all media in Pakistan. (photo: Malika Abbas/ Dawn White Star)
Aurora, named after the goddess of Dawn, is published by The Dawn Media Group and was launched in 1998 with the objective of providing in-depth information and analysis on all aspects of Pakistan’s vibrant advertising, marketing and media industries. Published every two months, the magazine tracks, reports and comments on developments in what is today a fast-paced industry. Aurora is read by C-suite marketing and agency professionals, brand and account directors and people involved in the creative process, as well as by faculty and students at Pakistan’s leading business schools. Its contributing writers include almost all the top names in Pakistan’s ad industry. As part of its mission to promote excellence in advertising, the magazine has instituted the Aurora Awards, which recognise the best advertising across all media in Pakistan. (photo: Malika Abbas/ Dawn White Star)

In my younger and more impressionable years, I attended a beach party unlike any other. We drove for two hours towards Baleji Beach. Along the way (say, every five miles or so), there were attendants posted on the wayside who were instructed to flag down guests’ cars and hand each passenger, a beautifully-wrapped piece of Belgian chocolate in a small, single-serving branded box, garnished with the symbol of a Roman goddess. I must have devoured five, maybe six.

At every pit stop, the attendants reconfirmed to us that the darkness that we were rubbing against and driving through would eventually pale and surrender to the glittering spectacle that would forever be archived in our hearts as the Inaugural Aurora Awards – the country’s first occasion to honour advertising creativity, hosted by the newspaper in your hands.

This was the winter of 1992. It was a time when there were hardly a handful of newspapers, magazines and even fewer radio and TV channels. For us younger lot, who were just beginning to understand that an imagination is where smart businesses mint their profits, our burgeoning ad industry seemed to be myopically orchestrated around the priorities of newspaper barons and the agency moguls they did business with. Awards were based on billings, not thinking.

There really was no voice for the craftsmen of the ideas economy – the poets and the artists – until I came across that night of nights, which was both regal and rustic, oceanic and epic, and honoured our creative firebrands with myth and magic, courtesy of Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn.

We took the unmistakable pun to heart and primed the ambitious, prize-hungry parts of ourselves for an annual flirt with our very own deity. But it would be another 15 years before a smaller, more business-like Aurora Awards would be staged at Mohatta Palace in March 2007. But it no longer mattered.

The goddess had descended. And she reappeared six years later in July 1998, in her more permanent avatar as a complimentary advertising trade magazine – rife and scintillant with news, views, opinions and analyses of the industry, which was sent to select agency professionals, who guarded their copy with a vigilance you would reserve for things made out of gold and not the intangibles made from the stuff of dreams.

By March 2000, Aurora had become religion. It was the only trade rag that was dressed with an eye for design and an ear for newsworthiness. Both agency professionals and marketing students had slipped into avowed disciplehood and demanded that Aurora be made available via subscriptions and on newsstands across the country – which it continues to do, breaking records year after year, and outstripping the sales figures of more commercially-minded magazines.

As Aurora turned into habit, it took its mandate as the voice of the industry to a higher octave by publishing the first Aurora Fact File in its November–December 2001 issue – a formidable attempt to organise, corroborate and document key data about the industry, such as ad spend and top agencies. Since then, the Fact File is published every year in Aurora’s special annual November-December issue and is the default reference and footnote to many PowerPoint presentations in boardrooms across Pakistan.

This was further supported in 2003, with the publication of the first Aurora Purple Book – an agency directory that also contained statistics and key data from the Aurora Fact File. Ten years later, in 2013, with the digital economy in full swing, The Digi Handbook was launched as the online heart of the Aurora Purple Book series to give agency professionals a singular compendium that works as a reference, a toolkit and a yardstick.

And there’s more. Year after year, in efforts to instil and inspire excellence across the board, Aurora’s talks, events, and conferences are designed to build greater understanding and impetus for professionals and young people alike. In 2006, Aurora's Marketing to the Young’ conference blasted myths and deep-seated prejudices about Generation Z. An especially important audience considering that the average age in today’s Pakistan is 22.

Similarly, in 2007, ‘The New Value Seekers’ conference held in Karachi considered what the new customer values and what s/he places on that value in a hyper-fragmented, globally commoditised culture where marketers are no longer directly in control of the messages they wish to promote.

All this aside, Aurora wouldn’t be a goddess if it weren’t for the other woman. A human, for a change. As a former ad-gal and Aurora’s founding Editor, Mariam Ali Baig is more than an oracle for Pakistan’s advertising industry. Not only has she stage-managed the show since its inception, but has curated a team of skilled, trade-savvy journalists who have collectively given a voice to Ad Land. So much so, that the industry can neatly categorise its 70 years of existence as pre-Aurora and post-Aurora. When it comes to editorial integrity, Baig’s skin is made of Teflon. When it comes to creativity, she is among a rare breed of dreamers who can throw caution to the wind and let the stars film us for posterity.

Is there anything terrible that I can say about Aurora? I can. The ads it carries (for the lack of a better word) suck. I wish that someday the advertising that supports the magazine about advertising would become more befitting, more creatively resolute, and more apt for an audience who trade in creative and innovative expressions.

The advertising industry has long relied on the power of its muses. Which is why, we have welcomed Aurora with admiration – whether she admonishes or advises. She is, after all, the goddess that holds the sun in one hand and our dreams in the other.


Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is Co-Founder, Partner & Chief Creative Officer of The D’Hamidi Partnership.


LUX: A SOAP TO STARDOM

Lux ads in 1951, 1956 and 1964
Lux ads in 1951, 1956 and 1964

Lux has been in Pakistan for over 50 years. Unlike many brands, Lux’s positioning has not changed significantly; the target audience has remained young women. Lux uses star appeal to drive the brand message.

Over the last 40 to 50 years, top actresses, in Pakistan and across Asia, have endorsed Lux. An important reason for choosing film stars is the mass appeal they draw among audiences. Only in recent years has Lux included women in its advertising who do not belong to the TV or film industry.

From a category perspective, Lux has been the market leader. In the early years, the focus was on driving usership (in those days, consumers did not use soap regularly). If you look at the earlier advertising, it almost seems as if they are trying to justify the use of soap; it is not about switching.

Later, the communication moved away from the awareness aspect and the emphasis goes on making Lux the top choice. From the task of category creation and encouraging women to use soap, the brand takes on an aspirational positioning to ensure brand loyalty.

Lux ad in 2017
Lux ad in 2017

Coloured soaps were introduced about 15 years ago; before that, they came in white only. Typically, once a category becomes larger, the need to differentiate arises and this is often done through colours. As the market leader, Lux has the responsibility of driving category upgrades and for the last two years, we have been working on converting consumers to liquid soap.

Our media mix is driven by what our consumers choose. Earlier, print was the only medium; this was followed by cinema, then TV and in between radio and OOH. Now, over the last four to five years, digital has overtaken all other media except TV. Our priority in terms of share of ad spend is TV, followed by digital, OOH and finally print – the latter only for the Lux Style Awards.


Raheel Pasha Khan is Marketing Director, Personal Care, Unilever.

1990s: THE YEARS OF BRAND ELEVATION

MORE THAN JUST A CHERRY ATOP THE CAKE

Affiliations are not an essential model; nevertheless they are necessary to an agency’s long-term success, writes Ali A. Rizvi.

Gibran Mir, CEO, Circuit DRAFTFCB, discussing a forthcoming campaign with his Art Director, Ghazi Salahuddin (seated next to him) and his Client Services Director (in orange). Circuit was established by Gibran Mir’s father, the well known modern artist, Imran Mir in 1997. In this respect, Gibran Mir has big shoes to fill. Imran Mir was a trail blazing designer. Before he started Circuit, he set up the design unit for The Dawn Media Group, where he redesigned many of their publications, including the newspaper. At Circuit, Imran Mir is best remembered for his work on brands such as Good Milk, Habib Oil and of course MCB. His rebranding of MCB in the late nineties was followed by a change of signage for their 1,400 branches nationwide and is considered to be one of the most refreshing design upgrades the streets of Pakistan have seen since. In 1998, Circuit was affiliated with DRAFTFCB. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Gibran Mir, CEO, Circuit DRAFTFCB, discussing a forthcoming campaign with his Art Director, Ghazi Salahuddin (seated next to him) and his Client Services Director (in orange). Circuit was established by Gibran Mir’s father, the well known modern artist, Imran Mir in 1997. In this respect, Gibran Mir has big shoes to fill. Imran Mir was a trail blazing designer. Before he started Circuit, he set up the design unit for The Dawn Media Group, where he redesigned many of their publications, including the newspaper. At Circuit, Imran Mir is best remembered for his work on brands such as Good Milk, Habib Oil and of course MCB. His rebranding of MCB in the late nineties was followed by a change of signage for their 1,400 branches nationwide and is considered to be one of the most refreshing design upgrades the streets of Pakistan have seen since. In 1998, Circuit was affiliated with DRAFTFCB. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

Our line of work is all about making the right first impression (the razzle-dazzle) and to do this, the packaging needs to be thought out, especially when it comes to appointing an advertising agency that knows how to strike the right balance between swag and substance.

Speaking accented English with a slight slur and wearing a sharp suit takes care of the swag. Substance, however, comes from having the right HR mix, a can-do attitude and an affiliation is the cherry on the cake. I have been fortunate to have worked with an affiliated agency, an agency considering the idea of an affiliation and a formerly affiliated agency.

As an employee, there is a sense of pride when you work for an affiliated agency and it will not be wrong to say that working for one makes you a bit arrogant and gives you the illusion of being almost equal to the client. You are on the guest list for most of the pitches in town. The biggest privilege is working on international brands. This helps draw HR to the agency and they will always give first preference to an affiliated agency even though the pay scale is lower than at a local one.

Life is not bad on the non-affiliated side of things, but I have to admit it is a bit hard. One has to work harder to keep up with the competition and ensure that the lack of an affiliation doesn’t come in the way of retaining or acquiring new business – and there are no global tools or research to validate claims. Yet, all these shortcomings help kick in the survivor instinct. Extra effort goes into each piece of work, so that what you lack in tools is made up through effort and creativity. The most valuable lesson for me was to be fearless.

The process of acquiring an affiliation is lengthy and tedious but at the end of the day, a good deal makes it worthwhile. In most cases, affiliations help agencies acquire business through aligned accounts, but the most important things they bring to a business are the systems and financial controls that help streamline work and day-to-day operations. In an affiliated setup, the emphasis is on future planning and close monitoring of the KPI’s to ensure targets are achieved and critical decisions can be taken in a timely way.

Systems, financial controls and software, are the biggest reason why media buying houses are able to win over clients; it gives them an edge over other agencies.

There is no denying that affiliated agencies have elevated industry standards. However, there are two major areas where they have failed to make an impact: creative and HR developments. When it comes to the creative aspect, you may think that the strength of the network will be behind that agency. A flash of that gora is seen at the pitch but once the account is won, the gora goes dark. This is not to undermine our local creative pool, but as an industry, we are still in the learning phase, so a little help from developed markets and minds would help raise the bar and educate the clients.

Collaborative efforts are rare and I don’t mean regional campaigns that are made for other markets and adapted locally. A good example is Shan Foods. They have rolled out two campaigns using the creative pool of their agency’s network. Both communications had high recall and did exceptionally well virally. They set a new benchmark in terms of storytelling. We have a powerhouse full of raw and established creative talent; the opportunity to work with well-known names from around the world will help nurture their thinking processes.

The media buying houses have been effective in placing local talent within the larger network in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore and at all levels. There is frequent interaction of local planners with their global counterparts through seminars and training and planning sessions.

These opportunities are a great way of networking and exploring avenues for growth within the network. Creative agencies used to focus on training but due to shrinking profit margins, this expense was the first to be tossed out of the window, without understanding how essential training is for professional and institutional growth.

Survival dictates that having an affiliation is a must now. Most Pakistani agencies are part of a global network and those without one are struggling to retain business and are finding it very hard to exist, regardless of whether it is a creative or media agency. If you go by the predictions, 2018 will be a tough year for the industry as business slows down further. Digital agencies will continue to eat into the creative agency’s share of the pie and same goes in terms of spend when it comes to mainstream versus digital media.


Ali A. Rizvi is Chief Executive Officer, What’s Next Entertainment. He can be contacted at alirizvi@whsnxt.com


“WE HAD A GROOVY THING GOIN...”

Ali Hayat on how Interflow has weaned a new generation of ad persons.

Fair warning. This piece may seem like a tribute to the living legends that are Seema and Taher A. Khan and I make no apologies for it. You cannot tell the story of Interflow without the woman and the man who made it happen, so I won’t even try.

Now, since every story has to begin somewhere, I will start with the first day I walked into Interflow. I was a copywriter working at Asiatic (now JWT), pampered and feted by the Rammals, happy and even more importantly, content. Yet here I was, entering the lair of the ‘enemy’, the closest thing that you could find to the big, bad wolf in the advertising industry of Pakistan at that point in time.

The interview had been set up by a former colleague and dear friend who wanted me to move on to bigger and better things. I was supposed to meet Seema Taher and all I had to do to get the gig was to convince her that I had potential.

I made a complete hash of things. I was cocky. I was brash and I acted like I was the greatest thing that happened to the world of advertising since David Ogilvy put an eye patch on the Hathaway man and Bernbach decided to ‘Think Small’. And I trashed her favourite author – just to add the cherry on top. And yet... she hired me.

You see, that was the kind of place Interflow was. Taher called it ‘organised chaos’. It was an agency that not only tolerated mavericks, but bred and nurtured them. Dissent was not frowned upon; it was actively encouraged. It was the bravest of agencies and every individual who graduated from those hallowed halls still carries a bit of Interflow within themselves to this day.

We knew we were the best and we had a roster of clients to prove it. Over the course of my eight-something years there, I had the chance to work on BAT, Daihatsu, Emirates, Nestle, Pepsi, Unilever, Union Bank, United Bank, … the list goes on and on. Clients came to Interflow because they knew that there was only one Taher A. Khan in the industry; the one man who could create the magic their brand needed. And Taher knew that he had created a strong enough bench that would deliver on his vision. He used to tell us that while other agencies told their clients, “Ho sakta hai”, we will tell them “Ho ga”. Of course, he also gave us a whole lot of other aphorisms that are too colourful to print, but you get the gist.

Interflow was the first agency to have a full-fledged strategy and planning department, led by Shoaib Qureshy. It was the first agency that had its own production house, run by Rohail Hyatt. It brought in MindShare (Now GroupM), with Asad-ur-Rehman at its head. And these were just the people that were there when I was. At some point in time, Mehdi Raza worked at Interflow, as did Omar Fareed. Raihan Merchant is a legendary alumni. Taher never turned talent away, even if he didn’t have a role for them at that specific point in time. If the man or woman showed potential, Taher would even go so far as to create a business unit for them.

And while Taher was that ‘larger than life’ figure who inspired awe and sometimes even wonder, Seema was (and is) simply, Amma. She was temperamental, impulsive, sometimes exasperating… but always and forever loving. But then that is who the Khan were. Every agency or organisation pays lip service to the ‘we are a family’ line, but I have lived it at Interflow. We would randomly have a dholki at Taher’s place, even if no one was getting married, just because we felt like it. There were no ‘bridge ke uss paar…’ divisions.

The only divisions were those of ability and initiative. It did not matter where you came from at Interflow. If you showed the desire to grow, you knew you would be going somewhere.

I don’t know whether it was because of, or despite, the fun we were having that we were able to produce work that is still a tough act to follow.

When I look back at those years that I spent at Interflow, I marvel at the kind of freedom both creatives and account handlers had. We had the courage to make decisions, safe in the knowledge that Taher and Seema had our back. Perhaps that is why we were able to do what we did. Don’t get me wrong… Interflow had its share of epic disasters (NICOP and Hero card, just to name two). But we always came back bigger and stronger.

Today, when I look at agencies and the cookie-cutter work we are producing, I cannot help but wonder where did we lose the way? When did we stop being brave? When did we start working for clients and not brands? 


Ali Hayat is Executive Creative Director, BE DDB.

THE ART OF APPOINTING GREAT AGENCIES

By squeezing an agency’s ROI, clients are leading both their brands and the profession down the garden path of mediocrity, writes Syed Amir Haleem.

Sabene Saigol, CEO, RED Communications, is comparing notes with her COO, Hammad Hasan. In 1996, Sabene Saigol, having recently completed her Master’s in Economics from the University of London, was contemplating a law degree. Instead, she headed back to Lahore and opened her own agency at the age of 21. She called it RED Communications, although the agency’s colours are distinctly green and blue, with not one jot of red. Why? Because, Saigol said in an interview with Aurora, “advertising is about creating different perceptions in people’s minds.” RED started as an in house agency for PEL products, but within a year, had begun to acquire an independent client portfolio. Today, RED has a client base that includes, among others, Hilal Foods, Nestle, Silk Bank and Servis. In 2008, RED was affiliated with the Publicis Group. The agency has been the recipient of a number of awards, including two from PAS. RED’s success is entirely due to Saigol’s passion for advertising (“advertising is my first love; it happened quite by accident and I’m sticking to it”) and her determination to make it in her chosen profession. When asked if the fact that she is a woman is a disadvantage, she replies that in the beginning, the issue was her age. If anyone is thinking about appointing a great agency, it may be wise to go for the RED option.  (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Sabene Saigol, CEO, RED Communications, is comparing notes with her COO, Hammad Hasan. In 1996, Sabene Saigol, having recently completed her Master’s in Economics from the University of London, was contemplating a law degree. Instead, she headed back to Lahore and opened her own agency at the age of 21. She called it RED Communications, although the agency’s colours are distinctly green and blue, with not one jot of red. Why? Because, Saigol said in an interview with Aurora, “advertising is about creating different perceptions in people’s minds.” RED started as an in house agency for PEL products, but within a year, had begun to acquire an independent client portfolio. Today, RED has a client base that includes, among others, Hilal Foods, Nestle, Silk Bank and Servis. In 2008, RED was affiliated with the Publicis Group. The agency has been the recipient of a number of awards, including two from PAS. RED’s success is entirely due to Saigol’s passion for advertising (“advertising is my first love; it happened quite by accident and I’m sticking to it”) and her determination to make it in her chosen profession. When asked if the fact that she is a woman is a disadvantage, she replies that in the beginning, the issue was her age. If anyone is thinking about appointing a great agency, it may be wise to go for the RED option. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

I remember a time when clients used to see agencies as equals and value our opinions, not because it was required by policy, but because what we did made a difference.

I remember working for a Pakistani agency and we held our half-yearly meetings in cities like Istanbul and London. I remember our CEO being invited by the global marketing head of PepsiCo to share our success story with the heads of other global brand teams. However, somewhere between then and now, the people in advertising lost their vision and faith. So what has changed and why are we seeing so much mediocrity?

Marketing teams today are facing some of the most difficult challenges I have ever seen. The complexity of managing a brand has become a nightmare, yet with a few exceptions, most agencies are offering the same old solutions, repackaged with scientific sounding jargon – and one may well ask why? The answer is profitability, or to be more precise, the lack thereof. Earning a fraction of the ROI they used to enjoy a few decades ago, agencies are unable to manage the required delivery – and this is not necessarily a local issue.

It would be foolish to suggest that anything other than people create great advertising, and with retention scales being at their worst, the average agency cannot hold on to good people. As a result, to expect agencies to deliver good work is about as reasonable as if I were to expect a five star hotel to serve me a decent plate of biryani (as every avid biryani enthusiast knows, the best plates are found not at fancy hotels but by roadside stalls). This, then begs the question of whether better work can be found from the smaller agencies. The recent wins by such agencies at the last PAS Awards is evidence of this.

With a fraction of the expenses large agencies have, the small, creative shops enjoy better ROIs. They also offer the compensation and the environment that the current generation relates to. If you think I am crazy to suggest this, let me tell you that at the last MNC I worked for, we had a turnover rate of 70%.

But that is not the surprising part. What drew my attention was the fact that all those who left, went to mid-size or smaller businesses and yet managed to get anywhere from a 75 to a 100% pay jump. In one instance, one of my juniors had a 125% windfall! I was part of management and no matter how we did the financials, we were unable to meet that kind of compensation to retain people – there simply are not enough margins in the business with the kind of overheads large agencies have.

Clients are not helping either. I don’t understand what they teach at business schools because they don’t seem to understand a simple concept – if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. This is such a basic business concept, yet it completely seems to elude even the most seasoned CMOs.

Brand teams are forcing agencies to think short-term. Because of the financial crunch, agencies hire to fill their ranks with people with short-term objectives rather than a long-term vision. Ask yourself what is the key differentiation between your agency and any other in Pakistan?

And if there is none, this is not because there is a lack of understanding about what differentiation is; these agencies make their living by differentiating brands. A USP comes from a place of vision, perspective and inspiration. Can agency owners afford not to hire people able to bring these qualities to the table?

To fix profitability, agencies are trying to diversify their services by offering media planning and digital, when instead, they should be re-evaluating their core business rather than diversifying an already undifferentiated product and spreading it thinner. This is why, when brand teams reach out for digital solutions, they end up with platform-based tactics rather than a campaign.

The direct impact of lower profitability for an agency is the erosion of intellectual capital. Not only are people hired to fit the pay bracket rather than the skill-set required, they are not trained to develop these skills. With no budgets, agency training has become an absolute sham. There used to be a time when employees would be sent abroad for workshops and secondments; now, when an employee reaches out for help in learning something, he is told to Google it.

It’s a grim picture. At the moment, most clients are willing to pay cheap and get mediocre work; they are not interested in work with impact because their own internal processes do not hold them accountable for quality when it comes to their KPIs. The average retainer for an agency is a laughable Rs 150,000 a month. It is practically impossible to deliver good ideas on such figures unless you are a small, 10-person start-up.

The average cost to an agency for a team of seven people (two client service people, a strategy person, a creative director and three creatives) is one million rupees. The minimum overhead cost for a mid-size agency (excluding the above costs but including other talent and back office payroll) is Rs 1.25 million.

Therefore, with the addition of the team of seven, the total cost comes to Rs 2.25 million. With a 15% profit margin, the agency needs to earn Rs 2.59 million to survive. If a brand is willing to buy 20% of the team’s time, it will have to pay a minimum of Rs 0.518 million in retainer (20% of Rs 2.59 million). Now, if anyone has a magic solution for how it is practically possible to deliver quality when a client is willing to only offer a going rate of Rs 0.15 million for a seven member team, you have my complete interest.

