Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Nov-Dec 2017

The life and times of an ad child

Looking back with wonder...

As a third generation advertising professional, I was raised tri-lingual: fluent in English, Urdu and Advertising!

Growing up, I often didn’t realise I had absorbed knowledge that was not necessarily ‘common’... seemingly through osmosis... until words spewed from my mouth that strangely appeared to be disconnected from my conscious brain!

And it often still happens!

Today... two media and communication degrees... and almost 15 years after my childhood ‘playground’ became my professional world... I have the privilege of looking back at seven decades of our industry... an industry, which for me, has always been at the cusp of the creative and corporate worlds... bringing together a rich diversity of content that has become enmeshed into our popular culture.

It is difficult for me to view the journey of our industry from any other perspective than that of an ‘insider’, witnessing its evolution with a bit of old-soul nostalgia and hopeful excitement. A journey that has often blurred the boundaries between my own personal past and that of the industry.

I can see the industry’s change and evolution mirrored in dinner-table conversations...

Take communication: As a young child, I remember talk about sending telexes and faxes… and yes, even snail mail! Today, we talk about emails, Cloud, uploads and downloads. Or even the concept of meetings: discussions about impending meetings seemed so very serious to the impressionable ears of a young child... now, they are akin to breathing and no longer even require actual ‘physical presence’... often held over con-calls, WhatsApp calls and Skype sessions!

And in the way we work...

Strange as it may seem to the Millennials working in the industry today... I can actually remember a time, not that very prehistoric, when we didn’t have our own desktops... let alone laptops... or personal work email accounts... there were computer rooms and a centralised agency email account! When documents were typed on a typewriter... and later on a centralised computer! When layouts couldn’t be WhatsApped and cell phones were yet to become our ‘sixth sense’! I may have chosen to... or actually have forgotten those days, but what is undeniable is that the industry has morphed and evolved over the last 70 years and the stories and ‘playground’ experiences of my childhood are not the reality of my present. The truth is, changes began to move in rather swiftly in the era when I began working! I wasn’t working for long before I got a desktop and a work email account... and the added responsibility of having to type up my own meeting minutes!


Consumers have also become ‘less easily influenced’ by advertising with access to information at their fingertips and a heightened awareness of global trends they question, think and analyse... you can’t talk ‘at’ them... you need to converse and rationalise ‘with’ them.


This was just the beginning... if I view myself as today... I can still see the past as yesterday and the future as tomorrow... looking back gives me a nostalgic sense of what was... and looking forward brings its own excitement!

I have seen us grow from no-digital to always-on!

I grew up hearing stories about creating advertising for radio, print and cinema…TV came much later. My reality was very much about TV and quickly moved to multichannel digital communication!

As an intern, a mere couple of years before I started working, I was trained to proofread actual, physical packaging on what was known as overlay sheets... when I joined as a newbie, I wrote copy on my very own desktop. Today, I write tweets on my cell phone!

As a child meandering through the halls of my agency ‘playground’, I saw towers of film cans and U-Matics taller than I was! As a young account manager, and later agency producer, I sent out betas and DVDS/CDs. Today, it’s a link uploaded into cyberspace!

And in the way what we create is experienced...

Transitioning from human-driven to technology-driven, I feel technology has impacted our industry and its communication in the same way the industrial revolution impacted artisanal producers... crafted to manufactured... personal to less-so!


Life in the ad world will evolve at the same pace and rate as we evolve... certain aspects and skills have and will continue to become obsolete... new skills and aspects will be added to our professional vocabulary... because that’s the nature of life itself, and we as an industry, cannot separate ourselves from it!


The way media is consumed and the way consumers experience… and want to experience media has also evolved... they are much more aware and exposed to the world around them… with so much more messaging surrounding them in a world that is fast-paced and trend-driven! I remember growing up always feeling that the media and advertising was used by advertisers to ‘educate’ consumers... my briefs as a young ad professional were to involve consumers and inspire them... today, it’s all about empowerment and a deeper sense of ‘engagement’.

Consumers have also become ‘less easily influenced’ by advertising with access to information at their fingertips and a heightened awareness of global trends they question, think and analyse... you can’t talk ‘at’ them... you need to converse and rationalise ‘with’ them. When I first started attending research meetings, I found myself often surprised by the changing level of conversations within focus groups... moving from quieter, one-sided discussions to involved and passionate debates!

And the industry is changing yet again... it seems the world wants some of its ‘personalisation’ back... but within the realm of today’s technologically-advanced world! There was a time, not long ago, when everything seemed very ‘mainstream’... consumers wanted what was popular...TV was the medium of choice and we as an industry happily complied!

As a child I remember everyone watching the nine o’clock evening news and the advertising that centred around it... when I started working, discussions had moved on to figuring out what consumers were watching and how to insert a communication in the midst...

The advent of social media and fragmentation of consumer’s media consumption habits mean that there has been a shift in the balance of power… they don’t want to be interrupted and want to have a platform to voice their opinions at the touch of a keypad! So we are now beginning to converse with consumers on a more personal level in ways that are less intrusive and more engaging… because switching us off is now within their power!

Life in the ad world will evolve at the same pace and rate as we evolve... certain aspects and skills have and will continue to become obsolete... new skills and aspects will be added to our professional vocabulary... because that’s the nature of life itself, and we as an industry, cannot separate ourselves from it!

Amber Rauf is Director Strategic Planning and Corporate Communication, MullenLowe Rauf. amber.rauf@mullenlowerauf.com