Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Living the advertising adventure

Published in Nov-Dec 2015
Nida Haider, Head of Brand Strategy at IAL Saatchi & Saatchi, in profile.

In countless novels and films, when a protagonist is faced with the knowledge that they only have one night left on earth, they tend to reflect on how they have spent their days on earth, or ponder over the ‘deeper’ aspects of life, such as its meaning.

Not so for Nida Fatima Haider, Head of Brand Strategy at IAL Saatchi & Saatchi. Last year, following her honeymoon abroad, she fell seriously ill on her return to Pakistan, causing her doctors to contemplate the possibility of her not making it.

“I would love to say that I had several deep thoughts, but I can’t. I certainly didn’t think that I should have worked less. I remember wishing that I hadn’t wasted so much time dieting. I also told my husband that I wouldn’t haunt him, and that he should remarry after I died, although I probably would have haunted him,” she says as she breaks into laughter, her large, expressive eyes sparkling.

This response tells me a lot about Nida. Namely, that she loves her work, that she is a foodie and has a flair for the dramatic; she admits to these assumptions readily as our conversation progresses. Perhaps subconsciously, she unveils other aspects of her personality that are rather likable; she does not take herself too seriously and is very comfortable in her shoes. More importantly, she has a terrific sense of humour which enables her to make light of even the direst of situations.

The daughter of the late Naseer Haider (who initially worked in client services at IAL when it was PIA’s in-house agency and then bought the company from PIA and privatised it in 1999) and Ruby Haider (currently the agency’s CEO), Nida, unlike her siblings always wanted to work in advertising.

“It’s something I grew up with and always thought of it as a beautiful profession,” she says simply. She recalls that her earliest memories include being at IAL with her father who was her “mentor and inspiration” – and the fragrance of freshly inked ads, and plenty of cigarette smoke.


The daughter of the late Naseer Haider (who initially worked in client services at IAL when it was PIA’s in-house agency and then bought the company from PIA and privatised it in 1999) and Ruby Haider (currently the agency’s CEO), Nida, unlike her siblings always wanted to work in advertising.


Surprisingly, her parents never pushed her into advertising. In fact, her father suggested that she pursue a career in economics “because all young girls should study it.” Instead, she chose to study English Literature at Bennington College in Vermont because she “had fallen in love with the written word.”

“When I looked at Bennington’s catalogue, it was a world of verdant pastures, teachers sitting under trees, snow... there was a romance to it and I realised that I wanted to go there. When I arrived in New York after graduating (because I really wanted to work on Madison Avenue) I was a certified hippie.”

Her first job was that of Traffic Manager at Sudler & Hennessey in New York, the pharmaceutical arm of Young & Rubicam.

“My life became fact checking binders for FDA approvals; if I got a decimal point out of place, I may have killed someone, or if I missed out on a side effect, we could have been sued.”

After spending three years there, she joined Pickett Advertising (now Baker Street Advertising) in San Francisco as Account Supervisor, and left four years later as Account Director, after working on brands that included Longs Drugs and the Oakland Rangers.

Her next stop was Goodby, Silverstein and Partners and she has some wonderful memories of this stint.

“Rudy Wilson (VP, Frito Lays) told us that he didn’t want Doritos to be a product anymore… he wanted to create brand value and loyalty by making Doritos a production company called Snack Strong Productions.”

His reasons were that the brand’s target audience, the ‘hyper lifers’ (16-20 year olds), spent the majority of their time on gaming devices or listening to music, and were not inclined to pay attention to conventional advertising. It was this insight that led to the ‘Let’s Crash the Super Bowl’ campaign.

“Our brief to hyper lifers was: create an ad for us and we will air it. ‘Live the Flavor’, the winner, was the first consumer generated ad ever to air during the Super Bowl and ranked number four on the USA Today Ad Meter. This was huge.”

The following year, consumers were asked to enter their music videos; this time, the winner made it to the top spot of the Ad Meter.

Despite a successful career in the US, Nida decided to move to Pakistan to join IAL; the decision was partly influenced by “a familiar itch for adventure”.

“I was craving a new challenge. I didn’t want to just return as the ‘daughter of the CEO’ in an unidentified capacity. So in late 2009, when I was asked to come back and help develop the strategy department at IAL, which was in its nascent stage, I jumped.”

The move was anything but easy.

“The core basis of strategy entails understanding your target audience and this was a major challenge as I hadn’t lived in Pakistan. I had to prove myself to my colleagues; I did not want them to think that I felt entitled because of who my mother was, and checked in my ego at the door.”


“I love pressure. I am a workaholic and an impatient perfectionist; being bored is the worst thing that can happen to me.”


To understand her target audience, Nida was part of several teams who conducted in-depth research throughout Pakistan, going to places such as the Thar Desert, where she made tea with the women there. She also interviewed doodhwalas across Karachi and conversed with butchers under carcasses.

What helped her perhaps are her people skills, as she clearly has a personality that is both charming and personable; she admits to having an intrinsic curiosity about people.

She exhibits this when she says:

“I love talking to people, listening to their stories and trying to understand what makes them tick.”

When I ask her what makes her tick, she eventually says, “Stress; I love pressure. I am a workaholic and an impatient perfectionist; being bored is the worst thing that can happen to me.”

When she is not working, Nida loves to travel; she has been to many countries, from Machu Pichu in Peru to an island off the coast of Honduras where she swam with dolphins. Travelling helped her discover yet another passion – food, although she says that while she is not a connoisseur, she loves trying out different cuisines.

As for juggling work and personal lives well, she admits that shop talk does seep into conversations with her husband, Azam Jalal Khan who is the COO of Digitz, but she doesn’t mind this; in fact, she points out that this is “history repeating itself,” since her dinner conversations with her husband are reminiscent of those of her youth.

“We discuss ads, like my parents did, or how I did with my father; we do bring the workplace home but it feels like what home should be like because that is what home was to me, and I identify with it.”

This is not surprising. After all, what comes across is that Nida has a zest for life in all its aspects, be it work, family, travel or food; these passions are not necessarily separated and tend to overlap, and that is clearly the way she likes it. Perhaps that is the secret of her success.

Mamun M. Adil is Manager, Business Development and Research, DAWN. mamun.adil@gmail.com