If you don’t have an answer, then here is an honest insight into what you are forcing your agency to give you. Either they will only manage to give you 5.7% of the team’s time, which in my three decades worth of experience will buy you mediocre work, or they will reduce the compensation of the team drastically, because they can’t afford to pay good people.

Hiring cheaper resources with lesser experience or people with mediocre skills will again impact the quality of work. These figures may vary from agency to agency depending on their size, but they are sound rule of thumb to do the maths on. It makes me smile when clients ask why our agencies do not produce work similar to that done for Fevicol or Amul in India and I wonder if they have any idea on how much these companies compensate their agencies.

To sum up, brand teams need to make a serious call regarding where they draw the line on compensation. They need to ask how important quality creative is. They also need to dwell upon what quality creative actually is, and how it impacts their brand. To be fair to the CMOs, yes there are agencies which produce poor work and are incapable of doing anything better. To be honest, they are not structured to deliver insightful and relevant work. I know this because I have worked for some of them.

However, the question is not whether in a country of 188 million people you can find 10 people to do justice to your brand – of course you can. The question is: are you willing to pay those 10 people what they deserve?


Article excerpted from ‘Hiring monkeys’, published in the November-December 2015 edition of Aurora.

Syed Amir Haleem is CEO, KueBall. He can be contacted at syedamirhaleem@gmail.com

WHEN PIONEERING BRANDS BECAME LIFESTYLE INFLUENCERS

Shoaib Qureshy charts the trajectory of the branded journey.

Aftab Tapal, CEO, Tapal Tea, photographed inside one of his shops in Jodia Bazaar in Karachi. Jodia Bazaar is where Tapal’s journey to success began in 1947. It was there that Adam Ali Tapal, Aftab Tapal’s grandfather (his photograph is seen hanging on the wall on the right), started to import tea from Ceylon. Aftab Tapal joined the business in 1975 and by dint of his business acumen and foresight, he turned Tapal from a chai ki dukan into Pakistan’s largest-selling tea brand and a household name, despite stiff competition from loose tea sellers and multinational and local tea brands. Part of this success can be attributed to his willingness to build a strong professional marketing team and invest in advertising. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Aftab Tapal, CEO, Tapal Tea, photographed inside one of his shops in Jodia Bazaar in Karachi. Jodia Bazaar is where Tapal’s journey to success began in 1947. It was there that Adam Ali Tapal, Aftab Tapal’s grandfather (his photograph is seen hanging on the wall on the right), started to import tea from Ceylon. Aftab Tapal joined the business in 1975 and by dint of his business acumen and foresight, he turned Tapal from a chai ki dukan into Pakistan’s largest-selling tea brand and a household name, despite stiff competition from loose tea sellers and multinational and local tea brands. Part of this success can be attributed to his willingness to build a strong professional marketing team and invest in advertising. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

It is said that the 1960s ‘Mad Men’ era started the global branded revolution. The first wave of this branded storm hit Pakistan in the late seventies and led to a transformation in client and agency organisation and relationships and ultimately defined modern day marketing.

In my opinion, Lever Brothers (now Unilever) were the fathers of the branded revolution in Pakistan. In those days, they were known more as the manufacturers of Dalda and Lifebuoy, and for having market dominant brands such as Lipton, Lux and Surf in their portfolio.

They knew that as long as the quality of their products was superior to the competition, they were pretty much set. In fact, well into the seventies, savvy consumers could easily distinguish between a high-quality and a shabby product. So, as much as we like to complain about what we buy, it is a fact that we are living in a golden age of quality products.

Today, it is rare to find cars that consistently breakdown or soaps that dissolve quickly. I challenge you to walk into any supermarket and find a product that is not of almost equal quality to the category leader in terms of functional performance. Nevertheless, the companies that were category leaders in the early days are more often than not the same ones today – and this speaks to the discipline of branding and marketing.

THE BIRTH OF MODERN BRANDS

The shift from simple products to brands was not sudden or inevitable. One could argue that brands grew out of the need to standardise the quality of products in the mid-20th century and this required companies to find a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

It was then that consumer packaged goods companies such as General Foods, P&G and Unilever developed the discipline of brand management – and the brand manager’s function was to give a product an identity that distinguished it from nearly indistinguishable competitors.

This required both understanding the target consumer and providing a ‘branded proposition’ that offered not only functional but emotional value. Over time, the emotional value would create a buffer against functional parity. As long as a brand was perceived to offer superior value, it could charge a little more. If this brand advantage was higher than the cost of building the brand (additional staff and advertising costs), the company came out ahead.

In Pakistan, in the fifties and sixties, brands such as Dalda, Lipton, Lifebuoy and Lux set the benchmark for today’s brands. They marked the start of four decades of marketing whereby ‘winning’ depended on understanding the consumer better than the competition and getting the ‘brand mix’ right. The brand mix is more than about the logo or the price. It is about the packaging, the promotions and the advertising, all of which are guided by precisely worded positioning statements or brand keys.

BUILDING ARTICULATE BRANDS

Few brands are articulate. Even the inventors of brand management find it a challenge. When I worked with P&G in the nineties (when they first entered Pakistan), I noticed that although many of their brands were highly regarded for their functional quality, Unilever brands had a stronger emotional bond with consumers.

For decades, the big companies marketed brands and everyone else sold products. When I graduated from university, I knew it was important to work for companies such as Coca-Cola, Colgate, Nestlé, Pepsi, P&G or Unilever, in order to learn the ropes of marketing and branding. The other companies, which sought to introduce brand management, tended to hire ‘graduates’ from the above companies after they had been trained there for five years. From thereon, those marketers fanned out across Pakistan’s marketing industry.

A LinkedIn search of the top marketing people will confirm how important those companies were in shaping Pakistan’s branded revolution.

FROM ONE AGENCY TO MULTIPLE AGENCIES

There was a time when every client had one agency. This was when product differentiation did not matter.

However, when it became paramount to build distinct brands, clients realised the importance of hiring different agencies to work on different brands. This brought a sharper focus to every brand. In Pakistan, this gained momentum with the arrival of agency affiliations three decades ago.

THE EVOLUTION CONTINUES

Initially, brands were aligned with products and organisations. At the least effective level, brands could lay claim to distinct attributes, functions and features. Taking it up a notch, brands could claim distinct benefits: functional, emotional, experiential or self-expressive.

Today, they are focusing on values and purpose. Brands need to stand for something and share a set of values with their customers. The most powerful of those brands will create communities based on shared values, culture and a sense of identity and purpose.


Shoaib Qureshy is CEO, Bulls Eye DDB. He can be contacted at shoaib@be.com.pk

A FAREWELL TO BRAND LOVE

In their quest to dominate price wars, telecom companies have virtually abandoned an inventive branding that defined their marketing earlier, writes Yasmin Malik.

I can never forget the excitement and anticipation I felt before the run-up to purchasing my first mobile connection. The year was 2001. Mobile communication in Pakistan was set to take a turn to truly include everyone. The new entrant had chosen a brand name envisioned to connect to all: Ufone.

My excitement was shared by many across Pakistan who had been left out of what was (up to that point) the expensive and often, exclusive, if not elusive, mobile telephony. Mobile phone users of today will find it hard to envisage a time when GSM or SIM-based services were not available.

Paktel (under Cable & Wireless) and Instaphone (under Millicom) launched their nationwide Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) and Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) services respectively, in 1990. Initial services were post-paid only and typically required a $250 deposit, while the handsets were clunky and expensive – so the marketing was directed towards corporate customers.

Paktel had a distinctive and very well-designed logo, which consisted of six, green-bordered hexagons (representing the shape of the coverage of a cellular tower) joined together as a map of Pakistan on a white background. The logo’s creative message (national coverage) couldn’t have been more discerningly clear.

Instaphone and Paktel competed fairly evenly, with brand marketing reflecting the Mobile Party Pays (MPP) regime of the 1990s. As MPP involved paying for calls made and received, the mobile phone was largely perceived and marketed as a corporate or ‘VIP’ communication tool. When Mobilink entered the market in 1994 with their GSM service, the nature of telecom branding changed. Emphasis was on the ‘status’ and ‘exclusivity’ of belonging to a particular mobile network. This was most notable in the branding of Mobilink’s post-paid offering called Indigo – a stylish, sophisticated and successful venture, which easily allowed Mobilink to become the market leader.

Mobilink played a primary role in the development of Pakistan’s pre-paid market with the establishment of their iconic Jazz brand, launched in 1998. Their approach was unique at the time. They introduced the concept of the ‘Jazz Girl’ with the sultry and sensual image of Iman Ali at the centre of the campaign. The concept was shrewd enough to differentiate the service from the Indigo brand while at the same time, maintain the ‘exclusivity’ of being on the Mobilink network. For many, many years, Jazz remained a truly aspirational brand.

Instaphone’s InstaXcite brand was positioned to challenge Jazz and became notable for using TVCs that were small stories in themselves. The ‘story’ was taken forward in consecutive ads reminiscent of Nescafe’s story-driven nineties coffee ads in the UK. Overall however, mobile telephony branding remained constrained due to the MPP regime, which remained in force until a little after the turn of the century and only those who could afford it, remained privy to mobile telephony services.

The popularity of mobile handsets grew in parallel. The Nokia Communicator was the much sought-after handset for many in the corporate sector, while a loyal following of the Blackberry service (first introduced by Mobilink) made the post-paid market highly viable for telecom companies.

The more affordable Nokia 3310 soon became an icon and its nostalgic value remained so strong that Nokia re-launched a more modern version of it earlier this year. Those aspiring for a new (but yet unaffordable) mobile phone connection resolved firmly that the Nokia 3310 would be their phone of choice. I was among the many with this determination which brings me back to the wave of expectation that preceded Ufone’s entry into the market.

In the run-up to the Ufone launch in January 2001, the PTA introduced the Calling Party Pays (CPP) regime and mobile telephony became decisively cheaper, especially for pre-paid users. While the existing telecom companies focused on expanding their userbase in the categories that they had already established, Ufone’s branding took a completely different direction: the mass market.

With the help of Faisal Qureshi’s comic and highly relevant cultural insights, the image of mobile telephony soon transformed into one within the reach of even the thelawala. One of the early and memorable Ufone TVCs features Faisal Qureshi, proclaiming excitedly to his wife (who hilariously turns out to be his mother-in-law in the end) how affordable and easy it will be to stay in touch using the Ufone service.

Whilst Ufone strongly pitched itself on price, its rivals compromised little and chose to maintain their brand identity and creativity. Even Paktel launched their own prepaid service in 2001 called Tango, but could not keep pace with their rivals, despite switching to GSM services in 2004. Paktel’s and Instaphone’s international owners sold their stakes soon after Warid and Telenor entered the market in 2005.

At this point, the inventive branding that defined the market started to slide. Telenor, and especially Warid, did remain creative for a year or so after launch, but the rot that can now so clearly be seen in today’s telecom branding had begun to set in, with full-blown price wars being the malicious driver.

Paktel was eventually bought out by China Telecom in 2007 and rebranded as Zong the year after. That rebrand was the beginning of a journey that, within a decade, would make Zong the conqueror of the 4G market in Pakistan. But that remains a story for another day.


Yasmin Malik is associated with the UK’s Informa Telecoms and Media. She can be contacted at yasminmalik1@yahoo.com

BRANDS, BANDS AND BANDWAGONS

Taimur Tajik comments on the symbiotic relationship between music and brands.

Fawad Khan, Meesha Shafi and Atif Aslam were on the panel of judges for the Pepsi Battle of the Bands in 2017. The show was aired on PTV in 2002, but discontinued after the first season. It was then revived last year as according to the brand’s consumer research, there was a dearth of platforms where young people could display their musical virtuosity. Although Pepsi was the pioneer in the genre of brand-sponsored musical reality shows back in 2002, since then, a host of brands have launched their branded music shows, including Coke Studio, Nescafé Basement and Strepsils Stereo, to promote the industry and provide exposure to new talent.
Fawad Khan, Meesha Shafi and Atif Aslam were on the panel of judges for the Pepsi Battle of the Bands in 2017. The show was aired on PTV in 2002, but discontinued after the first season. It was then revived last year as according to the brand’s consumer research, there was a dearth of platforms where young people could display their musical virtuosity. Although Pepsi was the pioneer in the genre of brand-sponsored musical reality shows back in 2002, since then, a host of brands have launched their branded music shows, including Coke Studio, Nescafé Basement and Strepsils Stereo, to promote the industry and provide exposure to new talent.

Ever catch yourself unconsciously singing along to a Britney Spears song? Or becoming teary-eyed to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata? Or feeling the urge to run naked through the woods when the theme song from the Last of the Mohicans is playing? (Okay, maybe that last one is just me).

The point is, whether you realise it or not, your auditory cortex is biologically hardwired to process and respond to audio stimulation. Therefore, your impulse to react to music is not entirely your fault (unless you actually like Britney Spears). That is why, certain types of music can illicit responses, such as tapping your foot, getting pumped up at the gym, or feeling nostalgic about your ex.

It is also why something as seemingly trivial as music has been used throughout history for many real world applications, such as boosting military morale and defining entire eras of art and subculture. And since music has the power to tap into our emotions, no wonder that brands have exploited it to grab our attention and find their way into our hearts and minds.

It all started in the days when brands were relying on jingles to gain their share of mind. From toothpaste to confectionary, brands jumped on the jingle bandwagon, using simple, limerick-styled rhymes and audio mnemonics to increase memorability. Needless to say, it was an incredibly successful strategy, so much so that jingles continue to be used by many big brands today.

And why not? If a brand can etch its way into consumers’ minds by spending a minimal amount of time and budget on creating a jingle and jack-hammering it into our skulls, can we blame them for doing so? Yet, despite the effectiveness of jingles, I doubt there are many out there that consumers have grown to love (the majority are irritants). Just because we remember them, doesn’t mean we want to. Dare I remind you of Telefun?

Luckily, by the nineties, brands began using music more maturely to create a deeper affinity with their audiences. Commercials began featuring mainstream songs, as well as original compositions – ushering in a new level of commercial music that was a far cry from the juvenile jingles of yesteryears. Commercial music took on a new dimension, giving us some of the most anthemic and iconic compositions of our generation.

You may, for example, recall State Life’s fondly reminisced ‘Aye khuda mere abbu salamat rahen and Molty Foam’s Meri nanhi pari, naye ghar ko chali’, which are revered as classic commercial hits of our time.

Naturally, it was only a matter of time before the artists behind the music drifted into the spotlight, cementing their celebrity status by pairing up with successful brands. In the early nineties, Vital Signs were catapulted into stardom after appearing in a series of Pepsi commercials.

As time passed, the celebrity singer-songwriter trend continued with commercial cameos from Ali Azmat, Ali Zafar, Strings, and so on, catalysing their journey to fame and solidifying the bond between music and commercial advertising.

Solo artists and bands began crossing over from music channels to commercials, and so seamlessly that at times you couldn’t figure out whether you were watching a music video or a new product launch. Pepsi was the first to make waves by extending this platform to non-celebrities with their 2001 ‘Battle of the Bands’. By the early 2000s, music and commercials were so intensely mashed up that they had become inseparable.

Much like cricket, music became a platform brands would turn to when they felt they needed to reconnect with their audiences.

Fast-forward to 2009 (after a lengthy lull) and Coke suddenly exploded onto the scene with a musical renaissance: Coke Studio. For me, this was the pivotal turning point when brands began taking a courageous step backwards, allowing the music to remain at the forefront and without compromising its integrity.

Yeah, it was a completely branded show, but no one sang about Coke or refreshment or anything lame like that. The brand did not interfere with the content or its purpose. Coke merely provided a platform for artists to work together to create music that appealed to the young and older generations of our music-loving nation. They saw an opportunity to leverage music commercially in a way that no one had done before. More importantly, they did it tastefully.

As always, everyone else followed suit. Big brands such as Pepsi, Nescafe, Strepsils and even Levi’s replicated the format (with minor tweaks), engaging in an intense battle for their own share of megabytes on our MP3 players. But guess who won? The music. Sure, brands enjoyed a big slice of the pie, but it was the local artists and their craft that finally received due recognition.

Whereas music was initially used as a gimmick to hook audiences and sell products, it has now become the tidal force that brands are tripping over themselves to harness. The irony is that without brands, Pakistan would have probably never seen such a remarkable resurgence in the local music scene, as brands are the only ones today making any significant investment in our home-grown artists.

In a nutshell: brands are keeping artists alive, and artists are providing brands with a platform to connect with consumers. Whoever saw that coming? (In all fairness, maybe Pepsi did in 2001). What is clear today is that music and advertising enjoy a fruitful symbiotic relationship, one that is benefiting brands, artists and audiences. The way I see it, that is a big step forward from where we started and gives us an insight into what we may hear in the future. 


Taimur Tajik is Executive Creative Director, Manhattan International.


BRAND POWER IN THE PAVILION

T.N. Ahmed writes about the obsessional engagement of the public with cricket. So why haven’t brands leveraged cricket better to their advantage?

In 1952, Pakistan unveiled its newly-formed cricket team in a test match against India. The captain of the team was the tall, aristocratic-looking Abdul Hafeez Kardar. Known as The Skipper, he had five years earlier played for the team he was now facing. A brilliant strategist and a gifted all-rounder, Kardar was, in every way Imran Khan’s predecessor.

Although there is no doubt that Pakistan is a cricket obsessed nation, few people today know that sports sponsorship received a huge boost under President Ziaul-Haq’s Martial Law. His government recognised that given the strict censorship policies that were in force, a way had to be found to allow people to let off steam. It was therefore decided to encourage PTV to cover cricket which could take up five to seven hours during the day and a good match would keep people glued to their screens. And in this way, sports became an integral part of the communication for many brands in Pakistan.
Although there is no doubt that Pakistan is a cricket obsessed nation, few people today know that sports sponsorship received a huge boost under President Ziaul-Haq’s Martial Law. His government recognised that given the strict censorship policies that were in force, a way had to be found to allow people to let off steam. It was therefore decided to encourage PTV to cover cricket which could take up five to seven hours during the day and a good match would keep people glued to their screens. And in this way, sports became an integral part of the communication for many brands in Pakistan.

There was also the dashing Fazal Mahmood, literally the blue-eyed boy who became the face of Brylcreem in Pakistan. Brylcreem – popularly associated itself with sports, mainly cricket, tennis and football – chose sportsmen with luxurious locks, such as Mahmood’s, to endorse it. Hanif Mohammad, the boy wonder, was picked up to endorse a myriad brands.

The most tenuous of them was to advertise a 1955 Indian film Taxi Driver with the line ‘As Hanif smashes all previous records …so does our funtoosh Taxi Driver’. It seems Dev Anand’s name in the billing wasn’t enough. Mohammad later became the face of Cricketer Magazine as well as Berger Robbialac Paints.

Unexpectedly, it was the Joe Friday of the team who provided gossip to the tabloids by wooing a much married celluloid star and breaking his leg while escaping the wrath of the said movie star’s husband. Or so the legend goes.

So began our love affair with cricket – and cricketers. Was it the thrill of conquering the colonial gentlemen’s game, the well-defined charisma of the players that allowed everyone to have a firm favourite, or the drama and intrigue of the locker room, reported in the gossip rags (yes, always a mainstay) that has made us root for cricket with more passion than we ever could muster for any other sport? Not surprisingly, the love affair of advertising with sports endorsements started with cricket.

Pakistan had stellar hockey teams for many years and dominated squash for a decade, with Jahangir Khan as the face of PIA, and hockey gracing a stamp or two. We were proud of both but never infatuated enough for brands to come knocking on their doors.

For a brief period in the eighties, we had international yachting stars Behram and Goshpi Avari and an international bridge star, Zia Mahmood, much in the news, but ‘a bit too niche’ for an advertising market that was still developing.

Wills was the first brand to court cricket with campaigns in the seventies and eighties, predominantly via branding the World Cups in Australia and Pakistan. While Benson & Hedges courted cricket in Britain, Wills produced a series of memorable campaigns featuring Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Majid Khan.

The clamp down on cigarette advertising put an end to that. Unfortunately, nothing can be found on the world wide web. If there are agencies out there which worked on the campaigns and have anything in their archives, please do share.

But the ubiquitous presence of cricketing celebrities in advertising can only be credited to one brand and one particular campaign.

In the mid-eighties, Pepsi Pakistan dutifully followed global guidelines and focused on the nation’s favourite sport and its captain, who seemed cut from the same mould as Kardar. The TVC featured a very fit Imran Khan in his impeccable whites, coaching a group of young kids who looked up at him with awestruck eyes.

Perhaps it was the minimalistic visual appeal of the pristine whites against the green backdrop; perhaps it was the appealing metaphor of Imran Khan towering over adoring fans/aspiring cricketers like a modern-day god perhaps it was the sight of him wiping the sweat off his brow with the ice-cold bottle that set a million hearts aflutter, or the peppy English jingle; maybe, it was simply the perfect match of a youthful brand (the only one at the time) and the youthful zest of sports.

Compare this to another cola ad the same cricketer did across the border within the same timeframe. Drinking a Thumbs Up with Gavasker, he looks like your genial next-door neighbour. But that iconic Pepsi ad succeeded in the marriage of advertising and sports. And I suspect, in cementing Mr Khan’s reputation as a star that culminated with the 92 World Cup.

In later years, other brands piggybacked on the cricket wave, with HBL and Mobilink/Jazz being the most frequent. Servis jumped in with campaigns featuring Abdul Razzak and Shahid Afridi for Cheetah shoes.

Dawn bread worked with Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq. And lately, Bank Alfalah brought the rags to riches stories of Anwar Ali. Yet, Pepsi has been the most consistent and has produced the most memorable advertising, successfully ensuring our love (/hate) relationship with the game.

Very briefly did Aisam-ul-Haq provide a welcome distraction and Close-Up seized upon his winsome smile, but tennis is not a game that is played by everyone and Haq, though very sweet, was not sexy enough. Cricket still makes our hearts go zing.

Whereas globally, sports have a much more deep-set and consistent association with advertising (Gillette, Rolex and Nike), in Pakistan, it has never amounted to more than a flirtation. Often that incongruous endorsement materialises simply because the brand wants to capitalise on a particular cricketer’s budding popularity without much thought given to check whether that sportsman (or the sport itself) is a good fit for the brand.

