Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

E-commerce clients will become bigger advertisers than FMCGs

Published Apr 27, 2018 01:22pm
In conversation with Fouad Husain, CEO, GroupM.
Fouad Husain (left) CEO, GroupM, and Kiran Khan (right) Chief Strategy Officer, GroupM, study the advertisements they have released on behalf of their client HBL. This series of advertisements released by GroupM were contained in 16 Special Reports of 70 Years of Pakistan & DAWN, published by The Dawn Media Group between August 19 and December 25, 2017. The Special Reports were the second instalment of The Dawn Media Group’s tribute to 70 years of Pakistan. GroupM is a leading global media investment management company for WPP media agencies, which include Mindshare, Wavemaker, Mediacom and M/six and Xaxis. The first media buying house to open in Pakistan was Pak Mediacom in 1996, followed by Mindshare in 1999. In 2008, consolidation took place under the GroupM banner and included Maxus, Media Edge and Mindshare. In Pakistan, GroupM contributes approximately a 40% share to the industry as a traditional media agency, and a 50% share as a digital agency. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)
Fouad Husain (left) CEO, GroupM, and Kiran Khan (right) Chief Strategy Officer, GroupM, study the advertisements they have released on behalf of their client HBL. This series of advertisements released by GroupM were contained in 16 Special Reports of 70 Years of Pakistan & DAWN, published by The Dawn Media Group between August 19 and December 25, 2017. The Special Reports were the second instalment of The Dawn Media Group’s tribute to 70 years of Pakistan. GroupM is a leading global media investment management company for WPP media agencies, which include Mindshare, Wavemaker, Mediacom and M/six and Xaxis. The first media buying house to open in Pakistan was Pak Mediacom in 1996, followed by Mindshare in 1999. In 2008, consolidation took place under the GroupM banner and included Maxus, Media Edge and Mindshare. In Pakistan, GroupM contributes approximately a 40% share to the industry as a traditional media agency, and a 50% share as a digital agency. (photo: Arif Mahmood/ Dawn White Star)

The entry of Mindshare Pakistan

In 1994, the media departments of J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather, both WPP advertising agencies, merged and formed Mindshare, the Group’s first global media agency network overseas. The idea behind it was to combine the media budgets of the agencies’ clients in order to negotiate better rates and maximise their brands’ visibility across media. In 1999, Mindshare came to Pakistan, prompted by Unilever (their media planning globally was handled by Mindshare).

Early days of media planning in Pakistan

Media planning was a new skill-set, which the creative agencies had not acquired. The most important thing for Mindshare was to convince clients to view media buying houses as organisations that could optimise ROI on their media budgets and bring transparency to the media buying process. Mindshare not only consolidated their clients’ business from the media buying side, they also focused on media planning to ensure that the clients’ communications objectives were met.

How media planning has changed

In 1999, there were three channels in Pakistan: PTV, PTV World and NTM (which shut down a year later). Dealing with TV then was easier; half of Unilever’s budget went to print and the other half to TV. Print was more complicated as there were more magazines and digests. Then, when the satellite channels came in, the floodgates opened. Today, there are over 80 TV channels and digital is now a primary medium. As a result, media planning has changed. For one thing, it is now called media communications management (MCM) and media buying and planning are functions within this ambit. Furthermore, the profession has become more challenging.


In Pakistan, brands must understand that they can’t just post a TVC on Facebook or Google and think they are ‘doing digital’. People are more expressive on digital; it is an interactive medium and brands have to tailor their communications accordingly.


We are functioning in a complex media environment and we have to create media plans that correlate to our clients’ communication objectives, keeping in mind which media our target audience is consuming and which geographic cluster they fall into; and finally, utilising the right media in an optimal way to communicate the brand message, all the while keeping our clients’ budgets in mind.

Media effectiveness

Mindshare is part of GroupM, which consists of two other full-service media agencies: Mac (soon to be called Mediacom) and Maxis. Mindshare has over 50 clients across most sectors and accounts for at least 40% of the media planning business in Pakistan. Measuring effectiveness on TV is relatively simple due to the Peoplemeters. As far as print is concerned, Mindshare has been advocating a national readership survey for the last 18 years but that has not happened yet. Similarly, there is no tracking tool for radio, which is why these media have been adversely impacted by TV and digital, both of which can be tracked.

Mundane TV entertainment

Entertainment channels should reflect what their audiences want to see and not what they think audiences want to see. People say they want to see women crying and beaten; that’s wrong. This trend began after saas bahu dramas began to air on Star Plus. Ask any channel if they conduct formal research regularly, and the chances are they don’t. The plays PTV made in the early eighties were far superior in quality.


E-commerce clients will start to become significant advertisers on traditional media in the same way the telecom sector did several years ago.


Today, you have actors who have become directors and producers and their production houses are aligned with one channel or another, which is why programming has become stale and mundane. Abroad, channels outsource a lot of their entertainment programming.

Digital: a rising star

Digital will account for at least 20 to 25% of the total media budget in the next five years and TV will lose out. Within a year of its launch, the revenue of YouTube in Pakistan exceeded that of the major entertainment channels because so many people are watching content on Youtube (this may also include programming of local entertainment channels). What will also happen in the next five years is that e-commerce clients will become bigger advertisers than FMCGs like in India, where Amazon is at par with Unilever. Mindshare’s digital wing opened three years ago and it is the largest digital agency in Pakistan in terms of billing. Digital accounts for six to seven percent of the overall media billing which is very low; in countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, ad spend on digital has reached 12 to 13%, and they are aiming to increase it to 15 to 18%. In Pakistan, brands must understand that they can’t just post a TVC on Facebook or Google and think they are ‘doing digital’. People are more expressive on digital; it is an interactive medium and brands have to tailor their communications accordingly.

E-commerce proliferates

When Foodpanda came to Pakistan, not many people thought it would work, as most restaurants had a delivery service. Yet, they made it. Amazon wants to come to Pakistan, as do Alibaba and Travago. Similarly, Careem is a phenomenon in Pakistan. The key to their success is the simplicity behind their idea, which is missing in a lot of businesses in Pakistan. A great deal of work needs to be done to simplify and make things easy for consumers. Due to increasing internet penetration, e-commerce is worth an estimated $200 million in Pakistan. We have 45 to 50 million smartphone users but from a service perspective, we have not been able to tap into this audience because most transactions require cash on delivery. We have not been able to break those paradigms. To succeed, we have to make things more convenient for consumers, as well as change the way we think. E-commerce clients will start to become significant advertisers on traditional media in the same way the telecom sector did several years ago.

Fouad Husain was interviewed by Mamun M. Adil, a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. mamun.adil@gmail.com

First published in THE DAWN OF ADVERTISING IN PAKISTAN (1947-2017), a Special Report published by DAWN on March 31, 2018.