Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The ride of your life

Published in May-Jun 2012

A day in the life of Regional Director Strategic Planning, Pirana Advertising.

I am a dreamer at heart. For me life and work must be rich and colourful. I refuse to sacrifice my life in the name of my advertising duties. I have to spend time with my family and friends and I value my passions.

If I wasn’t an ad man, I would be a professional pool player or a successful high audio salesman. The day advertising stops surprising me is the day I leave it in a heartbeat.

My typical day starts off early with a jog. I need to stay fit as I cannot stand the thought of becoming a fat, lumbering slob.

If you catch a crazy person running on Sea View in the morning, that would be me.

I travel a lot, so I must have access to a gym wherever I travel, be it Lahore, Dhaka, Dubai, Kabul, Johannesburg or anywhere else. That is when I do my best thinking, when complex puzzles present themselves as simple, coherent solutions.

Then comes the insane rush to make it to the office on time. I do not follow a stereotypical male regimen of reading the morning paper in the bathroom and meticulously preparing myself for work. Early morning is the worst time of the day to hold a conversation with me, as my closest friends know all too well.

I step into the office. By now I have transformed myself into a measured, red-eyed, no-nonsense taskmaster. I set clear milestones which must be achieved by the end of the day.

I like discipline and efficiency at the workplace and do not appreciate pointless conversation.

A morning meeting is held at the Pirana Karachi office, a netizen meet-up plan is discussed at the Mera Passion Pakistan office (a social enterprise), a Skype call is held with the Pirana Dubai team, a research study is kicked off in Saudi Arabia, a nervous client is pacified. Hopefully, by the end of the first half, everybody knows what has to be done for the rest of the day.

####Live your life to the fullest and watch it reflect positively on your work. Quit hanging on to the handrails... let go. Surrender.

Then comes lunchtime, I let my guard down a bit. My enthusiastic colleagues reveal themselves as expert political analysts with the television tuned to a political debate-a-thon. Conspiracy theories galore! I play referee as opposing sides try their best to convince the other side about their perspective, which never really happens.

By early afternoon, it is time for me to put some blood and sweat into my digital persona.

I somehow fall into the category of a ‘digital immigrant’ which is not quite the same as a ‘digital native’. A digital native is basically a teenager who was born into a virtual digital world and who views 30-somethings like me as slow moving, slow talking dinosaurs. A status I will never accept!

I pick the brains of our resident digital guru to stay abreast of today’s trends (literally, as things change every day). I spend serious time on Pinterest which is the fastest growing social media network to build my own ‘worldwide unique content’ as I must be one up on the ‘natives’ nipping at my heels.

It is late afternoon and I am contemplating game changing initiatives for my clients and for Pirana’s business partners. Every game changer starts with a thought and thinking big doesn’t cost a penny. I present my idea for a new e-commerce portal to the digital team. I suggest a regional expansion strategy to one of my Dubai-based clients. I don’t get disheartened if several of my fledgling ideas are shot down; all it takes is one to make it big and I get to change or at least impact the world!

By now my friends outside work are busy making plans for the weekend. We are all connected via BBM. Planning the perfect weekend is a matter of life and death for us. The chatter is non-stop, I strategically interject every now and again when I see things going amiss.

I take time out to chat with the youngsters in the team. I crack a few jokes and suggest a few tips to handle their clients better.

I spend some time grooming my young planner, challenging her at every step in order to turn her into a star.

A client’s panic call reaches the CEO. The client is not happy about the last submission from the agency and we must find a solution quickly. We huddle together as I suggest a solution and offer to join the meeting with the client the next morning. I assure the young team it is going to be okay and that challenges are a part of the learning process.

It is now late evening. Work never ends and neither will my day until I make it end. I quietly sneak out of the office. Back home, I enter my living room and spin a bit of retro on my record player. Some people collect paintings, some people collect figurines, I collect music, lots of it. Today I have had the better of my wife who sits and listens to my music instead of making me watch some convoluted reality or cooking show on the boob tube.

It is 10 o’clock and I still have a final strategy document that must go by close of business, which loosely translates as midnight. Got to keep those strategic juices flowing as clients expectations only go up. There is no letting the client down.

Note to advertising people

I have watched many ad men and women sacrifice themselves in the name of the profession. It is demanding. Deadlines can drive you up the wall. However, ask yourselves what it is all about in the end. For me it is about inspiration, and this is exactly what your clients will look for in you. If you are working hard, make sure to play even harder. Live your life to the fullest and watch it reflect positively on your work. Quit hanging on to the handrails... let go. Surrender. Go for the ride of your life. Do it every day.

Afzal Hussain is Regional Director Strategic Planning, Pirana Advertising.