Not surprisingly, it may not translate into ROI. And for some brands that may find a good fit, perhaps the player’s price is too high. Some brands like Coca-Cola, knowing that they do not have a right to win in cricket, are branching into football, much of which will become apparent over the next year or so. The business of sports is big. It is not saturated and as advertisers, we have the power to create new sporting heroes and new sporting avenues.


T.N. Ahmed works for an advertising agency in Pakistan.

POSITIONING CULTURE FOR BRAND SUCCESS

In our mad scramble to gain distinctiveness, why not embrace Pakistan’s cultural narratives to ensure that your brand stands out, asks Tyrone Tellis.

Bringing four directors who are stars in their own right together in one frame is an unlikely feat, but one that Arif Mahmood accomplished, when he took this photograph of Asad-ul-Haq, Asim Raza, Saqib Malik and Jamshed Mehmood, better known as ‘Jami’ (L-R) at Asad-ul-Haq’s studio. For nearly 20 years, if there has been a TV commercial that has been talked about, be it for a telecom brand or an FMCG, chances are that it was shot by one of these four directors. At one point or another, these talented directors have said making a film was their ultimate ambition. As it turned out, three of them have realised this ambition; Jami’s Moor opened to critical acclaim in 2015; the same year Asad-ul-Haq’s first film Dekh Magar Pyar Se was released. Asim Raza’s Ho Mann Jahaan hit the theatres the following year and if rumours are to be believed, Saqib Malik will soon have a film to call his own. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Bringing four directors who are stars in their own right together in one frame is an unlikely feat, but one that Arif Mahmood accomplished, when he took this photograph of Asad-ul-Haq, Asim Raza, Saqib Malik and Jamshed Mehmood, better known as ‘Jami’ (L-R) at Asad-ul-Haq’s studio. For nearly 20 years, if there has been a TV commercial that has been talked about, be it for a telecom brand or an FMCG, chances are that it was shot by one of these four directors. At one point or another, these talented directors have said making a film was their ultimate ambition. As it turned out, three of them have realised this ambition; Jami’s Moor opened to critical acclaim in 2015; the same year Asad-ul-Haq’s first film Dekh Magar Pyar Se was released. Asim Raza’s Ho Mann Jahaan hit the theatres the following year and if rumours are to be believed, Saqib Malik will soon have a film to call his own. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

David Ogilvy is often quoted on how to structure an agency and develop an effective culture for success.

Yet, I wonder whether he ever said anything about societal culture and the role advertising plays in shaping it. Culture is a word that is bandied about endlessly in Pakistan, yet most people have little idea what exactly it is. In fact, they regard culture as something immobile and set in stone.

On the contrary, culture is anything except rigid and inflexible; rather it is people who impose restrictions on something that is fluid and malleable. All cultures evolve. In Pakistan, in the fifties and sixties, sari was a widely accepted form of women’s wear. It was frequently seen on TV, and was a part of the everyday wardrobe of the urban Pakistani woman. Today, sari has been relegated to occasions such as weddings or formal dinners. In the same way, whether we are aware of it or not, our culture has changed and adapted to new trends and ideas.

Culture informs the work of marketers and it is a facet of society they can transform through their work. Take the example of recipe mix masalas. When this product category was introduced in the eighties, the reaction was negative. Women were not comfortable using such a product as they felt it suggested that they did not care enough for their family and were lazy.

However, over time, due to marketing efforts, as well as other societal changes, recipe mix masalas have gained acceptance and are now part of the urban housewife’s kitchen.

So how do brands decide whether to toe the line and adhere to society’s norms, or challenge the prevalent mindset? Factors, such as the ability to gain an edge over an entrenched competitor, growth potential and opportunities to reach an untapped psychographic, may encourage a brand to take a society’s culture head on.

In Pakistan, marketers are constantly evaluating whether they need to be the bearers of cultural change or endorse the existing culture. I suggest that they approach culture another way. Pakistani brands need to appreciate and respect the culture of our nation.

Last year, Tapal won a PAS Award for its Chenak Dust campaign, which highlighted the culture of the people of Thar. Looking back, we all tend to be nostalgic when remembering Morven Gold’s Rhythm of Unity commercial, which, for many of us, is still the benchmark of what a great cultural communication should be.

Yet, if we look at the advertising currently produced, it seems that brands are paying lip service to culture and not appreciating it. To use a metaphor, culture is a rich palette containing a variety of hues and shades, yet brands seem only to be painting in green, focusing on patriotism, religion or other tried and tested formulas.

Why are our brands taking culture for granted? In my view, the problem is that in their quest to produce aspirational advertising, they have forgotten how to produce inspirational advertising. Thanks to our exposure to Indian channels, we can see how Indian brands are embracing their culture. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that India used to be a closed economy, but there is no denying that many Indian brands look for local concepts and ideas rather than adopting global communication platforms and even when they do, there is always a local twist, so that the audience does not feel alienated.

An apt example of a truly desi idea is the Nike India cricket commercial. Instead of showing kids playing cricket in the galees (streets) or on a cricket field, the brand team decided to use a local ‘bane’ – the traffic jam – as the setting.

Another example is Fevicol, where a bus is travelling on a very bumpy road, with a horde of passengers clinging on all sides. At the end of the commercial, no passenger has fallen off and the tagline appears ‘Fevicol – the ultimate adhesive’.

Compare this to the naach gaana and other devices used by Pakistani brands. Pakistani brands need to appreciate culture better. Hackneyed executions with stereotypical portrayals of ethnic groups do not count as proof of respect for culture.

Going back to the ‘Rhythm of Unity’ commercial or taking a look at the iconic PIA ad with an attractive dusky-complexioned woman extolling the East’s hospitality and a headline that reads ‘Our Unfair Advantage’, a case can be made that although local brands used to respect culture, they have lost their way.

Respect for culture is a sure way for marketers to create empathy and a sense of belonging. By being culturally savvy, brands will be able to break through the clutter, communicate better and create ownership. When everyone is searching for an unfair advantage, Pakistani brands should embrace culture for success.


Tyrone Tellis is a marketing professional working in Pakistan. He can be contacted at tyrone.tellis@gmail.com

THE NATION’S LEAD ADVERTISER

Despite unresolved grievances and inherent challenges, no agency, channel or publication would ever consider declining the opportunity to work with government — the largest advertiser in Pakistan. Ayesha Shaikh explains why.

Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, reads her copy of Dawn at the Press Information Department (PID) in Islamabad. The Government of Pakistan (GOP) is the country’s top advertiser across all media platforms. It is the only client which offers a 15% commission on all media placements to media buying houses. According to the Aurora Fact File, in FY 2016-17, GOP was the fourth largest advertiser in print. The Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage disposes of a comprehensive database of rare photographs dating to 1947. Several of these photos appeared for the first time in The Dawn of Pakistan (1906-1948), a 37-episode photo-feature released by The Dawn Media Group to mark Pakistan’s 70th birthday. Marriyum Aurangzeb recently announced Pakistan’s first film and cultural policy. The policy formally accorded the status of an ‘industry’ to films and abolished the duty on the import of film equipment to incentivise local production. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, reads her copy of Dawn at the Press Information Department (PID) in Islamabad. The Government of Pakistan (GOP) is the country’s top advertiser across all media platforms. It is the only client which offers a 15% commission on all media placements to media buying houses. According to the Aurora Fact File, in FY 2016-17, GOP was the fourth largest advertiser in print. The Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage disposes of a comprehensive database of rare photographs dating to 1947. Several of these photos appeared for the first time in The Dawn of Pakistan (1906-1948), a 37-episode photo-feature released by The Dawn Media Group to mark Pakistan’s 70th birthday. Marriyum Aurangzeb recently announced Pakistan’s first film and cultural policy. The policy formally accorded the status of an ‘industry’ to films and abolished the duty on the import of film equipment to incentivise local production. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

The Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage is responsible for devising the policies that oversee the development and release of Government (Federal and Provincial) advertising in Pakistan.

Under the umbrella of the Ministry, the Press Information Department (PID) is responsible for ensuring that the legal framework regulating Government advertising is followed. It also acts as the focal point of contact and collaboration between the stakeholders involved and as the clearing house for both federal and provincial Government advertising.

The key stakeholders

Government advertising consists of classified and display advertisements. Restricted to the print media, classified advertisements include tender notices, vacancy announcements and Request for Proposals (RFPs) from vendors.

As their budgets are preapproved by the relevant ministries, the media release and payment settlement process involved is simple. The situation becomes tricky when display advertisements are involved.

The process is initiated by the ministry that wants to release a campaign after obtaining the approval of the Secretary of Information. Subsequently, agencies – only those accredited by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) – are invited to pitch.

Once an agency is appointed, the campaign is created, approved by the concerned Director General Public Relations and the client ministry and submitted to PID. Once the media plan has been approved by PID, a Department Release Order (DRO) is issued to the agency, which is now authorised to submit the Release Order (RO) to the releasing publications.

Once the advertisements are printed, the publications generate an invoice which is sent to the advertising agency for submission along with their own invoice to PID for payment. However, the process is not as straightforward as it appears, because the authority for sanctioning payments is centralised with PID.

In fact, it is the Press Information Officer (PIO) who must confirm that client ministries can release payments to agencies.

**The media face-off

Given that in FY 2015-16, the Government of Pakistan was the fourth largest advertiser in the print media in terms of product categories (source: Aurora Fact File November-December 2016), the importance of the government as a client for newspapers cannot be overestimated. Traditionally, governments advertised heavily in the print media.

A major reason is that tender advertising must be published in print and they constitute a considerable chunk of the total Government advertising. However, since the late nineties, the share of Government advertising in print has reduced. According to APNS, the TV-print break-up used to be about 50-50; in recent years, print’s share has gone down to 25-30%.

There have been ongoing negotiations between APNS and the government to rectify this situation; the APNS is asking that the government increase the share of the pie by fixing its advertising spend at two percent of the cumulative development budget and that the budget allocation between media should follow a 50-40-10 proportion for electronic, print and digital respectively, as is the norm in countries such as India.

Another bone of contention is the gap between the print tariffs offered to private clients compared to those offered to government clients. According to APNS, TV not only receives a larger share of government advertising, the rates offered by the channels to the government are higher than those offered to their private clients.

The PBA, however, disagree, contending that all government spots get a flat 30% discount on the printed tariff of any channel and whenever a channel revises its tariff, it automatically affects the government rates as well. They further point out that unlike print, PEMRA regulations state that TV and radio are legally bound to give 10% of their airtime free of cost to government public service campaigns.

Agencies in a fix

Although TV and print continue to disagree on this score, they share a common ground when it comes to the recovery of government dues. The issue is that although the credit period allowed by the PBA and APNS to agencies to make payments to channels and publications ranges between 60 to 90 days, the reality is that it can take between four to 12 months for government payments to come through.

Since the advertising agencies are liable to pay for the media they release, regardless of whether their government clients have paid them or not, they find themselves in a fix, because if they fail to settle their media dues within the credit period, they are suspended by the PBA and APNS and cannot release media for any client, whether private or public, until they pay up. On the issue of delayed payments, the PID’s response is that there are delays from the agencies, which despite being sent reminders, fail to submit the paperwork for bill processing.

Another issue is the creative (or the lack thereof) aspect of public sector campaigns. One of the primary reasons for this is that government clients expect agencies to put together campaigns in a matter of hours or days at best. “Delayed payments; stringent delivery deadlines; abysmal working hours and collaborating with people who have no idea of what advertising is.”

These were the four most commonly cited grievances of having the government as a client. This begs the question that if working with the government is such a thankless endeavour, then why not limit agency business to the private sector? The response was refreshingly honest and unanimous, and best summed up by Sohail Kisat, Group Chairman, MCOM: “Government is the only client that allows the agency to retain a 15% commission on media placement and that is where the real money is. In the private sector, the margins are as low as two to three percent, which is why we see agencies pitching for the so-called ‘dreadful government campaigns.”’

Government advertising spends are set to increase across media platforms. As agency margins continue to shrink in the private sector, not to mention the government’s extension into new avenues of digital and PR, agencies working with the government foresee the competition intensifying in the future.

Despite the manifold challenges of working with the government, no media platform or agency wants to miss out on receiving a share of the government’s considerable ad spend.


Article excerpted from ‘The Government as the Nation’s Advertiser’, published in the March-April 2017 edition of Aurora.

Ayesha Shaikh is a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. aurora@dawn.com


DETTOL: PROTECTOR OF EVERY HOUSEHOLD

Dettol ads from 1948, 1953 and 1954
Dettol ads from 1948, 1953 and 1954

Dettol is a trusted household name in Pakistan, thanks to a long history of providing germ protection to consumers. Originally launched as an antiseptic, the brand has evolved while remaining true to its core essence.

Up until the late nineties, Dettol was primarily a pharma brand; Dettol soap accounted for about two percent of the market share in the category, while Antiseptic Liquid (ASL) became a part of the first-aid box in the majority of Pakistani households and institutions.

In the early 2000s, the brand launched a range of soap variants, based on consumer needs. These included new variants in the Freshness and Skin Care platforms.

In the last two decades, Pakistan has become one of the biggest anti-bacterial soap markets in the world in terms of market share, with three major global players competing in the segment. In such a highly contested category, Dettol has grown steadily and according to Nielsen, holds a double-digit market share in urban Pakistan.

In the last 10 years, the brand has extended into Multi-Surface Cleaners, Hand Sanitisers and Cleansing Wipes, providing consumers access to germ-protection solutions across multiple categories. Today, Dettol is playing an active role in creating awareness about better hygiene practices.

Dettol’s School Programme reaches 2.5 million children nationally, who are taught hand-hygiene practices through edutainment and live demos.

Given the lack of antenatal education in Pakistan, Dettol has recently started an Antenatal Programme based on international guidelines and offers free antenatal classes to women in their third trimester around four key modules that cover topics such as pregnancy, labour, post-pregnancy and baby care. The aim now is to make it bigger year-on-year as we join hands with more hospitals.


Salman Taufiq is Marketing Manager, Germ Protection & Personal Care, Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan.

1970s & 80s: THE YEARS OF CREATIVITY

LOSING SHINE

Despite significant strides made over seven decades, compelling factors are combining to tarnish advertising’s shine. Javed Jabbar elucidates why.

Reflection over seven decades defines, in a fine symmetry of numbers, seven positive themes and seven negative trends that cover advertising in Pakistan from 1947 to 2017.

At the risk of contrivance, yet purely coincidentally, the time span also divides into seven phases (time zones overlap).

• 1947-1964: Almost two decades of economic growth starting from scratch and mainly in print media.

• 1965-2017 (53 years): Radio Pakistan begins broadcasting commercials, with private, commercial FM radio commencing in 2002.

• 1947-1971 (24 years): Economy and media in a uniquely constructed two-wing Pakistan, until East Pakistan becomes Bangladesh.

• 1972-2017 (45 years): A new Pakistan, a new economy.

• 1964-1976 (12 years): PTV begins in black and white; then becomes coloured.

• 1947-2001 (54 years): State monopoly in electronic media.

• 2002 to date (15 years): Private TV and FM radio channels, digital media and other new media.

Three principal factors shape advertising. Economy. Mass media. Context. This period witnessed major internal upheavals, fast ascents, slowdowns and descents in economic progress, external, regional and global changes and new communication technology developments. In varying measure, these impacted advertising in Pakistan.

Seven positives

1. Human resource development. The seven positive directions are dominated by HR development. Several pioneers laid the foundations, made valuable contributions. In 2018, in numbers, quality, diversity, creativity and specialisation, the sector shows significant improvement.

Some examples of creative expression in the first three or four decades remain unrivalled. Today, there is an abundance of gifted people and a notable enhancement of professional capacity. This is due to an increase in demand and volume, as well as competitive pressures.

The visibility of women is the most socially significant advancement in HR.

2. Volume growth. Aided by the proliferation of TV channels onward of 2002, from a single state network monopoly, the number of channels operating in Pakistan today is over 15,000 (these include the channels of 3,000 plus cable distributors, which are permitted to broadcast five of their own in-house channels).

TV channels screen pirated foreign films and locally-originated content with micro-level advertising by shops, service-providers and macro-level advertisers.

Small-scale, localised advertising is largely undocumented and not part of published estimates. In radio, from the single state network monopoly from 1947 to 2001, to now over 150 private and university FM radio channels in 2018, advertising volume has grown dramatically.

Huge increases in advertising budgets of numerous government departments have accompanied similar huge growth in private sector budgets. Hundreds of regional newspapers and dozens of urban-based journals have expanded the print media’s pioneering advertising status. Plus all the below-the-line but above-the-level new increases.

3. New advertisers. New advertisers include political parties. In and between general elections, to mark birth and death anniversaries of leaders, announce public meetings and processions. As well as advertising by overseas aid donors, local public welfare, private charity and social service organisations which aim to mobilise funding.

4. Innovation. Innovation in form and content with the advent of the internet and digital media. Thanks to social media, a single individual has become an all-in-one; content-originator, content distributor, content consumer, content commentator. Millions of Pakistanis are simultaneously advertisers, media and target audiences.

5. Lifestyles – better and worse. Advertising has always had a relationship with livelihoods. More than ever, advertising in Pakistan is shaping aspirations, at the personal level and at class levels. The blooming of the multiple-level middle class, reflective of high population growth and the big youth demographic has created a new linkage between advertising, social attitudes and lifestyles. The impact is nebulous.

Some positive facets help demolish repressive cultural practices. But there is the adverse impact on food and diet through fast food and soft drinks; all the more ironic when UNICEF estimates that malnutrition causes enduring stunting in the minds and bodies of millions of Pakistani children.

6. Marketing success stories. In the past two decades, there is more in-depth attention applied. This priority underlines excessive dependence on Western textbooks and source material and the paucity of research-based textbooks focused on the Pakistani experience.

With some remarkable marketing success stories of Pakistani enterprises now analysed as case-studies in leading Western universities, a large vacuum in academia awaits fulfilment.

7. Journalism as discourse. The advent of specialised journals led by Aurora, which covers advertising and marketing, with an informed understanding that neither the daily print media nor electronic media do.

Aurora encourages factual reportage, thoughtful analysis, lively illustrations, stimulating exchanges on virtually all aspects of advertising in Pakistan.

With the contributions of other journals such as Slogan and Synergizer, discourse becomes possible to evaluate the advertising sector.

Landmark events

Like a bridge between the positive and the negative list which is about to commence, there is a dimension of the past 70 years which does not qualify for inclusion on the positive side because it comprises one-off events which have not been repeated.

The First Pakistan Advertising Congress was held in Karachi in September 1979. For the first time in the country’s history, all six segments relevant to advertising came together for structured dialogue. The six segments are advertisers, agencies, production services, media, government and consumers.

The Congress theme stressed context rather than only a profession’s narcissistic interests: ‘Advertising and National Development: Challenge and Response’.

Ten years later, in February 1989, Pakistan hosted the 16th Asian Advertising Congress in Lahore. It was a privilege for this writer to earlier serve as Secretary-General of the First Pakistan Congress, and later as Chairman AdAsia 89.

AdAsia 89 revived the rare, collaborative spirit of 1979. The work-sessions featured provocative, radical thinkers like Edward de Bono and a host of eminent international professionals. Social events were spectacular displays of Pakistan’s rich culture and cuisine set in resplendent historical sites.

Veterans from overseas countries were unanimous that AdAsia 89, attended by about 250 foreign and 600 Pakistani delegates, was the finest-ever AdAsia until then. In the decades since, productive cooperation and global recognition have not been secured on national and international levels.

In partial compensation, an advertising campaign made by our own creative talent at Impact BBDO won Pakistan’s first Gold Cannes Lion in 2015 and became the fifth ‘most awarded outdoor work’ in the world the same year.

Seven negatives

1. Aggressive intrusion. Advertising has become Intrusive in unprecedented ways. It encroaches into spaces, forms and processes, previously reserved for non-commercial content or purposes.

Large advertisements on front pages of most newspapers (except the solitary exception of Dawn) that reverse news priorities. Frequent, long mid-breaks on TV and FM radio channels, with superimpositions and tickers on screen that diminish coherence and continuity. Commercially branded programmes and content titles.

No respect for the sacred or the dead. Verses of the Holy Quran on sponsored front page panels of newspapers. Soft drink logos desecrating the walls of mausoleums of great saints. State-owned, public service institutions, like the police and the Rangers, permitting toothpaste and paint brands to be prominent parts of traffic signs, boards, barriers and banners.

Billboards and poles are joined by noisy TV and FM radio spots. Ratings-based placement of advertising unhealthily shapes tone and content of programming.

2. Greed as creed. Going beyond meeting basic needs, advertising now promotes consumption and possession of objects and services as legitimate self-indulgence and expressions of success, thus stoking instant gratification as an abiding value.

3. Corruption. Earlier, corrupt practices were mainly found in government-controlled advertising and some agencies omitted to charge for production services in lieu of sizable budgets. In recent decades, the private sector has bred new versions.

Even some (not all) young brand managers, fresh with their MBAs, are forgetting any ethical values they have been taught and are reported to obtain kickbacks on production charges for TV commercials and media spends.

Meanwhile, not to be deprived of their original path-setting role, code-breakers in government departments are credibly reported to sponsor several ‘dummy’ publications, which receive official certificates falsely confirming high circulation to justify receiving large shares of budgets. A curious anomaly flourishes.

Whereas the rates for government advertising in print media are lower than for private, commercial advertisers, the opposite applies in private TV channels.

4. Institutional contrasts. In the institutional realm, there are sharp contrasts. Major advertisers have established the Pakistan Advertisers Society (PAS).

Where previously the Marketing Association or the Management Association partly represented advertisers’ perspectives, PAS (for the first and sustained time) provides a forum that exclusively focuses on the advertising dimensions of corporate interests.

For their part, advertising agencies, which in times past infused a new activism and cohesion through their own representative body known as the Pakistan Advertising Association (PAA) declined into fractious internal strife, to be replaced briefly by the Advertising Agencies Association of Pakistan, until descending into dormancy.

This failure has, by default, strengthened media owners, particularly after cross-media ownership was indiscriminately permitted post-2002. With advertisers now compensating agencies on a creative fee basis instead of the traditional 15% commission on media spend, the capacity of agencies to counterbalance the dominance of advertisers, media and media buying houses has been weakened. This is only partially offset by some agencies opening their own media buying units.

