Qadeer M. Khan, or Khan sahab as many knew him as, was born in Quetta in 1934, the son of an army contractor. He moved to Karachi in 1955 and began working for Malaney & Company. In those days advertising in Pakistan was limited to print and billboards. Radio spots were almost unheard of and the composing was done manually or on antiquated typewriters (typesetting was a much sought after skill) before the material was sent to the press.
Over the next seven years, Khan sahab worked at a number of agencies, including Khairi Advertising, G.H. Thaver and Nadeem Advertising – where he would do just about everything from billing collection to creative work. His aptitude in servicing clients along with his copywriting skills attracted major clients such as Habib Bank.
However, Khan sahab was a man of independent thought and he soon realised that if advertising was to be done in the right way, he would have to take matters into his own hands. As a result, he founded Marksman Advertising in 1962, and the fact that his agency has now outlived some of its then contemporaries can largely be attributed to Khan sahab’s dedication to his profession.
I first met Khan sahab in 1974 as a 19-year-old seeking a job in Karachi. After asking about my qualifications and letting me know that I was to do just about everything in his agency he gave me a chance to work at Marksman, and it was there that I learnt much from him about the practical side of the advertising business as this was the period that the agency began to rise.
Khan sahab taught by example; not mere words. It was as if advertising was in his spirit. It is safe to say that all of us at Marksman have learnt most of what we know about advertising from him. In fact, we would tell our juniors that if they wanted to learn about advertising, they should work besides Khan sahab.
He conducted his business honestly and made all his payments well ahead of time, although it was common practice for agencies to withhold payments right until the due date. Instead he would say: “Give the money to the media people. It belongs to them!”
As a result, Marksman was known in the industry for its timely payments and Khan sahab was much respected for the staunchness of his ethics.
Client servicing was another one of Khan sahab’s fortes. He would always listen to his clients and was ever ready to solve their problems. He treated every client equally.
He would demonstrate immense patience in the face of stubborn clients. I recall having got into an argument with a client who was not pleased with my attempts to correct his address while he was dictating it to me over the phone. Khan sahab looked at me and gestured that I should remain silent. Later he advised me not to argue with clients. “It is useless. You can make the necessary correction later.”
This ability to listen, as well as his honesty won him the loyalty of many clients. To this day, no client has left Marksman Advertising because of a complaint or grievance.
The campaign for Shafiq Sons, a well known upholstery store in the 1970s can be counted among his memorable ones. Their shop number was 101 and I remember Khan sahab coming up with the tagline ‘Dukan 101, pardey ek se ek.’ Coincidently, Marksman also had a consumer product named 101 Soap. The campaign for 101 Soap was aired on PTV’s primetime news ad slot. The campaign became memorable for its catchy jingle “Abu bhi kahen acha, ammi ji kahen acha, hummay bhi laga bara pyara, sabun 101 nyara.”
Khan sahab’s dedication to his work was unmatched. He would wake up early in the morning to review the different newspapers, carefully looking at our ads to check if everything was alright, as well as noting what the competition was up to.
He had a keen eye for emerging trends. This included the growth of radio and TV as advertising mediums. He also spotted the emerging construction boom in the 1970s and 1980s and Marksman Advertising was to become the leading agency for construction clients.
He was involved in all activities, whether it was a meeting, copy editing or an administrative matter. Age or illness never deterred him; neither did requests from colleagues and relatives to stay away from the office. In fact he was in the office two weeks before he passed away.
This dedication to the advertising profession won Khan sahab two Pioneer of Advertising Awards from the Pakistan Advertising Association in 1987 and 2004. It was his leadership qualities and his trust in us that led us over the years to feel a degree of ownership for Marksman Advertising. He treated us like family and as a result we never regarded work as a job or as a function of an employer-employee relationship.
Khan sahab had a multidimensional personality. His attitude towards life was always positive. A family man and a good friend, he was very caring of his close relatives and friends, always ready to extend his support in times of need.
Khan sahab’s legacy is one of honesty, dedication, friendship, learning and tenacity. He began his career at a time when advertising in Pakistan was embryonic. The fact that under his leadership Marksman Advertising navigated all the changes that the advertising industry has witnessed is a testament to this legacy. He was indeed a pioneer of Pakistani advertising.
Iqbal Azad Syed is Executive Director, Marksman Advertising. firstname.lastname@example.org