Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Nothing is perfect

Published in May-Jun 2016

The Executive Creative Director of JWT on the science, art, and the magic of advertising.
Photo: Abid Saleem.
Photo: Abid Saleem.

Well, my mornings are less than perfect... they are more like Jami’s version of mornings rather than those of Asim Raza’s and nothing is perfect.

No silken robes or flying pigeons. It is usually (in fact, always) chaotic as I am always late.

Unlike my amazing contemporaries Atiya Zaidi and Zehra Zaidi, I don’t even have kids to drop off to school, nor am I like the learned Rashna Abdi, who begins her morning with a cup of tea and a newspaper.

I am just plain late; no reasons. Just late, every day. In my defence, I want to add that I set my alarm for 7:00 a.m., but then every morning at seven sharp, I question why do I need this job? Maybe I am a Sufi? I am sure I can live somewhere in the jungle with no alarms, etc... but even Sufis have to pay bills.

Coming back to my late mornings that usually turn into early afternoons, I get up and browse through my wardrobe, deciding what to wear... which should be an easy task, but no, it’s not. We are in a jo dikhta hai woh bikta hai profession and at no point in my life have I ever been inspired by a social worker. Extremely dapper gentlemen have always surrounded me, from my father to Imtisal Abbasi to Asim Raza. From Imtisal’s Pinterest worthy pocket squares to Asim’s well tailored shirts and abba’s shiny shoes, I have a wardrobe to match. So deciding what to wear usually takes a long time. So by the time I am ready to face the world I am late, and the only man who can save me from yet another late is my driver, Mir Hasan, who has the colossal task of flying me to work.

The music in my car is deep and classic from Chitti hain kalayaan to Patakha guddi.

I prefer music that connects with the body rather than the soul. It also has to be a mutual decision between the man behind the steering wheel and myself. The ride is long and uninspiring, almost like most of my ads. I see beige, brown, more beige and ugly grey from the architecture to our skin colour. As much as I love Karachi, I always fail to understand why this city needs the public display of hakeems fixing erectile dysfunction or maulvis highlighting who is a kafir and who is not. Let Qandeel Baloch decide and manage both on Facebook. So coming back to my ride, I see burqas holding on tight, replica lawn clad khusras wearing tight and sleavage (Google it) and aunties who should not be wearing tight fitting clothes. I find my way to Dolmen Mall (my office is above) the only place where it is kosher for girls to wear western clothes and for the Hyderabadi crowd to feel like they are in Dubai and where NEXT, which sells clothes that are five seasons old, still gets customers.

My entry at work is mostly well received by the receptionist who makes sure to greet me with a loud ‘good afternoon’. The view is always amazing, I love the sea; it is as if Karachi is open to people from all walks of life, cast, colour, orientation and religion. The unpredictable waves allow one to play, piss or party. Sea View has been a dating field for many decades, be it for the conservative ‘let’s only hold hands’ or ‘blame the camel ride if I touch you accidentally’ types. Bottom line, I love them all and what is not to love about Sea View?

Shifting the focus to my job, let me say this to every creative loud and clear. We have the best job in the world. Why? Because we shape people’s thinking, we change behaviour patterns. It is people like us who convinced my mother to switch from khullay masalay to packaged. We have convinced a kid living in the narrow streets of Jhang that Commander Safeguard is a saviour, fighting against germs and we have definitely swayed Bano from Bihar Colony that zarra sa LUX is the ultimate beauty potion. Isn’t that amazing?

"Like Sea View, advertising should be open to everyone and work for everyone; the very smart, the very desi and the very tharki as well."

For me this is one of the greatest superpowers anyone can ask for in the modern world. We shape, manoeuvre, nurture, mould, excite and change the thinking of the common man and then etch in whatever we want.

As much as social media hates our countless hours of hard work by labelling it as ‘just another song and dance routine’ or ‘the same old testimonial,’ the next time they comment ask them to execute one. It is people like us who highlight the importance of polio vaccines and why two kids are better than three or why it’s not only a woman’s job to make tea or do the laundry and who have democratised a cellular network and empowered the farmers in Arifwala. That is the magic of advertising. Like Sea View, advertising should be open to everyone and work for everyone; the very smart, the very desi and the very tharki as well. We might fail, slip and be off brief, mediocre, not like India, not as smart as India... but we all are trying. Each one of us, from Zohra Yusuf to Kiran Murad, from Mahrukh Shaikh to Madeeha Noor, are trying to do something new and different every day.

"A wise man once told me that “creatives are like butterflies – they don’t fight; they flutter and mesmerise.” This statement is the only one I have in my book 'From Hyderi to Hyperstar' – should I ever write it."

I, on the other hand, am trying very hard to be less mediocre and it is difficult because it is mostly mediocre and safe ideas that get the stamp of approval from the client, who at the end of the day pays for them. If the work is not approved it will never see the light of day and never be validated. So keeping a balance between art and commerce is what I am learning to do. One also has to convince clients that taking risks can be rewarding, both financially and emotionally. That is why it is very important for creatives to be great sales people. Sell your idea like a geisha, maintain eye contact, believe in your work, be convincing, own the boardroom and never lose your cool. A wise man once told me that “creatives are like butterflies – they don’t fight; they flutter and mesmerise.” This statement is the only one I have in my book From Hyderi to Hyperstar – should I ever write it.

Every day I ask myself why can’t I think smarter and sharper, despite the fact that I have had my fair share of Horlicks as a kid. Why can’t I think like Ali Rez? That is when I realise that if you are not good at something you hire people who are smarter and better than you. My friend Nabila once said something wise – if you are not happy with something, fix it. If you are not happy with your boobs, get bigger ones. Not happy with your skin, change it. Not happy with the work, learn new things and fix it because no one else will do it for you.

With this profound thought I end my day and this article. All the names mentioned are real people; I don’t know most of them personally but I have huge respect for them. If you guys are reading this, do drop me a line. Aurora should serve a purpose. As the only publication for us in the profession, it has a bigger role to play than asking random people like myself to write about a day in my life.


Yawar Iqbal is Executive Creative Director, JWT.