5. Blurring lines. Part of advertising is about illusion. However, the fifth negative feature is the erosion, in advertising content, of the line that should always separate the projection of state-owned assets or activities from the individual identities of political leaders such as prime ministers or chief ministers.

Campaigns in print, electronic and outdoor media prominently project the faces and names of those who temporarily occupy public offices. These individuals may well have been responsible for policies and actions that advance development. But the funds used for development projects and for advertising, are public funds, entrusted to the state (not to political parties or individuals) by tax-paying citizens.

Blatant misuse has blurred the lines between partisan organisations pursuing electoral agendas and state institutions and programmes, which should be neutrally associated with all citizens, regardless of partisan identities.

6. Deception. Illusion becomes outright deception. Although largely limited to TV commercials, certain advertisers, including multinationals (that claim to be more ethical), insist on the production of TV spots in India, with attempts to pass off the images and sounds as Pakistani.

Those who can identify the obvious or subtle differences are not fooled. Neither perhaps is most of the audience. Technical resources and quality of services in Mumbai are certainly more proficient than what are available in Pakistan, yet using purely Pakistan-based resources, several commercials of exceptional quality have been produced.

Our government policies do not permit the screening of content imported directly from India – a provision openly violated by the sham practice of importing Bollywood feature-length films from offices located in overseas, non-Indian countries, for unfettered exhibition in theatres.

Notwithstanding this hypocrisy, it rankles greatly that advertisers based in Pakistan continue to use Mumbai-based facilities and faces to delude consumers.

7. Legal vacuum. The vacuum in advertising-specific legislation and regulation may explain why some or all of the other six negatives occur. The sparse legal framework commenced with the Indecent Advertisements (Prohibition) Act, 1951.

In the succeeding 65 years, other segmented laws, regulations and rules are supplemented by codes of each mass medium, censorship rules, etc. But to date, a comprehensive law has not been enacted to regulate the institutional dimensions of the advertising sector; to focus on the respective responsibilities of advertisers, agencies and related sectors; define the mechanisms for respective representative bodies; specify minimal professional qualifications for advertising practitioners; establish accountability processes and mandate public service aspects of advertising.

Yet, better late than never. Sometimes good laws, however belated, ensure continuity of positive attributes and reduction or elimination of negative practices. And exploration of new horizons. Let the work begin, with advocacy by the advertising sector itself calling for enlightened legislation.


Javed Jabbar is a former Senator and Federal Minister for Information; he co-founded MNJ Communications in 1969, and received the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pakistan Advertisers’ Society in 2015. He can be contacted at www.javedjabbar.com

PTV’S PARADISE LOST

Soon after PTV was launched in 1964, the station went from strength to strength in terms of reach and penetration, providing the advertising industry with an exciting new medium to display their creativity. Yet, by the turn of the century, the station was to lose its dominant position and fall into irrelevance. Mamun M. Adil examines the factors that contributed to PTV’s rise and fall.

A news programme is under way at PTV’s Islamabad studio. Prior to the opening up of private TV channels in the early 2000s, PTV was the only source of news and entertainment. In its early days, 20-minute news bulletins in Urdu and English were broadcast from every centre. Khabarnama, a 25-minute news programme which was aired every night at nine p.m., began in 1970, initially from the Karachi station. Perhaps due to the lack of competition, it became one of the most watched programmes in Pakistan. In 1975, after PTV’s stations were linked, Khabarnama was aired from Rawalpindi. Commercials which ran prior, during and after Khabarnama were charged a premium. Today, PTV has a separate channel dedicated to news (PTV News) but it is nowhere as popular as Khabarnama once was. (photo: Arif Mahmood/Dawn White Star)
A news programme is under way at PTV’s Islamabad studio. Prior to the opening up of private TV channels in the early 2000s, PTV was the only source of news and entertainment. In its early days, 20-minute news bulletins in Urdu and English were broadcast from every centre. Khabarnama, a 25-minute news programme which was aired every night at nine p.m., began in 1970, initially from the Karachi station. Perhaps due to the lack of competition, it became one of the most watched programmes in Pakistan. In 1975, after PTV’s stations were linked, Khabarnama was aired from Rawalpindi. Commercials which ran prior, during and after Khabarnama were charged a premium. Today, PTV has a separate channel dedicated to news (PTV News) but it is nowhere as popular as Khabarnama once was. (photo: Arif Mahmood/Dawn White Star)

Be they advertising professionals or members of the general public, many people are of the opinion that the sixties and seventies were the ‘golden age’ of Pakistani advertising. It was then that some of the best commercials were produced (some remembered to this day).

Although the reason for this is widely attributed to the people who led the agencies, another player with a claim to an equally significant role in the creation of this advertising is Pakistan Television (PTV).

Early days. But first, a detour

What is not generally known is that Philips TV was the first channel aired in Pakistan. This was in Karachi in October 1962. The programming, which included recitations from the Quran, news, general knowledge shows and music, was aired from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

To increase penetration, Philips imported 200 TV sets and placed them in public spaces (clubs, educational institutions, hospitals, hotels and parks) and some were gifted to a select number of individuals. In the light of these developments, it was expected that Philips would be given the contract to establish a station called Pilot TV (Rahbar TV in Urdu).

As it turned out, the contract was awarded to the Japanese company Nippon Electric Company (NEC), in partnership with Wazir Ali Industries. Pilot TV’s first station was established on the grounds of Radio Pakistan’s office in Lahore, and went on air on November 26, 1964.

Aslam Azhar was appointed as Chairman and Managing Director by President Ayub Khan. Similar to Philips, Pilot TV’s programming was limited to three hours a day, six days a week (Mondays were a holiday) and TV sets were set up in public sites. In fact, such was the interest that their presence resulted in traffic jams that were so chaotic that some of the sets had to be removed.

After a 90-day experimental phase, a private company called Television Promoters Company was formed in partnership with NEC, the Gosho Company (Japan), Thomson Television (UK) and the Government of Pakistan (with controlling shares). The logo was designed by the well-known artist Abdur Rehman Chughtai, who also conceived the Radio Pakistan logo.

The company imported 8,000 sets, which were sold for Rs 800 to 1,000. Subsequently, the government allowed nine firms to assemble TV sets in Pakistan and within three years, the estimated number of sets rose to 45,000. By this time, the name was changed from Television Promoters Company to PTV – a public limited company.

Securing commercial airtime

Ziauddin Jeddi, former Sales Controller at PTV, recalls the myriad problems that arose when it came to securing advertising, mainly because the concept was a new one until then, commercials only appeared on cinema screens.

The first commercial aired on PTV was for NEC televisions, despite the fact that they were not readily available in Pakistan. Telops, which contained a single line about a brand, were the primary form of advertising.

At times, the design of a print ad was replicated for this purpose, and eventually, a voiceover complemented the cards. The first brands to take advantage of this were Dalda and Capstan; the durations ranged between seven and 15 seconds. Jeddi remembers meeting the heads of leading agencies and encouraging them to shoot commercials. PTV even went to the extent of lending the agencies video cameras.

According to data sourced from PTV, between 1966 and 1967, approximately 62 hours of commercials were aired; this number increased by more than 233% the following year reaching 220 hours, and then doubled in the subsequent year. Within about 10 years, programmes, such as Neelam Ghar and Khabarnama, were introduced in addition to several drama serials that are remembered to this day. A TV licence fee was introduced in 1970, which resulted in a sizable revenue stream in addition to advertising.

Impact of colour

The introduction of colour in 1976 was a major boom driver for TV commercials. Within a few years, an average of six hours of programming was aired, two of which were in colour. As far as penetration was concerned, in 1964 it amounted to a mere nine percent; by 1978 it reached 72.5% with at least a million sets in place, making TV a truly ‘mass medium’.

Advertising minutes amounted to approximately 35 minutes daily and the average cost per second ranged from Rs 110 ($11) to Rs 183 ($18). Sectors such as FMCGs, financial institutions and personal care products accounted for nearly 66% of the advertising. Furthermore, all the stations (Dhaka, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta) were linked, thus permitting PTV to charge higher rates for commercials aired on all stations.

In an article published in Dawn in the eighties, Javed Jabbar pointed out that although “advertising in the cinema existed before the seventies, the advent of television stimulated the birth and growth of entirely new talent aiming to specialise in the creation of TV film commercials.”

He added that the advertising profession, partially as a result of TV advertising, began to attract people. “Whereas earlier, advertising was a little-known profession, dismissed as a minor sidekick to print media, advertising in the seventies emerged as an independent and specialised profession, the only one in the country where multimedia skills were needed and where they appeared to exist.”

Monopoly hey days

By the late eighties, according to data published in Dawn, total advertising revenue amounted to Rs 1.6 billion, of which 34% was allotted to TV, while print commanded 44% and radio, outdoor, direct marketing and other media had a combined share of 22%.

The sectors that advertised on PTV the most were food, drinks and powdered milk (29.6%), personal care products (12.8%), clothing (seven percent), electronic appliances (6.9%), pharmaceutical products (6.8%), the government (5.6%) and cigarettes (4.1%). Live sports transmissions were becoming increasingly common, many of which were sponsored and a number of advertising options were introduced, in addition to regular spots.

These included mid-break spots which were among the most expensive. Then there were ‘special position spots’ – commercials aired before dramas or the Khabarnama began. Then there were single and multiple sponsorship options; if a brand sponsored a TV show, their name was announced before the show began and only the sponsor’s commercials were aired during the course of the programme.

The satellite invasion

Despite mounting criticism of PTV due to their high rates, monopoly and the fact that it was considered to be a government mouthpiece, revenues continued to grow year-on-year throughout the nineties – despite the fact that foreign satellite channels had begun to transmit to Pakistan via satellite.

In 1992, PTV launched PTV 2, their first satellite channel (renamed PTV World in 1998). By the end of the decade, the penetration of foreign satellite channels had increased significantly as even low-income neighbourhoods gained access to them via cable. However, although PTV’s viewership was impacted to an extent, the advertising revenue, for the most part, was not.

The Star invasion began in the early 2000s, bringing with it the popular saas bahu dramas into Pakistani homes, followed by a plethora of local satellite channels after the opening up of the media by President Musharraf; their advent signalled the beginning of the end of PTV’s market leadership.

Decline into irrelevance

According to data in Aurora’s November-December 2002 edition, that year, satellite channels such as Indus, ARY and BBC started to gain traction among audiences. At that time, 20% of advertising spend went to satellite TV and the remainder went to PTV; by 2004, the figure for satellite reached almost 50%, with more entrants such as Geo commanding a significant piece of the pie.

The rest, as they say, is history. By 2008, PTV commanded only 24% of the share, and within the next five years, by FY 2012-13, PTV’s leadership days were over. As of the last fiscal year, the channel commands a mere five percent of the total ad spend, preceded by at least six satellite channels, including Hum, ARY Digital, Geo News, Geo Entertainment and Urdu 1, whose shares range between five and 10 percent.

Part of the reason of the decline is attributed to the fact that PTV did not keep up with changing times in terms of programming and could not compete with the glossier dramas and sensationalist news programmes that defined the new generation of satellite channels.

Although today it seems easy to dismiss PTV as a ‘has-been’ channel, it is important to remember that the station served as an effective training ground for many of the producers, directors and writers who went on to work at, or establish, the channels we watch today, not to mention providing the advertising industry with a platform to showcase what can possibly be termed their best work to date. 


Mamun M. Adil is a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. He can be contacted at mamun.adil@gmail.com


TAKING A BOW AND SAYING THANK YOU TO PTV

Asad-ur-Rehman on PTV’s starring role in the development of the advertising industry.

Say what you may about PTV today, but there wouldn’t have been an ad industry without PTV.

PTV pivoted the Pakistan ad industry into a sizeable existence in 1964. TV across the world had a similar impact – especially in markets where public broadcasting allowed advertising to coexist. Many of us at the time thought that the advertising on PTV was ridiculously expensive; furthermore, we had very little knowledge of how to produce a TV ad. Many people also said that a poor country like Pakistan would never be able to afford a luxury like PTV and that it would remain the entertainment of the elite before it eventually died.

Such views grossly underestimated the power of mass broadcast as we know it today. By 1996 (within four years), PTV was reaching 40% of the population and by the mid-seventies, PTV had not only added colour to its broadcast, but it also had the ability to reach 75% of the population – extended to 90% within a few years.

This level of reach is considered impossible in today’s world, and at that time, led to transformative growth in consumer culture and advertising spending. Aslam Azhar should be crowned the father of mass advertising in Pakistan.

Advertising creativity learnt a lot from the mass audio-visual culture PTV was developing. Kamal Ahmed Rizvi, Tariq Aziz, Khawaja Moinuddin, Shoaib Hashmi and Saleema Hashmi taught the industry how to tell stories on the small screen and the impact of their work can be felt even today. These founders created what has become our unique style of storytelling; be it dramas on TV or advertising.

From its inception to the time its monopoly was broken in the nineties, PTV brought a great deal of discipline to the industry. Although most of us complained about the lack of ‘flexibility’, it was PTV’s uncompromising stance on advertising at a certain rate that boosted ad expenditure. We never thought we would say this, but we need to take a bow and say: “Thank you PTV” for what they built for us. 


Asad-ur-Rehman is leading Unilever’s Digital Transformation & Media in Middle East/North Africa. The views presented are his own.

WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN...

Leon Menezes on swing time in Karachi’s music scene.

Hillary Furtado playing the saxophone at his home in Karachi. Furtado was part of a generation whose forefathers left Goa in the 18th century to seek greener pastures in Mumbai, Karachi and even further afield. The Goan community which settled in Karachi embraced the city and contributed to its development. Perhaps their biggest contribution was to Karachi’s music scene. Naturally drawn to any musical score that brought with it a rhythm or a ‘swing’, Karachi’s Goan community began to form live bands and give public performances. Such was their success, they soon were much in demand to play at clubs, hotels and other night spots. When lifestyles changed significantly in Karachi in the seventies, the era of the Goan bands ended. Furtado, said to be a virtuoso on the saxophone, continued to perform from time to time at private parties until his death two years ago. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Hillary Furtado playing the saxophone at his home in Karachi. Furtado was part of a generation whose forefathers left Goa in the 18th century to seek greener pastures in Mumbai, Karachi and even further afield. The Goan community which settled in Karachi embraced the city and contributed to its development. Perhaps their biggest contribution was to Karachi’s music scene. Naturally drawn to any musical score that brought with it a rhythm or a ‘swing’, Karachi’s Goan community began to form live bands and give public performances. Such was their success, they soon were much in demand to play at clubs, hotels and other night spots. When lifestyles changed significantly in Karachi in the seventies, the era of the Goan bands ended. Furtado, said to be a virtuoso on the saxophone, continued to perform from time to time at private parties until his death two years ago. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

Up to the mid-seventies, the music scene in Karachi revolved around nightclubs and dance evenings. From engagements to weddings and mid-summer dances to New Year’s Eve balls, Karachi was swinging and rocking and rolling. The wonderful part about this was that the music was provided by live bands. Every single one of them.

NYE was a particularly busy time, with not just the big hotels hosting events but everybody and his brother vying to ‘ring in the new year’, with a party of his own. A few of the embassies (Karachi was then the capital), all the private clubs, and some wealthy individuals also did their bit to add to the festivity.

In the earlier days, the bands were traditional ‘combos’ consisting of pianos, drums, double bass and clarinets or saxophones. The style was jazz or ‘swing’ and band members wore smartly turned out ‘uniforms’ – either full black with ties or dinner jackets. Foreign and local ensembles had innocuous names such a Pat Blake’s Orchestra, Stephen Eros Orchestra, Francisco and His Boys, and Soc Penalosa and his Filipino Orchestra. There were also the Rhythm Quintet, the Moonglows and the Drifters.

By the sixties, electric guitars, and later, the electronic keyboards appeared. This coincided with music moving more to rock and pop but still being primarily for dancing. The use of amplifiers for the electric equipment added much volume to the occasion, upping the overall experience. That changed the scene at the venues that catered to the non-cabaret nightlife.

The local bands that were big in the late sixties till the early seventies, played six nights a week at some of the major spots including the Talismen (007 at Beach Luxury), the In-Crowd (Discotheque, hotel Metropole), and the Keynotes (Nasreen Room, IHC). The Samar at the Metropole usually offered foreign acts and one particularly popular band were the Singapore-based October Cherries. They did amazing covers of popular songs and endeared themselves to the clientele.

Another stand-out artist was the buxom Australian beauty Wilma Reading, whose singing and outfits captivated like nothing else. The odd thing about the discotheque was the live band (discos play records) dominating, with the recorded music getting 15-minute slots each hour.

Other venues to have bands – yes, there were many of them – included the Four Aces (opposite the Central Hotel), the Village (on the corner of Metropole), Mehran Hotel, the Midway House (at the airport) and even the Grand Hotel in Malir (weekends only). These were the regular gigs aspiring musicians worked towards and along the way, got to play at all the other events when available.

Hotels outdid each other to advertise their performing artists and events with the Intercontinental Hotel and Metropole leading the way. ‘Fashion 70’, a luncheon show; ‘Formula 2’, a duo from Australia; ‘Los 5 Ches’, a Spanish orchestra at the Beach Luxury; Palace Hotel’s Le Gourmet had ‘5 Pellicani’, billed as ‘Europe’s most popular orchestra.’ Of course, no one really was concerned by the claims of international standing, but it all added to the mystique of an alluring evening.

All in all, it was a great time to be young or old, wealthy or not so, to have fun in Karachi. You could always find music to suit your taste and pocket. Hmm, nostalgia, you are so sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. Don’t you wish you were there? 


Leon Menezes is a former member of the band, The In-Crowd, and currently professor-of-practice.

PIA: AN ACRONYM OF LOVE AND DESPAIR

Faraz Maqsood Hamidi on the pride and frustration the national airline evokes in Pakistanis.

Established as Orient Airways in 1946, and nationalised and re-branded as Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in 1955, these PIA advertisements published in Dawn highlight the changes in branding that the national carrier has undergone through subsequent years. The iconic tagline ‘Great people to Fly With’ and the distinct typography of the Urdu logo are some of the elements that established PIA as one of the world’s most recognisable brands.
Established as Orient Airways in 1946, and nationalised and re-branded as Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in 1955, these PIA advertisements published in Dawn highlight the changes in branding that the national carrier has undergone through subsequent years. The iconic tagline ‘Great people to Fly With’ and the distinct typography of the Urdu logo are some of the elements that established PIA as one of the world’s most recognisable brands.

Pakistan is in possession of three love letters. They are an undisputed source of pride for the country. But they are also a source of contention. Because, although these three letters may seem innocuous on the outside, they have caused much scandal, intrigue and heartbreak on the inside. These letters are known to everyone. Everyone has an opinion about them.

Some claim that their provenance is original – and that the wear and tear is a natural, if not obvious, consequence of unrequited love. On the surface, it might be a story of betrayal, false-heartedness or even the kiss of Judas.

Like the windswept tales from our folklore, these letters have taken a beating and have allowed time to manifest itself in the shape of scars on its ravaged, reminiscent visage. And yet, they argue, there must be an otherworldly tenacity inscribed into these letters – for they remain held together by an invisible force that prevails, despite the relentless advances of duplicity and fraudulence. These letters were born to be timeless, they say.

The critics and casual readers of these letters will be quick to point out that the outwardly romance in these letters is merely an eyewash for a business transaction. They are merely the overture, the advances that would lead to mercantile trysts.

These letters, they bellow; they still reek of the scent of Anarkali – for how can a courtesan to the rich and the powerful ever be believed of carrying anything other than a heart that pumps ink, instead of blood?

The letters are deceptive. Sly and scheming. It is not age but a misplaced sense of privilege and self-entitlement that has hollowed out their souls into soundless echoes.

THE FIRST LETTER

The first letter is the story of Pakistan. It is the proud declaration of a newly born state that minted her independence out of a quest for sovereignty. And in her sovereign state, she passed her most valuable asset – her name – to her fleet of domestic and international ambassadors, who were directed to showcase the spirit of a new nation, its drive and ambition, its prowess to turn the odds in its favour.

And, to fly the flag – which, ironically, was never discernibly showcased on its green and white garb until very recently. Perhaps this letter always knew that to make a place in the world, it must first cater to the tastes, demands and standards of the world, in a world class way, before it sets upon any national agenda that it wishes for the world to accommodate.

THE SECOND LETTER

The second letter is the story of being international. Not just in name. But in action and in spirit.

Being ‘International’ is not about intercontinental destinations; rather, it is the accommodating attribute of greatness that celebrates being intra-national, multicultural and multi-racial. Wide-ranging and far-reaching diversity stalls fossilisation and fuels innovation.

After all, the second letter proclaims, when we have arrived at these gates, we will also understand the power of what it means to be all-embracing.

For once we do, we will act with what the French call savoir-faire: that poise and grace that is demanded of us in dealing with social situations; or what the Italians call sprezzatura: that seemingly effortless ease that comes after much careful study, so that actions look and feel invitingly spontaneous.

The love child of the right combination of savoir-faire and sprezzatura is glamour; that irresistible quality that can seduce the eye, bewitch the soul and enrich the bottom-line.

THE THIRD LETTER

The third letter is the story of the Airline. It is many pages long. Perhaps too many – so that it compels readers to skim through important passages and invent summations of their own. The third letter speaks of achievements that were global in their scale; it boasts of a number of firsts listed under a chapter entitled ‘Hey Days?’ It speaks of countless opportunities, rare records that remain unbroken and enviable coverage by the world media of an Airline that seemed to have cracked the code to becoming the Star of the East.

It speaks of designers, the likes of Pierre Cardin (who kick-started the Space Age in fashion with his use of tunics, goggles and helmets) and Hardy Amies (who dressed Queen Elizabeth II) – both of whom were commissioned to capture the zeitgeist of the times and have it hemmed into the airline’s uniforms.

It speaks of the changing liveries and brings to light delightful trivia like the one about a Chinese calligrapher who worked at Negus & Negus (a London-based brand identity firm that created the world’s most visible tailfin for us and was responsible for two iconic livery overhauls); who used a Chinese brush to script the Urdu brand marque without knowing how to read or write the language.

It speaks of advertising giants like Leo Burnett, who coined ‘Great People to Fly With’; or David Ogilvy, who made our passengers feel ‘Just Like (they were) Coming Home’; or Linda Locke who spearheaded our most awarded advertising campaign by answering why ‘You’re Flying With Extraordinary People’.

It speaks of all this. And more. Until the ink begins to fade and new interpretations begin to take hold of our greatest brand. Our greatest love story.

These letters are known to you as P.I.A.; Independently, they are the name of our national airline. Inter-dependently, they spell Pia. Which is to say: ‘She, who is beloved’. These letters. Three letters. Our letters.


Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is Co-Founder, Partner & Chief Creative Officer of The D’Hamidi Partnership.

THE SINGULARITY OF THE WRITTEN WORD

Unlike today, when advertising relies heavily on technology to gloss up the visual effect, there was a time when advertisements were powered by words alone to express a strong idea. Rashna Abdi recollects some of the most memorable examples of this era.

Advertisements for the Department of Tourism, Midway House (PIA & KLM’s Airport Hotel), Cox’s Bazar (located in Bangladesh and part of the ‘Know your country campaign’ for the Tourist Bureau) and Peek Freans have a single name in common: Javed Jabbar, co-founder MNJ Communications, one of the most influential agencies of the seventies and eighties.
Advertisements for the Department of Tourism, Midway House (PIA & KLM’s Airport Hotel), Cox’s Bazar (located in Bangladesh and part of the ‘Know your country campaign’ for the Tourist Bureau) and Peek Freans have a single name in common: Javed Jabbar, co-founder MNJ Communications, one of the most influential agencies of the seventies and eighties.

Advertising, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “The act of calling something to the attention of the public, especially by paid announcements.”

These announcements require two things: art direction and copywriting. Both are found in equal measure in the nascent days of Pakistani advertising. Going through the archives, what strikes me is that while we have moved forward with the art direction – thanks to advances in technology – the ability to convey a concept engagingly or tell a story in a few words, may perhaps be a thing of the past.

And no one quite managed to do it as well as Mr Javed Jabbar.

An alumni of the agency I now work for, Mr Jabbar later co-founded MNJ with two other IAL alumni, Nafees Ghaznavi and Majeed Ahmed. The three of them, along with Naseer Haider, were the first people PIA recruited for their fledgling in-house advertising agency.

They were trained in London by seasoned British advertisers. As an advertising person with a copy background, I still look up to the iconic concepts and copy produced by Mr Javed Jabbar, some, while he was at IAL, others at MNJ.

Here are some examples of his best work from the late sixties to the mid-seventies:

The Peek Freans Pied Piper

Strong copy and concepts defined Javed Jabbar’s work; a testament to his genius is the fact that the Pied Piper he introduced to Peek Freans’ communications in the seventies continues to appear on the packaging of the all the brands manufactured by English Biscuit Manufacturers.
Strong copy and concepts defined Javed Jabbar’s work; a testament to his genius is the fact that the Pied Piper he introduced to Peek Freans’ communications in the seventies continues to appear on the packaging of the all the brands manufactured by English Biscuit Manufacturers.

If you grew up in the seventies, eighties or even the early nineties, you could not have missed the Peek Freans Pied Piper. Far before its time, the brand positioned itself as a snack between meals – and not just a tea accompaniment, with the Pied Piper enticing us to a world of sweet and savoury biscuit treats.

Gold Leaf

Before Gold Leaf became a paan shop staple, it was a classy brand in the eighties. The Gold Leaf man was a sophisticated art connoisseur with an elegant lady by his side.

A single line communicated the idea with a visual that captured a moment in this man’s life. Incredibly brave, if you ask me. Today, you would get a display of Photoshop skills and a scrimmage of words to convey every single possible reason to buy the product.

Know Your Country

The tourism ads written by Mr Jabbar in the late sixties are my all-time favourites – I am deeply envious of the copy and the idea. Whether it was the witty spin on the age and beauty of Miss Moenjodaro, the pithy reference to Alexander or celebrating the legendary shores of Cox’s Bazar, even today they can help you get to know your country, or at least what it used to be.

Lawrencepur

Whether it was the print ad that cleverly transformed the L into a road, as well as a metaphor for being several steps ahead or the evocative ‘A Woman Will Always Be Lyla’ campaign, Mr Jabbar’s work for Lawrencepur turned it into the most desired clothing brand.

It would take several years for (the now defunct) Mohammad Farooq Textile Mills to grab attention in the same way. Until then, every woman wanted to be Lyla and every man aspired to wear a Lawrencepur suit.

Midway House

For people who don’t know this, Midway House used to be Karachi’s upmarket airport hotel. Located near the old airport at Star Gate, Midway House did in fact ‘begin where Karachi left off’ and was where you could ‘take a cool, detached view’ of the city, whether by chilling by the pool or dancing the night away on New Year’s Eve. I wouldn’t mind some of that. Would you?

PIA

Some of the best advertising from the sixties through to the eighties was for PIA. And in the early days at IAL, the copy was written by Mr Jabbar, when it was an airline that competed with the best in the West and the Middle East carriers were a mere twinkle in the eyes of the Arab Sheikhs.

Public service

It was incredibly brave of Mr Jabbar and his team to produce ads exhorting religious tolerance at a time when tolerance was under fire. Written as a public service campaign, in collaboration with the evening newspaper, the Star, these ads succinctly capture a point of view and a fervent prayer.

There have been some iconic TV campaigns but with the increasing reliance on visuals, music and glamour to tell a story, the ability to do so with a handful of words is a dying art. At least in Pakistan. So, for a change, when we celebrate the best of Pakistani advertising over the last 70 years, let’s pay homage to a man who did this incredibly well.


Rashna Abdi is Chief Creative Officer, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi. She tweets at @rsabdi.

CREATIVE ESSENCE AND BRASS TACKS

Mamun M. Adil highlights MNJ’s unique role as an incubator

If you ask anyone to recall a memorable advertisement from the seventies, the chances are high that they will cite one that was released by MNJ Communications.

The advertising agency, which was formed in 1969 by three admen (Javed Jabbar, Nafees Ghaznavi and Majeed Ahmed) and was led by Jabbar, who, it would not be an exaggeration to say, is admired by most admen and women and usually referred to as ‘JJ’.

Under Jabbar’s supervision, MNJ flourished. He is credited for being the brains behind many memorable campaigns, including those for Peek Freans ‘Listen to the sound of the day, follow him around and away’.

Such was the power of his idea that the Pied Piper continues to have a presence on the brand’s packaging to this day; other memorable lines include ‘Lyla is a Lady’ and the famous Alexander ad, development for the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation Pakistan: ‘Guess who came to Pakistan the other day? Alexander.’

In addition to being responsible for creative campaigns in the seventies and eighties, MNJ played another pivotal role when it came to advancing Pakistan’s advertising industry. It turns out that many of the people who worked there went on to shape the future of the industry by becoming trailblazers in their own right, as well as training a new generations of advertising people.

There are too many to name, but they include Shahnoor Ahmed, CEO, Spectrum Y&R; Mariam Ali Baig, Founding Editor, Aurora; Saneeya Hussain, a communications icon who later worked as the weekend Editor of Star and as Communications Director at IUCN; Seema Taher Khan, CEO, Airwaves Media; Taher Anwar Khan, Chairman, Interflow Communications and Zohra Yusuf, Chief Creative Officer, Spectrum Y&R.

Anybody who is ‘somebody’ in the industry has, in some way, been trained or influenced by them, which in a way, speaks volumes for Jabbar’s legacy.

So what made MNJ an incubator par excellence? The answer, it is the ‘company culture’ Jabbar created – and this, years, if not decades, before the term became an HR buzzword.

In fact, from what one can gather from speaking to the people who worked at MNJ, it is safe to conclude that Jabbar actively mentored his employees – at least the ones who showed promise. He was always ready to teach and inspire.

Yusuf, in an article she wrote in Meet our friend JJ says: “In the 3,650 or more days I spent at MNJ, I never stopped learning. And Javed Jabbar never hesitated to teach. Not only me, but anyone willing to listen; open their minds and explore. We were encouraged (if not gently ordered) to see major films, particularly foreign films shown at various cultural centres, as well as go to the theatre… JJ ensured that creative people did not remain in their familiar cocoons. He would send us off to Kharadar one week, Orangi another.”

Jabbar encouraged his employees to read books written by influential advertising people, such as the seminal Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy and Jerry Della Femina’s From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbour (later to become the inspiration for the TV show Mad Men).

Having sent his team off to read a book, watch a film or go to an art show, Jabbar would then encourage them to write reviews on their perceptions – and always ready to go through their efforts line by line, helping them hone their skills.

It was not all fun and games at MNJ. Ahmed recalls that “working with JJ was a unique experience; he was a slave driver who had the ability to lead his team and make work look like fun. He was in the office early and liked to work late. The two years I spent at MNJ defined my future and working with JJ opened my mind and gave me the confidence to venture out on my own.”

As Ahmed says, working late was the norm at MNJ, and many other former MNJ employees can attest to this. However, according to the people who remember, those late nights not only resulted in creative campaigns – but in ‘camaraderie and spirit’ between the team, many of whom either work with each other today, or have remained friends.

This, perhaps, is due to the fact that although they worked in different departments, be it production, creative or client services while at MNJ, they were exposed to each other’s functions and did not work in silos, as is wont to happen today.

Such was Jabbar’s influence that he even inspired people who did not work with him.

For example, according to Masood Hashmi, President, OrientmMcCann: “I always tried to adopt Mr Jabbar’s way of driving things and managing constructive inputs to lead a team in the right direction. From a distance, I kept learning from his greatness at work, while gaining inspiration from his mindset.” The inspiration was not limited to work; Hashmi confesses that he wanted to “be like Mr Jabbar… I wanted to eat, walk, talk and think like him.”

Perhaps it is Baig who best sums up the influence of MNJ – and, obviously Jabbar’s – on the advertising industry. “‘Creative Essence and Brass Tacks’ was the motto crafted for MNJ when JJ established the agency. His genius was that he succeeded in making this motto part of the DNA of the people who spent their formative professional years working closely with him.” 


Mamun M. Adil is a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. mamun.adil@gmail.com

IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE...

Musical impresario Arshad Mahmud speaks about his long association with the advertising sector.

Tango, the editing suite at Spectrum Y&R. Spectrum was established in 1978 by Shahnoor Ahmed. Before establishing Spectrum, Shahnoor Ahmed worked in the client services department at MNJ Communications. He was one of the many people trained by Javed Jabbar. Lakson Tobacco was Spectrum’s first client. In 1995, Spectrum affiliated with Y&R. Spectrum built its editing suite in the early nineties and was one of the few agencies to invest in one. In over 40 years of existence, Spectrum has been the recipient of over 60 national and several international awards. In 2007, Spectrum won the Aurora-Zephyr Award (Durables & Services), in the Best Magazine Advertisement category for ‘Kenwood – A Toast to a Great Breakfast.’ (photo: Arif Mahmood/Dawn White Star)
Tango, the editing suite at Spectrum Y&R. Spectrum was established in 1978 by Shahnoor Ahmed. Before establishing Spectrum, Shahnoor Ahmed worked in the client services department at MNJ Communications. He was one of the many people trained by Javed Jabbar. Lakson Tobacco was Spectrum’s first client. In 1995, Spectrum affiliated with Y&R. Spectrum built its editing suite in the early nineties and was one of the few agencies to invest in one. In over 40 years of existence, Spectrum has been the recipient of over 60 national and several international awards. In 2007, Spectrum won the Aurora-Zephyr Award (Durables & Services), in the Best Magazine Advertisement category for ‘Kenwood – A Toast to a Great Breakfast.’ (photo: Arif Mahmood/Dawn White Star)

On starting his career in advertising

I worked as an Account Executive at Prestige in the early seventies; one of the major campaigns I worked on was for Servis shoes. We rejuvenated the jingle ‘Sheher Sheher gaon main, sab ke paon main Servis Shoes Servis Shoes, sab ke paon mein’ and this time, the jingle was sung by Nayyara Noor.

We also came up with a new tagline for Servis’ injection moulded sole (IMS) shoes: ‘Step into elegance, Step into comfort’; it was translated into Urdu as ‘Qadam qadam haseen, qadam qadam araam.’

On the brands he worked on

There were several, including Capri, Lipton, UBL and Johnson’s Baby Lotion. For the latter, I composed a lullaby and asked Nayyara Noor to sing it. Another jingle which was appreciated was sung by Bunny for CandyLand, ‘Singing away under the sun’.

The last jingle that I composed was for PEL in 2016. The music was based on one of my older compositions – Koi baat karo (Say something). It was sung by Tina Sani with lyrics by Hasan Akbar Kamal. The TVC’s objective was to launch PEL’s ‘talking refrigerator’ and showed a couple who were having a fight; the wife was not talking to her husband and the lines worked well in this context.

On the jingles of the sixties and seventies

So many come to mind, such as ‘Kapas ki chandi ko sona banai’ which means ‘turn the silver white of cotton into gold.’ It was used to advertise a pesticide. There was another one for Philips: ‘Jahan jahan suraj dhallay, Philips ke bulb aur tube jalay,’ which means ‘wherever the sun sets, Philips’ bulbs are lit.’

The jingles in the earlier days were very conceptual in terms of their construction and these two are prime examples of good ideas that gel and stick in your mind.

Other memorable ones include ‘Hum to jaane seedhi baat, sabun ho to 707’ for 707 detergent soap; ‘Jahan mamta, wahan Dalda’; and ‘Ab bhi tawana, jab bhi tawana,’ for Tullo.

On the big names in radio jingles

Talat Hussain was a popular voice-over artist. Others included Pervaiz Basheer and Hasan Shaheed Mirza. As far as composers were concerned, there was Sabir Saheb and Anjum Effendi, who composed the Peek Freans jingle with Alamgir.

Then there was Sohail Rana, who composed delightful pieces, including ‘Phool gudi laye’ for Politrin C, another pesticide. Many acclaimed writers, such as Shabeeh Farooqi and Shahid Kazmi wrote lyrics for jingles from time to time.

Once I requested Faiz Saheb to write a jingle for National Masalas. Even though it was an outstanding piece of advertising, the client didn’t like it and never used it. I was very young then and at that time, nobody probably believed me that Faiz Ahmed Faiz had written it.

On working for the musical composition for Dawn’s Lahore launch TVC in 1996

I rendered the line at the end of the TVC, ‘Dekho dekho saher aye... gaya andhera.’ I came up with it and it worked well as a tagline for Dawn.

The line and tune came to mind when I saw the beautiful images that Imran Mir, who was part of the creative team, had shot, and they served as a source of inspiration; the first scene was that of a door opening and as the light enters the room, Dawn slides in.

That visual inspired me and Hameed Haroon. We spent hours in the studio having intense discussions before finalising the melody.

On the musical composition for the Dawn Islamabad launch TVC in 1998

It was set in a different raag (a form of classical music) and the score was slightly different; this time, Ustad Nafees Ahmed rendered the line. The Lahore version was based on the Gujri todi raag, which is a morning raag; for the Islamabad TVC, I used the koshak dhani raag. I think that the use of the surindo (a musical instrument) by Faqir Mohammad in the Islamabad version added another dimension to the background score.

On the future of jingles in Pakistan

Advertising agencies and their clients need to believe in the power of music to create recall for their products. One of the problems is that people are not coming up with solid melodic structures anymore; they are not chosen because of their talent; instead, they are chosen because they are referred by other people.

The other issue is that clients no longer want their creative teams to be creative; they want them to produce imitations of music that they like. They should leave the creative work to the artists instead of interfering; only then will they come up. My friend, the late Amir Zaki, said something profound in this regard: “If I don’t tell them [the clients] how to make supari, why do they tell me how to make music?”  


Arshad Mahmud was in conversation with Mamun M. Adil, a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. Mamun can be contacted at mamun.adil@gmail.com

GOING UP IN SMOKE!

Zohra Yusuf reflects on the lost splendour of cigarette advertising.

Prior to the restrictions imposed on tobacco advertising, cigarette brands were one of the most heavily advertised product categories across all media, including Dawn. This is evident from the fact that almost a decade ago, the estimated advertising budget of the tobacco industry in Pakistan was Rs 55 million.
Prior to the restrictions imposed on tobacco advertising, cigarette brands were one of the most heavily advertised product categories across all media, including Dawn. This is evident from the fact that almost a decade ago, the estimated advertising budget of the tobacco industry in Pakistan was Rs 55 million.

Periodically, people post tobacco ads from the thirties or forties with endorsements from doctors such as: “The doctor smokes and recommends Capstan – the cigarette for health as well as pleasure!”

However, considering the strict restrictions worldwide on tobacco advertising today, it may be appropriate to quote a popular line from the category’s own advertising of the swinging seventies: ‘You’ve come a long way, baby!’ This was a line used for Eve cigarettes, designed to lure women smokers.

With our current knowledge of the hazards of smoking, it is perhaps not right to see the past advertising of cigarettes through rose-tinted glasses. Yet, cigarette advertising of the seventies and eighties was highly successful, with a personification of glamour that left an indelible mark on advertising trends of those decades. Each brand strove to create a distinct persona in a highly competitive market.

Capstan, a brand of Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC), was perhaps the first to film commercials abroad, beginning in the sixties. With the theme ‘Men demand Capstan the world over, it attracted smokers with images of famous cities where the brand appeared as the preferred one. This was at a time when Pakistani audiences were not so widely exposed to the world beyond their own borders and the campaign continued to enchant smokers with new locales for over a decade or so. Its authoritative tone of voice also contributed to adding credibility to the claim.

Before Wills (also a PTC brand) became the sole sponsor of cricket in Pakistan, it was sold on the promise of companionship – a young couple was shown sharing Wills with the tagline, ‘They go together, like the smooth Wills filter and the fine Wills blend.’

Wills was not the only brand to show women enjoying a smoke. Premier Tobacco’s Red & White is still remembered for their theme of ‘Satisfaction’. Their most memorable commercial broke two taboos associated with women in Pakistan – smoking and flying. The commercial showed a young woman flying a private aircraft and, of course, acquiring ‘satisfaction’ from getting ‘away from the ordinary’. By the late seventies and eighties, women had exited from cigarette advertising and brands went back to macho images.

PTC was the indisputable leader throughout the decades when cigarettes were freely promoted in the media. It dictated both trends in brand identity, packaging graphics and colours and advertising.

Their flagship brand, Gold Leaf, was the most expensive local brand, evoking images of exclusivity, good taste and wealth. In the late seventies and early eighties, based on the theme of ‘For the Taste Alone’, Gold Leaf projected men as discerning collectors of art and artefacts. This success inspired Lakson Tobacco’s Morven Gold to adopt Gold Leaf’s red and gold colours in their packaging, positioning the brand at those who aspired to smoke Gold Leaf but could not afford to. To further uplift their image, Morven Gold commercials were filmed in exotic locations. Another of Lakson’s brands, Princeton, entered the market as the longest cigarette with the positioning of ‘The Big One’!

Sports began to acquire cigarette sponsorships in a big way in the late seventies and eighties.

The contradiction in seeking support from an obviously unhealthy product was apparently lost on the sports bodies. The biggest winner in this highly competitive game of sponsorship was Wills. Sometime in the early eighties, they managed to get the cricket board to agree to title all matches in which Pakistan was playing as the ‘Wills Cricket Series’.

Complemented with awards for ‘Wills Man of the Match’, ‘Wills Man of the Series’ and so on, the brand launched a series of commercials profiling the top players of the time. However, since our players have traditionally been unpredictable, they often performed badly just when a Wills commercial praising their skills was aired, much to the sponsors’ chagrin!

Since cricket – the most glamorous of sports – had become the exclusive property of Wills, other brands had to settle for ‘lesser’ sports. Lakson Tobacco’s Royals Filter began to sponsor football, which perhaps gave a boost to the game. Other lower-priced ones had to opt for sports such as wrestling and kabbadi.

In the mid-nineties, manufacturers and their advertising agencies began to be confronted with restrictions on the promotion of cigarettes in the mass media. Initially, cigarette commercials were banned from primetime. The challenge of this hurdle led to Morven Gold’s iconic ‘Rhythm of Unity’ commercial, which refrained from showing the product, but through breathtaking shots of Pakistan’s heritage, managed to place the brand on primetime! The commercial culminated in a formation of the brand’s logo.

Today, with alert regulators, the capacity of tobacco companies to promote their products is severely limited – the companies can only do personal selling to smokers. However, since the leading companies continue to be extremely profitable, it is clear that sales are being made through strategies that may be surreptitious but effective.


Zohra Yusuf is Chief Creative Officer, Spectrum Y&R.

THE CENSORSHIP DILEMMA

Censorship under the Zia regime had a draconian impact on TV advertising, which was subject to the arbitrary whims and fancies of members in the Censor Board. Three decades later, practitioners Javed Jabbar and Anwar Rammal reflect on those tension-laden years.

Javed Jabbar: No objections whatsoever to smiling

There were both negative and positive facets. The negative part was that one had to think twice about how to depict a woman in a commercial. On the other hand, when you have restrictions like these, you search for more innovative ways to express yourself aesthetically without crossing the red line.

We were not alone in facing this. There are many examples from world cultural history. In 1979, after the Iranian Revolution, an extremely conservative government came to power. Despite the severe restrictions, over the next 20 to 25 years, Iranian cinema became one of the best in the world because they mastered the art of storytelling and were able to depict so many realistic facets of Iran.

When restrictions are in place, if you are creative and thoughtful, you find ways of creative expression. MNJ did a campaign for Happy (a new EBM brand targeting a new niche: the middle and upper middle-income groups). We opted for a single shot commercial and the camera begins to close in on the face of a female model who smiles and the voiceover said, “be happy, have a biscuit.”

No one could object to someone being there and smiling. There was nothing obscene about this; she was not lewdly dressed. In the commercial for Tuk biscuits, the last shot was of a woman’s fist knocking to the beat of ‘tuk tuk’ and this became the brand’s signature; people registered high brand awareness of Tuk.

So, we managed to find ways to show women in ads while remaining within the censorship guidelines. In the early eighties, MNJ was proud to become the first agency in Pakistan to develop ads marking International Women’s Day with provocative headlines.

When there was a religious riot in the country in 1981, I had the privilege of writing an ad in The Star, which is a personal favourite and went: ‘Religious passion without human compassion is like God without godliness.”


Excepted from an interview with Javed Jabbar.

Anwar Rammal: strictly no winking, please!

In the late seventies, under General Ziaul Haq’s Martial Law regime, stringent censorship laws with regard to the media were introduced.

Although the penalties were extreme for journalists, ranging from 10 years in jail to public lashings, these policies also affected the advertising fraternity, as commercials aired on PTV were scrutinised and banned without reason. What made matters worse was the fact that the censorship code frequently changed so that having a commercial approved by the Censor Board became increasingly difficult, as most commercials were rejected on flimsy grounds. This resulted in financial loss to many clients.

For the most part, advertising agencies had to resort to an approach that boiled down to saying: ‘Please buy the product.’ Although a few advertising professionals did find ways to overcome this obstacle, many creative people became increasingly frustrated as they had no choice but stifle their creativity.

At times, I had to go to Islamabad to convince the Censor Board to approve our commercials. More often than not, we ended up wasting time and money, as we returned to Karachi with large cans of censored film reels. This happened so many times that eventually, many clients began to reduce their media budgets for TV and opted for newspaper advertisements or hoardings.

Of the many instances when Asiatic’s commercials were censored, I remember two distinctly. The first was one for Agfa cameras, because the actor who was shown taking a photograph in the commercial closed one of his eyes while doing so, and this was considered to be winking! At least this was the objection put forth by a member of the Censor Board, who happened to be very ‘religious’.

I went to see him and took a camera with me. I requested him to try and take a photograph without shutting his eye. He accepted the challenge, saying that if he was unable to take the photo without ‘winking’, he would withdraw his objection. He took the camera and I asked his staff to watch him; as he took the photograph, he ended up closing one eye. He had no choice but to drop his objection.

The other commercial was for a milk product; after drinking a glass of milk, a boy licked his ‘milk moustache’ with his tongue. This time the objection was that it was ‘sexually provocative’. As there was no way to convince the Censor Board otherwise, the commercial was never aired.


Anwar Rammal is Chairman, Asiatic Public Relations Network. He can be contacted at anwar.rammal@gmail.com

HORLICKS: TO BE TALLER, STRONGER & SHARPER

Horlicks’s initial positioning was of a family nourisher. The early ads were about providing daily nourishment to the family and the USP was energy. Later, Horlicks began to target children between the ages of five and 12, moving away from specifically focusing on energy to addressing children’s growth needs.

According to clinically-proven studies, milk alone is not sufficient to meet these needs, although in Pakistan, milk is considered to be the gold standard for nutrition. Our positioning changed to: children need added nutrients in different amounts and when it comes to specific aspects – making a child grow in height, stronger (muscle strength) and sharper (mental alertness), Horlicks is the drink to add to milk.

Over the years, we refined our strategy; we had to be more targeted in reaching out to mums because a lot of brands had jumped on the nutrition and nourishment bandwagon. Biscuit brands are telling mothers they provide energy and other add-ons to milk (such as syrups) to make the milk taste better and give their child added energy.

Children do not make the buying decision; that is the mother’s role. So we have a primary (children) and a secondary (mothers) audience. We reach mothers through various platforms, and because TV is becoming more and more cluttered, we are focusing our efforts online.

We know mothers go online to look up nutritional needs or chat with other mothers. We started in print only, then slowly moved to TV and radio; now we have moved to digital. In terms of the media mix, TV at one point accounted for about 60% of our spend, but since last year, this has declined.

We recently launched a new product called Horlicks Growth Plus. So far, Horlicks has been confined to the health food category but we are now moving into the nutritional supplement category, which is where Growth Plus comes in.


Sadia Nasir is Director Brands, GSK Consumer Healthcare.

A NOSTALGIC CURTAIN RISES ON ADASIA 89

Zohra Yusuf’s terse curtain raiser, written on the eve of AdAsia 89, outlines what the public needed to know about this spectacular event.

The Organising Committee of AdAsia 89 Pakistan. The 16th Asian Advertising Congress was organised in Lahore after Pakistan made a successful bid in Seoul in 1984 and won over Australia to host the event. Come 1989 and Pakistan played host to one of the most memorable AdAsias, despite the lack of conference and entertainment facilities. (photo: The Congress Handbook, AdAsia 89, and S.M. Shahid)
The Organising Committee of AdAsia 89 Pakistan. The 16th Asian Advertising Congress was organised in Lahore after Pakistan made a successful bid in Seoul in 1984 and won over Australia to host the event. Come 1989 and Pakistan played host to one of the most memorable AdAsias, despite the lack of conference and entertainment facilities. (photo: The Congress Handbook, AdAsia 89, and S.M. Shahid)

AdAsia 89 was a major milestone for the advertising profession and the culmination of a journey that started with the First Pakistan Advertising Congress held in 1979 in Karachi (as it turned out, it was also the last), held under the chairmanship of Javed Jabbar.

The idea was to engage all industry stakeholders in a productive dialogue that would ensure sustained collaboration among them. It was this spirit of collaboration that enabled the profession to make a successful bid in Seoul for Pakistan to host the 16th Asian Advertising Congress (AdAsia 89).

AdAsia 89 turned out to be a spectacular success for Pakistan; it was deemed to have been one of the best AdAsias ever held by foreign delegates and speakers alike, and put Pakistani advertising on the global map in the best possible light.

For the Organising Committee of the 16th Asian Advertising Congress, it’s been a long journey of trials and triumphs. The next four days will be the true test of their ability and endurance – as Pakistan hosts the largest international congress organised by the private sector.

The first Asian Advertising Congress was held in Tokyo in 1958. Since then, AdAsia has been held every alternate year in various Asian cities. In 1984, competing against Australia in Seoul, Pakistan won the bid to host the 16th AAC in 1988. Since most events in Pakistan are prone to postponements, AdAsia was moved ahead to 1989.

Delegates

Most Asian Advertising Congresses are attended by 800 to 1,000 delegates, with about 50% participation from host countries. Pakistan has reportedly met the target. The campaign for the registration of overseas delegates commenced at the IAA’s Conference in Sydney in May 1988. The Organising Committee made presentations in almost all countries of the region – in the Far East, South Asia and West Africa.

Launch and preparatory meeting

A year ago, on February 19, 1988, at the venue where the Congress is now being held, AdAsia 89 was launched by Punjab Chief Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. A year before, Senator Javed Jabbar was elected Chairman of AdAsia 89 by the Central Executive Committee of the Pakistan Advertising Association.

An Organising Committee, representing related sectors was formed shortly afterwards. Subcommittees to deal with every organisational aspect of AdAsia 89 were set up.

Congress theme and logo

Each AdAsia has its own distinct theme and symbol. The AdAsia 89 theme: “Together Towards Tomorrow”, was proposed by IAL and selected by the Organising Committee from over 30 suggested.

The Congress logo, which is a visual interpretation of the theme, was designed by Oscar Advertising.

According to an AdAsia bulletin: “The design in a stylised arrow form shows 15 bars joined together, denoting the 15 Asian Congresses held in the past and the 16th bar, a little ahead of the rest, waiting to join the forward march – Together Towards Tomorrow.”

A ‘regional’ approach

The AdAsia 89 programme is conceived to give representation to eight distinct ‘advertising regions’, which are: China, Japan, East Asia (Republic of Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Asia-Pacific countries), ASEAN (the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand), Australia and New Zealand, SAARC (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Pakistan), West Asia (Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Yemen Arab Republic, People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen) and North Asia (USSR’s Asian Republics and Mongolia).

Speakers

In a span of four days, AdAsia delegates are expected to listen (attentively, if possible) to about 45 distinguished speakers – an average of 10.5 per day! Delegates will, of course, pick and choose – or snooze – their way through.

The list of speakers is like a ‘who’s who’ from the world of mass communications and they include Edward de Bono (the inventor of the term ‘lateral thinking’), Alban Lloyd (Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi International), Clay Timon (President, IAA & VP/Director Worldwide Advertising, Colgate-Palmolive), Shuzu Ishikawa (MD, Dentsu, Japan) Ronald Beatson (Director-General, European Association of Advertising Agencies), Antonio De Joya (Chairman, AMDC and Chairman Emeritus, Asian Federation of Advertising Association), Arun Poorie (Editor, India Today), John Stacks (Chief of Correspondents, Time Magazine) and David Wheeler (Director-General, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, UK).

Venue

The venue was almost a Hobson’s choice for the Organising Committee. Karachi has the hotels but lacks ‘culture’; Lahore is somewhat backward in accommodation facilities but compensates with its architecture and environs. Ultimately, it was Al-Hamra Arts Centre and its auditorium which clinched the choice in favour of Lahore.

The Punjab Government sanctioned Rs 2.5 million for its renovation for AdAsia 89. The auditorium has been equipped with sophisticated audio-visual facilities by a Singaporean company. Simultaneous translation arrangements have also been made for delegates from China, Japan and Korea.

Adex

In the art gallery of the Al-Hamra, an exhibition has been mounted, displaying print advertising and design. ADEX is divided into two sections: the first consisting of stands where participating organisations are displaying their products and services; the second is the advertising exhibition. Film commercials will be shown in the auditorium as part of the Congress programme.

Social events

The Conference attracted a large number of foreign delegates, who found themselves spectacularly entertained at the historic Lahore Fort, the Shalimar Gardens and through out-of-the-box social events, one of which was the ‘Costumes through the ages’. (photo: The Congress Handbook, AdAsia 89, and S.M. Shahid)
The Conference attracted a large number of foreign delegates, who found themselves spectacularly entertained at the historic Lahore Fort, the Shalimar Gardens and through out-of-the-box social events, one of which was the ‘Costumes through the ages’. (photo: The Congress Handbook, AdAsia 89, and S.M. Shahid)

The Organising Committee has succeeded in turning a drawback into an advantage. The absence of large, plush hotels in Lahore will force Congress delegates into the more exciting outdoors – for most meals and a true taste of the city’s culture. Imaginative scenarios are being created: ‘Costumes through the ages’, ‘Artisans at work’– and the grand finale at Lahore Fort, where delegates will light a ‘burj’ to contribute to a gigantic fireworks display.

According to reports, mobile toilets have been arranged at public places such as the Bagh-i-Jinnah and Lahore Fort. Meals are being catered keeping in mind the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of delegates from different countries. 


Excerpted from AdAsia 89, a Dawn supplement, published on February 19, 1989. Zohra Yusuf is Chief Creative Officer, Spectrum Y&R.

HBL: ENABLING DREAMS

HBL was the first commercial bank to be established for the Muslims of the subcontinent in 1941. As the bank evolved with the nation, so did the brand and its communication.

HBL ads from 1957, 1971 and 2017
HBL ads from 1957, 1971 and 2017

At the time of its inception and soon independence, HBL’s communication focused on introducing the benefits of banking to the public. The communication was aimed at promoting its product suite in line with the economic needs of the time.

The idea behind building the brand was introduced in the 1970s when HBL Plaza was built as the tallest building in Pakistan and in South Asia. The Plaza was inaugurated to mark the 25th anniversary of the bank and was advertised to enhance brand equity and establish Habib Bank as the industry leader.

When the bank was acquired by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development in 2004, a conscious effort was made to differentiate the brand and lead from the front. The brand name was changed from Habib Bank to HBL. Investment behind building brand equity became the priority.

The phrase ‘Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL’ was coined to reflect the brand promise of enabling dreams. Over the last 10 years, HBL launched a series of corporate campaigns, which helped it gain the highest brand equity score in the industry, and made it a household name in Pakistan.

HBL has positioned itself as an organisation that aims to better the lives of its customers. HBL’s communication delivers a message of financial inclusion and enabling dreams.

In 2015, HBL launched a campaign featuring Samina Baig, Pakistan’s first woman to climb Everest and seven of the world’s highest peaks. Its subsequent corporate campaign featured Rosheen Khan, a woman who pushed the limits to achieve her dream of becoming Pakistan’s first female scuba diving instructor.

As a bank that has always been linked to the history of Pakistan, HBL partnered with Dawn to launch a campaign celebrating the dreamers of Pakistan and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the country. The ‘Ek Khwab Kay Naam’ print campaign pays tribute to our nation by identifying all those dreamers who have made Pakistan a thriving country.


Naveed Ashgar is Chief Marketing Officer, HBL.

1950s & 60s: THE AGE OF THE PIONEER

PROLOGUE

WHEN SUPERMAN CAME TO TOWN

As the advertising profession marks 70 years of existence, Mariam Ali Baig highlights major themes that influenced its trajectory from 1947 to the present day millennial age.

There is something unique in the telling of the story of advertising in Pakistan. Consider how it started.

A group of men independently travelled to Karachi from near and from far... from Bhopal, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Lahore, Lucknow... and many other cities in India. Others were Karachi born and bred.

They were poets, artists, art collectors, merchants, bon viveurs, writers, civil servants, musicians, raconteurs, bankers, philanthropists and gentlemen farmers; one was even a prince.

In Karachi, they set up offices that were cramped and sparsely furnished: oddly-assorted tables and chairs, a few pens and pencils. A peon to make the tea – the extent of their staff. They set up in Karachi, eager to be part of the great nation-building effort that Pakistan awaited. Their resources were limited, but their enthusiasm was boundless.

These extraordinary men were the founding fathers of Pakistan’s advertising profession. The industry’s first superheroes.

Ad Man dominates the urban landscape in the age of the millennial. (Illustration: Syed Salman Nasir)
Ad Man dominates the urban landscape in the age of the millennial. (Illustration: Syed Salman Nasir)

Looking back 70 years, it is hard to encompass the scale of their achievement. Karachi in 1947 was an outpost far from British India’s centres of commerce and advertising which were located in Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta. Business had be to drummed-up, staff found, hired and trained, products and services marketed, brands built and customers wooed.

Those among them who were transferred to Karachi from their agency headquarters in India were marginally better equipped; at least they had experience of the business and a client base on which to build. The others had to start from scratch, set up their own agency and hope for the best. Yet, they ploughed on and laid the foundations of the profession.

So that when television came upon Pakistan’s advertising scene in 1964, a new generation of superheroes was ready to take on the mantle – and they did so, with a burst of original creative executions which remain the envy of today’s generation of practitioners. The profession had found its foothold and if this was a period of buoyant creativity, it was also a time of consolidation.

Functions and systems were in place, women were hired (albeit, almost entirely in the creative departments), the terms of engagement with the media were set and the building of some of our best loved brands had begun. The culmination of this second phase in Pakistan’s advertising history was marked by the AdAsia 89 advertising congress, which was held in Lahore, in February 1989.

Under the chairmanship of Javed Jabbar, the entire industry, including the media, coalesced together (in a way never seen before or since) to present a programme that included a roster of stellar speakers drawn from the international world of advertising. AsiaAsia 89 put Pakistani advertising on the global map.

If so far the story of Pakistani advertising has been linear, what follows is a marked change in tempo. The world was going global and Pakistani advertising was about to shed its insularity. The global paradigm that governed the rules of engagement between advertising agencies and their clients shifted.

Marketing assumed a central position within client companies and CEOs were hired on the basis of their ability to drive brand sales. The client was now in the driver’s seat.

In Pakistan, this change in paradigm found concrete expression in the emergence of the affiliated agency and the entry of the media buying houses. Formerly, clients appointed a single agency to handle their entire brand portfolio. Now, the portfolios were split among agencies and the brand became the sole client.

Then, as the media buying houses consolidated their presence in an increasingly competitive media environment, the media function moved from the agency and became a separate, specialist function. The established model of agency commission was compromised and new business models were introduced.

In the midst of these shifts came the internet which rewrote all the rules. Time compressed, the media fragmented, brands proliferated, consumers demanded and lifestyles went into transformation.

As a result, Pakistani advertising agencies were forced to reinvent themselves again and again; from full-service, to specialisation, to hybrids; from independent to partial affiliates to full-equity buyouts to whatever else worked in between.

Along with adapting to global influences, the advertising profession had to withstand the peculiarities of Pakistan’s own trajectory; the periods of economic boom and bust, the cycles of instability and the systemic uncertainties that suppress an innate optimism to do and think big. After all, it took an American-owned agency to instil in its people the belief that they could, and in so believing, they brought back to Pakistan, a Clio and a Cannes Lion. Yet, if the proof is to be found in the pudding, consider that ad spend in Pakistan went from zero in 1947 to approximately four million rupees in 1966 (Gallup Pakistan).

In 1983, it touched Rs 423 million (Marketing Review) and by the end of 2017, the figure amounted to Rs 87.7 billion (Aurora Fact File), representing a staggering increase of 20,632% since 1983. Superheroes indeed!

What will happen next is anyone’s guess. Fast paced advancement in technology is the only continuum that can be predicted. The traditional agency model remains under threat and the fact that it continues to exist in a recognisable form is because nobody has figured out what the alternative should be – yet. However, if the past can point to the future, then we know that we are dealing with a fundamentally resilient profession.

One that re-imagines itself with every successive change; builds solid brands, provides employment to Pakistan’s most talented young people, is now bringing home top international awards, and on a good day, delivers magic and delight to our homes.

For all of this and much more, we have to thank our superhero pioneers who wrote the first chapters of the story of Pakistan’s advertising.

The next chapters in the Book of Advertising now belong to yet another generation of advertising superheroes. 


Mariam Ali Baig is Editor, Aurora. She can be contacted at aurora@dawn.com

WHEN MIGHTY OAKS FROM ACORNS DO GROW...

S. M. Shahid looks back at the inception of the advertising profession.

I established Oscar in 1963. However, how I got into (advertising in the first place is another story.

My ambition was to become a journalist, but in those days, one could only enter into journalism if one was a graduate… and I was not.

After my father’s death, we went through a great deal of turmoil. Before Partition, we lived in Bihar. After Independence, we moved to Chittagong and then came to Karachi in 1951. I had to look for employment to make ends meet and my education was left half way.

I worked for a couple of years for Sui Gas Transmission Company and then moved to Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL). The idea of doing something of my own appealed to me and I thought about advertising because there were many non-graduates in the profession. My brother Mazhar was a friend of S.H. Hashmi and was working at Orient Advertising. Truth be told, neither Mazhar nor Hashmi were very well versed in advertising at that point.

In fact, it was Hashmi’s elder brother Mateen (he worked for Alpha Insurance), who opened Orient in a room in Dawn’s offices in New Challi in 1953. He told Hashmi to sit there and do some work. Any client who came to put an ad in Dawn was directed to Orient, and in this way, Orient earned a commission and the agency flourished. In those days, the clients were mostly textile companies.

Orient started doing well and Mazhar was sent to Dhaka to open a branch there. When he came back in 1963, I suggested we open our own agency. In order not to burn our boats, I intended to keep working at PPL. However, to my surprise, my boss A.Y. Khan (the Chief Accountant at PPL) called me in one day and said I would never make it as an accountant. He then gave the key to his old office at Oriental Chambers and told me to start my advertising business. I was speechless. I didn’t have words to thank him. The next day I took possession of 15 Oriental Chambers.

Our office had three tables, seven chairs of which four were broken, one stool and a rack, a phone that was out of order on account of non-payment, one bell, one ashtray, one lock and two keys – just enough to start an agency. Mazhar and I painted the office ourselves. I then asked Irfan Haleem who was my colleague at PPL, to join Oscar as a partner. We decided to call the agency Oscar as Mazhar and I felt it had good recall.

In those days, the big players were foreign agencies such as D.J. Keymer, Grant Advertising, JWT, Stronach Advertising and Crawford Advertising. After Partition, there were hardly any trained professionals, except for those who came from India.

I divide the admen of those early years into two categories. The pioneers; they were the ones who had no experience in advertising, yet they started their own agencies and trained themselves on-the-job. They included people such as Mohammad Mushtaq (National Advertisers); Chaudhry Abdul Ghafour (United Advertisers) who was well-read in Persian, Urdu and English literature; Sultan Mahmud, who previously worked in the Ministry of Finance and then joined Ghafour in 1950; Ashraf Muhammad (Spotlit Advertising); Aziz and Bashir Khan (Manhattan); Lutfullah and Amanullah Khan (Kays Advertising); Nawabzada Wajid Mahmood (Adarts); Jamil Siddiqui (Marketing & Advertising) and Sadiqul Khairi (Khairi Advertising).

In the second category were those with agency experience and who later set up on their own. They included Akhlaq Ahmad, who initially worked for National Advertisers as an Art Director after which he joined Stronach Advertising. He then rejoined National Advertisers and in 1959, started Adcom. Iqbal Mir worked for United Advertising as an Account Executive before starting Prestige in 1960. Taher A. Khan worked for MNJ as an Account Executive and then moved to Paragon. He finally set up Interflow Communications in 1983.

The only two people I know who were trained in the real sense were Javed Jabbar and Naseer Haider. They both were sent to the UK when they were at IAL. Javed was trained as a concept writer. He established MNJ in 1969, in partnership with Majeed Ahmed and Nafees Ghaznavi. He is, in my opinion, the most brilliant advertising man in Pakistan.

In the sixties, creativity was the most important thing. It was more about illustrations and photography was not a very active part of advertising. In those days, every agency had an English and an Urdu copywriter.

Small agencies which could not afford to hire copywriters would hire them on a part-time basis. People such as Mr Enwary who worked for the British Council is an example; Anwar Mooraj an English copywriter; and Shahid Salamat, a great Urdu copywriter at Lintas.

In those days, once the copy was written, it was sent to the visualiser who would think of an illustration to go with the copy. The image would then be sketched and the text typed out on a manual typewriter. The graphic artist would mark ‘bold, upper case, lower case, 36 points’ on headlines and similar things on the body copy. This text would then go to a typesetter; most of them were located on McLeod Road. The typesetters would set the text using Letraset and print it out on an art paper. Then it would be put on a board, each line was cut individually and pasted on the design.

For an Urdu ad, the handwritten copy was sent to a calligrapher, after which each line would be cut and pasted in the same way done for English ads. Putting together a single ad would take about two to three days. And there was no guarantee the client would like it. He might tell you to do it all over again.


S.M. Shahid is an advertising veteran, a photographer, a columnist and an author of books on music. S.M. Shahid established Oscar Advertising in 1963, in a little room in a commercial building. The agency remained in business for over three decades. He played an instrumental role in organising both the first Pakistan Advertising Congress in 1979 and AdAsia 89. The logo and publications for the event were designed by Oscar Advertising. He acted and scripted a satire on advertising called Client, Client, which was later published as a book. In order to pursue classical music, photography and writing, he handed over the agency business to his daughter Sadia and her husband. He went on to study vocal classical music with Ustad Wilayat Ali Khan. Melody Queen – Tributes to Pakistan’s Superstar Noor Jehan, is a book accompanied by a CD of 20 immortal songs compiled and edited by him. Among his other books are Classical Music of The Subcontinent – an Introduction, Immortal Film Songs – inspired by Raags, Abba Bataeaye, Prem Sangeet, Jungle Ki Dunya, Sketches by Salman, Pappoo Yaar Tang Na Kar, Ghalib Kay Urain Gay Purzay and Tuzk-e-Ziaee. S.M. Shahid is one of the advertising industry’s pioneers and is listed in the 70 Years of Game Changers in this Special Report.


ADVERTISING IN BRITISH INDIA

In this extract, Douglas Haynes writes about the rise of professional advertising in British India

A calendar print published by Oriental Calendar Mfg. Co., Calcutta, meant to promote a cigarette brand among the upper strata of society. From the collection of Priya Paul. (Courtesy: Civic Archives, New Delhi)
A calendar print published by Oriental Calendar Mfg. Co., Calcutta, meant to promote a cigarette brand among the upper strata of society. From the collection of Priya Paul. (Courtesy: Civic Archives, New Delhi)

In the early 1920s, global businesses relied on advertisements drawn up in Europe or America without consideration of the values of Indian consumers.

Such marketing methods increasingly seemed inadequate to many global businesses. These firms turned to advertising specialists headquartered in India’s larger cities. Such specialists worked under three different kinds of arrangements.

First, they could be members of advertising firms that were setting up offices in India, such as J. Walter Thompson, which came to India in 1929 to promote General Motors’ automobiles, but soon took up a number of smaller accounts.

Second, advertisers could work for agency firms that managed the distribution of the products manufactured by their clients. For instance, the makers of Ovaltine hired the firm of James Wright as their agent in India; this firm designed and placed many thousands of ads in Indian newspapers.

Finally, some professional advertisers worked as in-house specialists for the biggest businesses, such as Lever Brothers.

Archival research combined with an analysis of advertisements suggests that professional advertisers conceived of the Indian market in the three broad segments. First, there were the European expatriates and wealthy Indian consumers, who may have been small in number but who had high disposable incomes.

Advertisements targeting these buyers were printed in the English-language press, such as The Times of India. Second, there were the middle-class consumers, a much larger category of people but with more modest earnings and with significant anxieties about liberal spending on commodities. They could be reached through vernacular newspapers and English-language papers with nationalist reputations, as well as through billboards and cinema ads. Finally, there were the rural population and the urban under-classes. 

DAYS OF GLORY IN RADIO PAKISTAN

Mamun M. Adil recalls a time when Pakistan’s radio was at par with international broadcast standards. An impeccable training programme acted as a springboard to further the careers of these early radio professionals.

Talat Hussain relives his days as a drama artist at the Radio Pakistan studio, near M.A. Jinnah Road in Karachi. It was here where he, like many other prominent actors, began his career in the sixties. In the seventies, Hussain went to London to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Ever since, he has been a household name in terms of acting. He has appeared in an extraordinary number of TV dramas as well as in films. His distinctive voice and style of dialogue have set him apart from his contemporaries. One of his most memorable roles was of a refugee in Jamil Dehlavi’s Jinnah (1998), which is based on the life of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and whose image can also be seen in this photograph behind Talat Hussain. (Photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Talat Hussain relives his days as a drama artist at the Radio Pakistan studio, near M.A. Jinnah Road in Karachi. It was here where he, like many other prominent actors, began his career in the sixties. In the seventies, Hussain went to London to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Ever since, he has been a household name in terms of acting. He has appeared in an extraordinary number of TV dramas as well as in films. His distinctive voice and style of dialogue have set him apart from his contemporaries. One of his most memorable roles was of a refugee in Jamil Dehlavi’s Jinnah (1998), which is based on the life of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and whose image can also be seen in this photograph behind Talat Hussain. (Photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

At 11 p.m. on August 13, 1947, the well-known presenter Zahur Azar announced from All-India Radio’s (AIR) Lahore station: “At the stroke of twelve midnight, the independent sovereign state of Pakistan will come into existence.” An hour later, Azar stated eloquently: “This is Pakistan Broadcasting Service, Lahore. We now bring to you a special programme on ‘The dawn of Independence’.”

Azar’s announcement, which was in English and followed by an Urdu translation by Mustafa Ali Hamadani, was important for two reasons. One, it made radio the first medium to announce the creation of Pakistan; two, the Lahore station, which a mere hour ago was part of AIR, was officially part of the Pakistan Broadcasting Service (PBS), which subsequently became known as Radio Pakistan.

Prior to Independence, AIR (established in 1926) comprised nine stations. Post independence, six remained (Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Madras, Lucknow, Tiruchirapalli) while the Dhaka, Lahore and Peshawar stations became part of Radio Pakistan, led by Z.A. Bokhari, the first Director General.

On April 16, 1948, the Rawalpindi station was inaugurated, followed by the Karachi station on August 14, 1948. This station initially began broadcasting on August 5, 1947 as the Sindh Government Broadcasting Station; during its 10-day existence, it aired live coverage of landmark moments such as Mr Jinnah’s oath-taking ceremony as Governor- General, as well as dramas and music; the reason why it was shut down was because it violated the Wireless Telegraphy Act, according to which a provincial government could not operate a radio station.

Increasing the reach

Over the next few years, more shortwave and medium-wave transmitters were purchased and put into place to increase Radio Pakistan’s reach across both wings of Pakistan, as well as overseas, through a ‘Priority programme of development’. As a result, by 1949, Radio Pakistan could be heard in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the Far East, Europe, as well as in Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.

Due to its diverse audience, by 1954, Radio Pakistan’s news bulletins were broadcast in at least 15 languages, including Afghan-Persian, Arabic, Balochi, Balti, Bengali, Burmese, English, Gujarati, Iranian Kashmiri, Parhari, Pushto, Sindhi, Shina and Urdu.

Training and high-quality programming

In addition to news bulletins, Radio Pakistan aired dramas and feature programmes which, according to A History of Radio Pakistan by Nihal Ahmad, centred on “nation building themes”, as well as “history, culture, the freedom struggle, crime detection and social issues.”

There were also programmes covering science, music, farming, education, poetry and sports. Religious programming was not limited to recitations from the Quran and included readings from the Geeta, the Tipiaka and the Bible.

In fact, despite the fact that the BBC, Voice of America, All India Radio and Radio Ceylon were available to listeners, Radio Pakistan was able to hold its own. To produce high-quality programming, Radio Pakistan placed a great deal of emphasis on training their actors, producers, directors and technicians. To this end, a training institute was established as early as 1949.

Radio stars

Given the emphasis on training, the people who worked at Radio Pakistan as newscasters, voice-over artists, writers and producers eventually went on to make their careers in cinema, theatre and television.

These include film actor Mohammad Ali, television actors Neelofar Aleem, Talat Hussain, Santosh Rassal and Qazi Wajid, and prominent writers such as Syed Imtiaz Ali Taj, Rafi Peer, Syed Abid Ali, Khwaja Moinuddin, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Hasina Moin and Bano Qudsia.

Other notable personalities include Omer Kureishi and Jamshed Marker, whose cricket commentaries are remembered to this day. Prominent Urdu newscasters included Shakeel Ahmed and Anwar Behzad; Anita Ghulam Ali and Edward Carapiet (who hosted the popular Hit Parade) were well-known English newscasters.

Then, there were those great voices we still hear today, who either debuted or gained prominence on Radio Pakistan and include Madam Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hasan and Reshma. Another notable personality was Agha Nasir, who is considered a pioneer of Radio Pakistan and later served as Managing Director, PTV; he transitioned from radio to television with ease due to the training he received at Radio Pakistan.

During an interview with Dawn, Nasir stated that: “From the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties, Radio Pakistan was at the zenith of its success, not only because there was no competitive medium or source of information, education and entertainment, but because it was run in such a perfect manner; it was at par with many international radio services.”

Enter the commercials

When commercials began to be aired in 1961 (from the Karachi station) and subsequently from Lahore Dhaka in 1967, Ahmad points out that “there was a great rush to book commercial spots and the entire allocated advertising was booked, leading to demand for more advertising time.”

In the initial days, one hour of commercials were aired with the “objective of publicising locally manufactured products”; by the mid-sixties three hours and 10 minutes of commercials were broadcast on weekdays, and three hours and 40 minutes on Sundays.

A matter of media spend

Although there are no statistics with respect to ad revenue available from the forties and fifties, according to Gallup Pakistan, by 1966 media spend reached four million rupees. Of this, print, the undisputed leader, commanded 59% of the share. (At the time, leading newspapers included Dawn, founded by Mr Jinnah on August 14, 1947; Nawa-i-Waqt, established in 1940 by Hamid Nizami; Jang established in 1939 by Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman; and Pakistan Observer founded by Hamidul Huq Choudhury in 1949, which was published from Dhaka; after the 1971 war it was called Bangladesh Observer, and ceased publication in June 2010).

Such was radio’s prominence that it came second, securing 19% of total ad spend, followed by PTV (12%), the only television channel and outdoor (10%). Cinema too was a significant advertising medium, although statistics of its market share are unavailable. Since then, things have changed drastically. According to the Aurora Fact File published in the magazine’s November-December 2017 edition, radio accounts for a mere three percent of the total media spend.

Of this, Radio Pakistan’s share is four percent, and two of its music-based FM channels 101 and 93 (which, like Radio Pakistan, are part of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation and were established in 1993 and 2014 respectively) have a combined share of three percent.

Consequently, the share of all three channels amounts to seven percent, which is relatively low compared to the revenue share of other networks and stations such as Radio Awaz Network, 106.2 and 100, which range between eight to 10%.

Today, Radio Pakistan’s audience is mainly confined to people living in rural areas, who do not have access to FM channels, yet. However, the station’s contribution towards training and nurturing talent should not be forgotten as it served as the first training ground for writers, producers and actors who went on to work on television, and thus contributed to the vibrant media scene that is prevalent in today’s Pakistan. 


Mamun M. Adil is a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. He can be contacted at mamun.adil@gmail.com

BOVRIL WEDDINGS & SHIKAR IN RAHIMYAR KHAN

In 1952, Lever Brothers shifted their headquarters to remote Rahimyar Khan, the site of their newly constructed Dalda factory. An eyewitness recalls the heady atmosphere of those early days.

A glimpse of the flavour of life at the Dalda factory in Rahimyar Khan, where garden parties and sports activities played a not inconsiderable part. - Photo: Fifty Great Years in Pakistan, published by Unilever Pakistan)
A glimpse of the flavour of life at the Dalda factory in Rahimyar Khan, where garden parties and sports activities played a not inconsiderable part. - Photo: Fifty Great Years in Pakistan, published by Unilever Pakistan)

The story of how Lever came to Rahimyar Khan is fascinating. It contains all the elements of a pot-boiler, set in the twilight years of the Raj.

The cast of characters include a Nawab, a powerful expatriate member of the landed gentry and a local contractor. On the other side is a group of negotiators representing Lever’s interests in India. Set in a Princely State, the backdrop is the build-up to Indian independence and the partition of the subcontinent.

Since the early forties, Lever had been looking for a site that could manufacture and supply vanaspati to the Northwest. Two local players appeared on the scene, equipped with political clout. Sir Maratab Ali, the force behind the Ali Group and William Roberts, a locally-based British landlord with vast cotton holdings. The two gentlemen were offered generous concessions by the Nawab of Bahawalpur, including the grant of a large tract of land in Rahimyar Khan, access to canal water, attractive tax holidays and other perks.

The men were equipped to go ahead with the textile mill as they had experience of cotton spinning processes. What they lacked was technical expertise in the manufacture of edible oils or soap. This is where Unilever stepped in.

After prolonged negotiations, a deal was struck. Although Rahimyar Khan was remote and infrastructure and skilled labour in short supply, it had a number of advantages. It was located halfway between Karachi and Lahore and situated along the North-South railway line. Rahimyar Khan was also located in the heart of an important cotton-growing area. As a result, there was an abundance of cotton seed from which oil could be extracted.

Construction of the factory began in 1949. The Sadiq Oil & Allied Mills was inaugurated in 1952 and Khwaja Nazimuddin, the Prime Minister of Pakistan presided over the grand affair. The mill initially processed cotton seed with the aim of providing crude cotton seed oil. The oil was then processed in a refinery. In parallel, the factory began to make vegetable ghee (vanaspati) and in 1952, the first tin of Dalda banaspati rolled off the production line.

Lever Brothers first made their appearance in British India in 1888 with the introduction of Sunlight Soap bars. This was followed in 1895 by Lifebuoy and shortly after by Lux and Vim. Vanaspati was launched in 1918 and Dalda entered the market in 1937. - Photo: Fifty Great Years in Pakistan, published by Unilever Pakistan
Lever Brothers first made their appearance in British India in 1888 with the introduction of Sunlight Soap bars. This was followed in 1895 by Lifebuoy and shortly after by Lux and Vim. Vanaspati was launched in 1918 and Dalda entered the market in 1937. - Photo: Fifty Great Years in Pakistan, published by Unilever Pakistan

Life in Rahimyar Khan in those days was not easy. During the construction of the factory, the chief engineer, H. A. Snowdon, lived in a tent. His wife was extremely supportive and would join him for extended periods, before returning exhausted to England.

In 1952, Lever decided to shift its headquarters to Rahimyar Khan. Given that there was no accommodation available in town, a huge estate had to be constructed. The first building was a bungalow, housing the offices and three massive hangars brought in from Sri Lanka. Gradually, a handful of bungalows began to appear.

There was only one phone in the town. The only entertainment was in the shape of a dingy cinema hall. The factory was surrounded by agricultural fields and people were afraid to venture out at night for fear of jackals. There were no shops and acquiring a loaf of bread was something of an ordeal. The bread would arrive from Karachi on the Khyber Mail and cooks would rush to fetch it every morning. In the initial days, the expatriate community comprised only men, but as new bungalows were built, families began to arrive.

Lever Brothers India was formally launched in 1933. In the early 1940s, Levers started looking for a site that could manufacture and supply vanaspati to the less accessible part of north-western British India and this is how the site of the Dalda factory came to be located in Rahimyar Khan.  - Photo: Fifty Great Years in Pakistan, published by Unilever Pakistan
Lever Brothers India was formally launched in 1933. In the early 1940s, Levers started looking for a site that could manufacture and supply vanaspati to the less accessible part of north-western British India and this is how the site of the Dalda factory came to be located in Rahimyar Khan. - Photo: Fifty Great Years in Pakistan, published by Unilever Pakistan

Gradually, social life emerged. Ken Chambers, the chairman in the fifties, recalls how in the midst of a tea party held to celebrate the completion of the estate, a fire broke out and engulfed the shamiana. Chambers describes the scene:

“What a panic; cups of tea were thrown up to the roof which was on fire, but did not make too much of an impact on the flames. Finally, the fire came under control, not due to the teacup throwers, but by our own fire brigade.”

T. A. Shah describes how he used to organise hunting trips. He would gather guns from a local dealer, and get shikaris who knew the terrain to accompany hunting parties as guides. Deer and partridge hunting were the favourite pastimes, and anglers too managed to come home with a fairly healthy supply of fish. Riding was quite the rage; particularly among expatriates.

Eventually, a club was built and a high-spirited social life emerged around it. Everything from riding to cricket, hockey, swimming, tennis, volleyball and table tennis were organised.

Another important task was keeping the housewives well-stocked with their favourite food items. Fish, such as pomfret would arrive from Karachi, as would fresh fruit and vegetables. A highlight of life in Rahimyar Khan was the arrival of food parcels from England containing everything a nostalgic expatriate community could possibly want; from marmalade and cheese to Bovril.

This quaint custom began when John Hansard, a senior Unilever official and his wife visited Rahimyar Khan. They were upset by the lack of availability of certain items of their daily diet.

“Mrs Hansard must have convinced her husband that something had to be done, and from then on, every month managers sent a list detailing foodstuffs to the value of £3 to Leslie Smith of OSC, who forwarded them to Harrods,” says a former chairman.

Shopping trips to Lahore and Karachi were organised for managers and their wives. Holidays in Nathiagali also broke the monotony. The legendary parties thrown by the chairman were only for managers. The problem was that these were ‘dinner jacket and bow tie’ affairs and gentlemen’s bespoke tailoring was not exactly Rahimyar Khan’s forte.

In this world within a world, there were unexpected shortages which needed improvisation. When Alan Jones, a manager, decided to get married at Karachi’s Trinity Church, he needed a supply of confetti. Bashir Ahmed, puzzled by the request, decided to find a solution in the office. He emptied out all the punching machines and the wedding ceremony proceeded along traditional lines. The gentleman’s fiancée was willing to tie the knot with Jones but was wary about the prospects of marital bliss in Rahimyar Khan.

To alleviate her fears, she was flown in from England and lodged at the bungalow of an expatriate family. Chambers, keen not to lose Jones, decided to give the young woman the time of her life. Parties were organised, trips laid on, and every attempt made to convince her that Rahimyar Khan was Shangrila. The efforts were not in vain. The punching machine wedding in Karachi soon ensued and Mrs Jones became part of the Rahimyar Khan scene.

It was, however, not all fun and games. Life was hard, and the officers worked tirelessly from seven in the morning often until late into the evenings.

Looking back, it is hard to believe how difficult it was to market some of today’s household names. This was perhaps the inevitable downside of being a pioneering company. Dalda, in its early days, was fraught with controversies and suspicions.

Clarified butter (ghee) had been the favoured cooking medium across the subcontinent. However, in certain urban centres in India, given shortages and adulteration, banaspati had gradually emerged as a favoured cooking medium. This was not the case in the area that now constituted Pakistan.

The early salesmen of Dalda had a tough time. People believed that the product was synthetic and viewed it with suspicion. In this hostile environment, Lever launched a counterattack. First, it stressed the health factor by pointing to the vitamins Dalda contained. It sent off salesmen with large frying pans to cook pakoras at makeshift stalls across the country. A massive advertising campaign was launched to counter the false allegations about Dalda, which ranged from making you weak and bald to impotent.

In all this, Lever has had the support of Lintas, now R-Lintas. This was originally the advertising arm of Unilever in countries where advertising was not developed. Over the years, Unilever began to dispose of these agencies. R-Lintas was bought by C.A. Rauf, a former Lever man. He was licensed to use the name, subject to Unilever conditions. 


In 2002, Lintas was bought over by Lowe & Rauf and R-Lintas became Lowe & Rauf. In 2016, Lowe affiliated with Mullen (an American advertising agency) and Lowe & Rauf became MullenLowe Rauf.

Excerpted from Fifty Great Years in Pakistan, published by Unilever Pakistan.


DALDA: THE ESSENCE OF MOTHERHOOD

Jahan Mamta...Wahan Dalda. Words: four. Impact: resounding!

A truly iconic brand, Dalda has found its way into the annals of our food and pop culture history... from cookbooks and cooking shows to hummable and endearing jingles. Yet, always keeping mamta as its essence.

How is it that a brand relevant to my grandmother and mothers’ generations can still be relevant to mine? By understanding the subtleties prevalent within the winds of cultural change... and staying ahead... through insight, technological expertise and innovation.

From our grandmothers to our mothers and to ourselves, food and the cooking of it, plays a central part in expressing our love and in the nurturing of our children, making the cooking medium an important ingredient in any recipe!

This has not changed... what has changed is the context within which these recipes are prepared, lives are lived and motherhood is expressed.

Dalda ads from 1952, 1961 and 2017
Dalda ads from 1952, 1961 and 2017

One cannot understand the changing context of maternal love unless one understands the changing context of womanhood. Women have worked hard to break gender stereotypes and evolve their roles to become a force, both within the home and outside it! There has also been an evolutionary change in our food trends as we have grown more aware of what we consume and how we consume it.

Dalda have used their technological expertise and insightful wisdom to embrace this change in the lives of women and in food trends. They have supported it unquestioningly... moving with the change to give them Banaspati, Cooking Oil, Sunflower or Olive Oil.

For Dalda, what is important is that no matter how many roles they balance or how they choose to nourish their families, a mom is a mom and an expert in her own right; one that requires appreciation, honour and respect.

Dalda have not just given us innovative products; they have brought to life the essence of mamta, a timeless emotion that knows no bounds...and is indeed the hardest, most challenging and fulfilling job in the world!


Amber Rauf is Director Strategic Planning and Corporate Communications, MullenLowe Rauf.

WHEN NIGHT WAS A CABARET

Advertisements for cabaret shows held at the Beach Luxury Hotel, Hotel Metropole and Palace Hotel were regularly published in Dawn in the fifties and sixties. Other hotels well-known for their cabaret shows included the InterContinental Hotel and The Excelsior.
Advertisements for cabaret shows held at the Beach Luxury Hotel, Hotel Metropole and Palace Hotel were regularly published in Dawn in the fifties and sixties. Other hotels well-known for their cabaret shows included the InterContinental Hotel and The Excelsior.

From elegance to sleaze, Leon Menezes evokes a time of night time adventures when newspapers could publish daring ads without fear of reprisal.

It was the best of times. With nightlife to rival Beirut, Karachi was alive and well and living it up in the years after independence – all the way up to the mid-seventies. As the capital of a new, vibrant country, the city was primed to help one enjoy a good night out (week after week at that). How many are out there who remember that era?

The names evoke images from elegance to sleaze, just like the actual clientele catered to. Hotel Metropole and Palace Hotel, The Beach Luxury Hotel and later, the Inter Continental Hotel were the crown jewels, while the Excelsior, Imperial, Taj and Central hotels offered a more risqué set of entertainment. And the artists were flown in from around the region; there were Turks, Lebanese, Australians, Egyptians and other nationalities regularly performing on the circuit.

The evening’s entertainment was billed as ‘Dinner, Dance, Cabaret’, and the belly dancers almost always called themselves ‘Princess’. Further adjectives used to describe the female artistes included ‘hot’, ‘scintillating’ and other alluring names, designed to conjure up images of magical evenings.

Newspapers carried ads with pictures of the performers that one could hardly imagine in this day and age. Besides the afore, alluded to belly dancing, other acts included comedy/singing duos, limbo dancers and even a frequent striptease artist or two.

Speaking of the ads, readers who have no inkling of what that era held would probably be scandalised by the images and promise: red-blooded entertainment for a discerning audience. Since we had not yet become a ‘Nanny State’, newspapers could publish them without fear of punitive action.

With the city full of embassies and served by a host of foreign airlines, the mix of international and local patrons enjoyed themselves into the early hours of the morning. The hotels had fully-stocked bars, including local brews, and catered to a wide selection of tastes.

The glamour quotient was suitably maintained at the upper end of the spectrum by elegantly-dressed ladies and smartly-turned out gentlemen. Dancers and dance floors were smoothly polished and the latest gyrations were always on show.

The locations of these nightclubs was within a small radius and included some of the old city areas: The Roma Shabana was somewhere near Napier Road; the Lido (Imperial Hotel) near the PIDC Bridge; the Taj across from CM House; and the Penthouse was housed in the Excelsior Hotel, right in the heart of Saddar. Slightly further up the road, the Beach Luxury Hotel also had some dynamic acts in its two venues. As part of the milieu of the time, low-end bars and off-licence liquor stores dotted the city, not even earning a second glance.

Karachi’s once-vibrant nightlife has given way to restaurants and fast-food outlets. Malls and cinemas now make up for whatever entertainment we have with the occasional theatre thrown in for good measure. We now speak of a time long, long ago in a country far, far away. 


Leon Menezes is a former member of the band The In-Crowd and currently professor of practice.

IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES...

If confessions from Karachiites in the fifties and sixties are to be believed, food fetishism achieved an all-time high, writes Mamun M. Adil.

It may be the past; but it wasn’t that long ago. Karachi was the capital of a new country and boasted of streets that were washed every night. The city was peaceful, street crime was unheard of, life was gentle and the nightlife vibrant.

There were no malls and Saddar was Karachi’s vibrant heart, drawing crowds from across the city. It was to Bohri Bazaar that citizens went to buy fabric and crockery and have their children’s school uniforms made. Bohri Bazaar was famed for its plump jalebis, spicy bhel puri, chaat (at the original Nimco store) and colourful sherbet stalls. Empress Market (a lot cleaner than today and worthy of its name) was the hub for fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and poultry. In the vicinity were several coffee shops, which acted as crowd pullers for the ‘intellectuals’ as well as a few ‘toddy’ shops, establishments which sold low-priced alcoholic drinks.

The centre of the universe

It was Elphinstone Street (now Zaibunissa Street) and referred to affectionately as ‘Elphi’, which was considered to be the ‘centre of the universe’ even before Partition. In addition to shops such as Ghulam Mohammad & Sons, which specialised in men’s clothing and Bliss & Co, the chemists, there were several stores selling imported goods.

Of these, English Cold Storage was a favourite; it was there that cold cuts, Swiss liqueur chocolates, cereals, and cheeses, be they of the Danish or Dutch variety, could be sourced. Incidentally, the first cheese to be made in Pakistan was called Amson’s; it was made by Amson’s Dairy and instead of being available at a retail store, one had to go to the owner’s flat located in an impressive stone building, on the corner of Inverarity (now Sarwar Shaheed Road) and Victoria Roads (now Abdullah Haroon Road) to purchase it, where it was packed in paper like butter, which Amson’s also sold.

Give us our daily bread – and butter

For people who wanted to buy imported butter, the selection included American brands such as Clearavall or Sylvester; both were available in tins. Otherwise, butter was mostly purchased from small bakeries, such as PF Pereira (housed in a restaurant of the same name and specialised in Goan cuisine) and United Bakery.

Another hotspot for freshly-baked bread was the Monastery of Angels on Ingle Road (now M.R. Kiyani Road), where European nuns made and sold fresh loaves at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily. In addition to white bread, they made raisin bread and peanut and almond brittles, all of which would be sold out within hours.

Foodie trails

Eating out was equally popular then as it is today, although the number of restaurants was limited in number. For desi food, there was the Pioneer Coffee House, which was especially crowded on Sundays and primarily patronised by people who had spent the day at the horse races or at the nearby cinemas. In addition to a vegetable thali on Monday, Pioneer served khichra (a variation of haleem) and dhansak (a Parsi delicacy) and Bombay kulfi and falooda. Then there was Bundu Khan, which was famous for its flaky parathas and succulent kababs and tikkas.

Qaiser Hotel, which is still located on Pakistan Chowk, was best known for palak gosht and raan. Although western food was not as popular as it is today, Shezan, one of the first restaurants to be air-conditioned, served chicken sandwiches and later at Shezan Ampis, ‘chicken flying saucers’ made with plenty of green chillies for extra zing. Shezan also made birthday cakes, which were a rarity and only available at a few other places such as Metropole Hotel. The most commonly available cakes were the yellow pound cakes, which are still found at many bakeries today.

The French connection

Le Gourmet was one of the high-end restaurants of the time. It was located in the Palace Hotel (Mövenpick Hotel today) and specialised in French cuisine and possibly introduced Chateaubriand and Chicken A la Kiev to Karachi; it was also reputed to have the best wine list on offer. Le Gourmet was also one of Karachi’s first nightclubs and introduced cabaret to the city.

Here is how Anwar Mooraj, in a chapter of Karachi: Megacity of our times, describes the restaurant: “Le Gourmet had the usual ingredients which made for a successful night club – good food, a well-stocked cellar, wonderful music and a congenial atmosphere. Everybody who was ‘a somebody’ wanted to be seen there. Le Gourmet, however, introduced a new element – cabaret. Besides the usual assortment of heavily rouged Can-Can girls, who threw their long legs into the air while the Italian orchestra played a selection from Orpheus in the Underworld, there were also sophisticated magic shows, experiments in levitation and solo performances by a sensational local classical dancer called Panna.”

The China factor

In terms of food, the China factor was apparent way before the CPEC. ABC, which was established after World War II, and stood for America, Britain and China, was one of the most popular Chinese restaurants and was predictably located on Elphinstone Street.

For less than five rupees (considered pricey in those days), one could dig into a plate of egg fried rice and sweet and sour chicken, as well as noodles and fried prawns in a crisp batter. Another popular Chinese restaurant was the South China Cafe near Paradise Cinema. Here, the flavours were more Cantonese. There was also Canton adjacent to Happy Book Stall on Inverarity Road and Hong Kong on Victoria Road. Soon, Chinese restaurants opened in Tariq Road and included Tung Nan and Yuan Tung, which was initially located near Bunder Road (now M.A. Jinnah Road).

The American influence

For young people, there were two trendy ‘hangout spots’. Topsy’s, near Rio and Rex cinemas, which served a wide variety of fizzy drinks (soft drinks were not stocked at home in the quantities they are today and going out for a soda was an outing), including Coke, Pepsi, Vimto, Canada Dry and Pakola (available in raspberry, orange and lemon flavours) and a brand called Rogers, which no longer exists.

Nearby was the Manhattan Soda Fountain, which specialised in American-style sundaes such as Knickerbocker Glory, Green Goddess, Purple Prince and Hangman’s Blood. The first burger that came to Pakistan, was of the desi variety – Hanifia’s hunter beef burger, accompanied by the sharp mustard sauce that is still relished today. For the longest time, it was the closest thing to a burger people in Karachi could have, and the first outlet in Nursery was jam-packed at all times. The real western style burger was introduced by the InterContinental Hotel in their coffee shop The Demi Tasse. An eight-ounce cheeseburger would set people back five rupees.

Looking back – with rose-tinted glasses?

Although there is a tendency to look back at the past with rose-tinted glasses, given the vibrant nightlife Karachi was known for in the fifties and sixties, not to mention the multitude of cinemas, coffee shops and restaurants, one cannot help but think that despite the progress that the city has witnessed over the decades, the Karachi of the past was, in many ways, a better place to live in.

As Mooraj states: “Karachi of the early fifties [was] a city that was safe and peaceful and where nobody ever seemed to be in any kind of hurry. People were also very tolerant, especially in the coffee houses where it was fashionable to hold left wing views and to express anti establishment sentiments. What a pity those lazy, carefree days are gone forever, like picture postcards, yellowed with age, stored in a half forgotten trunk, never to be opened again.”


Mamun M. Adil is a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. He can be contacted at mamun.adil@gmail.com

INVESTING ICONS WITH STAR POWER

Durriya Kazi evokes the artists who created Pakistan’s iconic cinema posters.

During the sixties and seventies, often dubbed the ‘golden age’ of Pakistani cinema, hand-painted film posters were the most popular form of promotion. This was at a time when the industry released more than a 100 films annually, making it one of the largest in the world. As the fortunes of the industry took a turn for the worse, the art of hand-painting cinema posters also began to wane.
During the sixties and seventies, often dubbed the ‘golden age’ of Pakistani cinema, hand-painted film posters were the most popular form of promotion. This was at a time when the industry released more than a 100 films annually, making it one of the largest in the world. As the fortunes of the industry took a turn for the worse, the art of hand-painting cinema posters also began to wane.

In today’s multiplex cinema world, it is difficult to imagine how vibrant cinema was in the first three decades of a new country – Pakistan. From once there being between 1,500 and 2,000 cinema theatres across Pakistan, the number has, in the last 10 years, dwindled to less than 300, of which 70 are expensive multiplexes. This, when the worldwide audiences for cinema are rapidly increasing.

There has been much soul-searching about the reasons for this decline. An overlooked casualty of this trend is the end of the hand-painted cinema banners and posters. In 2007 alone, 75 artists from Lahore’s cinema distribution centre, Royal Park, lost their jobs due to digital posters and banners.

The film distributors considered the elaborate hand-painted banners and posters essential for the promotion of films. They were the trailers of films. It was impossible to miss a 150-foot long and 90-foot high banner, with its bright colours and larger-than-life stars. Tongas, with film posters strapped on either side, advertised the film street by street. The building façades of Royal Park were barely visible with multiple posters and mini banners announcing the newest films.

Cinema art has two distinct types of artists; the banner painters who paint canvases – large enough to cover the theatre frontage, usually in makeshift studios at the back of the cinema theatre; and the more refined poster painters who work in small, office-like studios.

The canvases are repainted over and over again and many repaired with patches of canvas not visible at street level. Watching a banner artist work deftly with wide, wall-painting brushes on an enlarged scale fills one with awe.

The banner painters insist that they make stars of actors. They make them larger-than-life, enhance their muscles and curves, fill their eyes with rage and turn tears into rivulets of sorrow. Fellow artists visit cinema theatres to admire or critique the latest work. One of the posters and banners most admired by fellow artists was for Ehsas, which had a realistically depicted plaster across Shabnam’s forehead. The style of the posters reflects the melodramatic nature of Pakistani films. Emotion is laid bare – rage, passion, desire, sorrow. In a country that increasingly encourages the covering of bodies, male and female, cinema art exists in a parallel reality of revealing clothes, seductive poses and overt sexuality.

The film distributors share stills of the completed film with the artist, who selects which scenes best represent the story. A compositional jargon is used for which actors or scenes should be ‘in’ (in the foreground and in full colour) and which ‘out’ (in the background and in mono-colour). Banners were painted in four stages – drawing, single, ground and finish; each stage having a different assistant.

Cinema art came to Pakistan from Bombay. The three main poster ustads trained in Bombay were Moinuddin Azad, Sardar Khan (better known as S. Khan) and Mustafa Chughtai.

Chugtai worked with an airbrush and was known for his fine, idealised images. He was equally criticised by fellow artists for this refinement and for not stylistically distinguishing male and female characters. Azad was considered the more realistic artist with his emotive brush strokes that better depicted the action and mood of the film and for showing male actors with more weather-beaten skin. S. Khan modernised Azad’s style, and with his son, Sarfaraz Iqbal or S. Iqbal, added more contemporary compositions and lettering. Their work came to define film posters of the sixties and seventies – Bano, Jehangira, Aashi, Sita Maryam Margaret (and even the whacky) Hunterwali. S. Iqbal adapted to photo collages and then compositions for panaflex, working right until his death in 2017 – the last of the great poster artists. The father-and-son team defined the public image of Waheed Murad, Rani, Neelo, Nadeem, Mohammed Ali, Shamim Ara, Babra Sharif, Badar Munir and in more recent times, Rahi, Shaan and Saima. Film-maker, Farjad Nabi documented S. Iqbal painting a poster of the film Rashoman for an exhibition of film posters in Japan, ‘Lollywood! Pakistani Film Posters’ (2006).

The best-known Karachi poster artists were: Wazir, who bought a lithographic machine from Azad, and is best-known for Begum Jaan; Kasim and A.H. Mahver (known for their more monochromatic palette) and banner painters who travelled between Karachi, Faisalabad and Multan, M.M., a favourite of Satish Anand, Pervez, Aslam and Jeewan who made banners for English films; Majid, Ghulam Rasool (Chota) Sarwar (better known as Arif Githa and Akhtar who was both an actor and an artist. There are only a few banner painters left in Karachi and in Lahore of whom Ajmal is the best-known. While some cinema artists such as Rafique, son of Mustafa Chughtai, went to an art school, most apprenticed at a young age. Ustad Allah Buksh was greatly respected by all and trained many a cinema painters.

The early cinema posters were printed as lithographs in single or two-colour. When technology grew in the sixties, these became of a better quality with four-colour printing. From the mid-eighties, pasted photographs were embedded into hand-painted artwork before completely succumbing to digital prints. Now it is difficult to distinguish an ordinary advertisement poster from a film poster. No more stars are ‘made’ by poster artists; they simply remain actors.

With digital printing taking over, this skill of hand painting posters, passed on from generation to generation, is on the verge of vanishing.
With digital printing taking over, this skill of hand painting posters, passed on from generation to generation, is on the verge of vanishing.

Today, while vintage posters fetch high prices, out-of-work cinema artists are driving rickshaws, painting political posters or churning out small paintings for galleries in Pakistan or Dubai. Ironically, handmade posters are still being produced in the digital west.

Only recently retired, Drew Struzan painted the most posters for American films in the last three decades including Back to the Future, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and the Star Wars films. James Jean, who also exhibits in art galleries, has painted the poster for the 2017 film Shape of Water, which had 13 nominations for the Oscars and won four, including one for the best picture.

Would Maula Jatt have become such a success without the blood-stained posters of Sultan Rahi? Would Neelo or Mira have looked quite so sexy? Mohammad Ali and Waheed Murad so romantic? Rani quite so tragic? Badar Munir so fierce? Hotspot and Guddu and a handful of poster enthusiasts have given poster art its due recognition, but the film industry, with the exception of Farjad Nabi and Meenu Gaur’s Zinda Bhaag, no longer commissions hand-painted posters.


Durriya Kazi is a Karachi-based artist and heads the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Karachi.

SPLENDOUR AMIDST MAGAZINES

Is there anything more satisfying than the simple act of a cover girl flipping through a hand-held magazine? Tauqeer Muhajir rediscovers the pleasure.

Atiya Khan, the cover girl of the eighties, flips through a copy of Eastern Film, one of the most popular magazines among Pakistani film buffs in the sixties. Copies of the Illustrated Weekly of Pakistan, a popular and slightly risqué magazine (it was renamed the Herald in 1970 and is published by The Dawn Media Group) can be spotted strewn around her. Atiya Khan was one of Pakistan’s first super models and graced the cover of many magazines in the late eighties. In the early nineties, she found herself behind the camera, and worked as a freelance commercial director for brands such as Servis, Rafhan and Bubble Up. Since then, Atiya Khan has endorsed several brands, including Mobilink Indigo (now Jazz) and State Life Insurance. She has directed a documentary on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, hosted television shows and acted in several dramas. - Photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star
Atiya Khan, the cover girl of the eighties, flips through a copy of Eastern Film, one of the most popular magazines among Pakistani film buffs in the sixties. Copies of the Illustrated Weekly of Pakistan, a popular and slightly risqué magazine (it was renamed the Herald in 1970 and is published by The Dawn Media Group) can be spotted strewn around her. Atiya Khan was one of Pakistan’s first super models and graced the cover of many magazines in the late eighties. In the early nineties, she found herself behind the camera, and worked as a freelance commercial director for brands such as Servis, Rafhan and Bubble Up. Since then, Atiya Khan has endorsed several brands, including Mobilink Indigo (now Jazz) and State Life Insurance. She has directed a documentary on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, hosted television shows and acted in several dramas. - Photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star

Reading magazines is one of the sedentary pursuits still considered a preference of many. Even though most of the magazines are enjoyed online, the content being more up-to-date and lively, printed magazines have a market of their own.

Their look and feel, the authenticity, accuracy and reliability of their information supersedes any other media, even today. Facts and opinions are quoted, believed and retained as records for references. Each one is like a time-capsule, with its articles and advertisements taking one back to a long-lost era and long-lost writers, whose opinions can now be evaluated in the light of what has transpired since then.

Many would argue and debate otherwise, but none can deny the impact of magazines on the advertising industry. One of the interesting aspects of a magazine on which its success is dependent, is the specific genre it represents in capturing a certain target audience. The bond with advertising is probably most evident in magazines for women, since they are the biggest and greatest buyers of consumer goods.

Women being one of the larger target audiences for magazines in Pakistan, we see more of fashion, beauty, food and household magazines surfacing since 1960. Back in the early days, only a handful of magazines existed under different genres. An entertaining and informative magazine for women called She surfaced in 1963, and its counterpart, Women’s Own in 1987. Published by Riaz Ahmed Mansuri, Women’s Own became popular and captured a fair share of advertising. Likewise, food magazines including Masala, Good Food and Dastarkhwan among others, enjoyed a large women readership and continue to do so.

On the fashion front, key publications, such as Fashion Collection (1991), Diva (2002) and Glam (2012) published by Hum Network, and the most recently-launched, international magazine Hello in 2012, have been quite successful.

Some of the well-established magazines also had an impact on social issues. The Mirror of the Month, better known as the Mirror, was a popular, Pakistani, social, monthly magazine which ran from 1951 to 1972. Its founding Editor, Zeb-un-Nissa Hamidullah, became the first woman editor in Pakistan. Her mission statement was to “foster feelings of unity and amity throughout the country.” The magazine was published at Din Muhammadi Press until the 1960s.

In October 1962, Begum Hamidullah wrote an open letter to President Ayub Khan. Titled ‘Please Mr. President!’ it expressed concern about the government’s treatment of student protests. The letter was published in the Mirror. It was an emotional statement, describing the feelings of the people, as they saw “the blood that stained the streets of Pakistan.”

She stated that owing to his authoritarian rule, she was losing her faith in him and had placed his picture upside down. In the November edition of the Mirror that year, she published his reply; a breakdown of the statements in her letter, each being justified. He concluded by saying, “I request [you] to ascertain facts before publishing highly emotional editorials.”

In 1969, before he stepped down, she republished ‘Please Mr. President!’, alongside a new editorial, ‘No, thank you, Sir’, in which she said that the problems which she talked about in ‘Please, Mr. President!’ were still very much there and that “Pakistan will continue to erupt as long as you, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, remain its President.” This editorial angered Ayub Khan, but, ironically, he took her advice in the end and abdicated in favour of General Yahya Khan.

Because of these events, the Mirror became highly controversial in the sixties. The tension between Begum Hamidullah and Ayub Khan escalated, resulting in the magazine being banned twice, and government advertisements almost completely revoked from the periodical.

In 1971, Begum Hamidullah moved to Ireland with her husband and the magazine folded the next year. Two other monthlies on current affairs that reign above the rest include The Herald, published by The Dawn Media Group in 1970 and Newsline in 1989. Both magazines are looked upon by readers as authentic, reliable, political and social content.

One of the genres to gain popularity since the beginning were the showbiz magazines.

The word ‘Lollywood’ was first coined in the summer of 1989, in the now-defunct magazine Glamour, published from Karachi by gossip columnist Saleem Nasir. The film industry in Lahore started in 1929 with the opening of the United Players’ Studios on Ravi Road. Eastern Films Magazine, a tabloid edited by Saeed Haroon, became the most popular magazine for film buffs in Pakistan. The magazine had a questions-and-answers section called ‘Yours Impishly’ which the sub-editor, Asif Noorani, took inspiration for from I.S. Johar’s page in India’s Filmfare magazine. Another such magazine, Nigar, a brainchild of Ilyas Rashidi, also known as the pioneer of film journalism, was launched as a weekly film magazine in 1948. In 1957, the Nigar Awards were instituted as an extension of Nigar.

Urdu magazines enjoyed a larger readership than their English language counterparts. Much before the formation of Pakistan, a monthly magazine by the name of Hoor was launched in Lahore in 1938, with Khaula Qureshi as the Editor.

For general reading, Urdu Digest enjoys the privilege of being Pakistan’s first digest published in 1960. Weekly Muslim World was published in 1961 and Akhbar-e-Jahan, a weekly, Urdu language news and entertainment magazine, in 1967. Anchal, a monthly magazine started publication in 1969 with Agaz-uddin Qurashi as its Editor. During the early seventies, the magazine that gained popularity was Subrang Digest, launched in 1970, followed by Pakeeza in 1971 with Mairaj Rasool as Editor. Hassan Nisar started his career as a journalist from Dhanak Magazine in 1972. In 1982, Dosheeza, positioned as a family and fictional digest, emerged from Karachi with Saham Mirza as its Editor. Other popular Urdu language magazines in Pakistan include Khawateen Digest (1971), Kiran Monthly (1988), Hina Monthly (1979) and Mussarat Digest (1982).

For kids, the most notable magazine Hamdard Naunehal, published by Hakim Said, started in 1953 and still holds a large readership. Taleem-o-Tarbiat, established in 1961, published by Ferozsons in Lahore, became another popular magazine for kids.

Magazines and newspapers flourished from the sixties to the nineties. Print advertising was the most important advertising medium, although not the only one. The other choice was posters and billboards. More promising was film advertising, which lagged behind print advertising but remained a strong choice until Radio Pakistan allowed advertising in the sixties. When TV arrived in the mid-sixties, advertising moved towards the new medium.

As we stand at the beginning of 2018, the magazine sector may not appear to be a lucrative business proposition to many, with digital printing reigning high. However, the significance of print media, its steadfastness and accuracy is undeniable. Opinion makers and leaders rely on print media and quote information published in newspapers and magazines. Print will continue to go to bed, to rise and shine every morning.


Tauqeer Muhajir is Editor and Publisher of Nigaah and Money magazines. He is also the co-author of two art books: 20 Pakistani Painters You Should Know and Six Decades Of Art In Pakistan.


The editorial content of this Dawn Special Report has been prepared in collaboration with the editorial team of Aurora, and designed by the Creative Department, Xpert Services Pvt. Ltd.


Listen to the best of Aurora here.