Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Nov-Dec 2018

Moving out of the comfort zone

Agencies must embed technology deep into their processes and business models
In Lahore, brands such as Jazz are increasingly using DOOH.
In Lahore, brands such as Jazz are increasingly using DOOH.

The eighties and nineties were a time when sticky jingles such as Ay Khuda Merey Abu Salamat Rahein by State Life Insurance would give brands unparalleled recall and deliver the sought-after results. However, in today’s fast-paced media world, the consumer journey is no longer a linear process; in fact, it is more like a tangled web. Consumer behaviour is evolving rapidly as the media landscape keeps bringing in new platforms and consequently, the business models of the media agencies must keep up with this ever-evolving environment.

The media industry globally in general, and in Pakistan in particular, has been relatively slow to adapt to the pace of change in consumer behaviour and technological advancement. The media ecosystem firmly remains in the comfort zone of copy-pasting last year’s media approach. Currently, the mindset is to tick the boxes of conventional media rather than dive into new trends and experiment with new ways of creating impressions in the mind of the consumer. We fail to understand that ‘reach’ is no longer a scarce commodity; attention is!

In this complex media environment, it is critical that media agencies invest and harvest data to help them make media choices that are as close to the consumer journey as possible.

On average, 70% of our waking life is spent outside the home and we are connected to our smartphones during that time too. A single media approach (that too which can be ‘skipped’) can no longer sustain brand equity.

According to data from Zenith, the internet and out-of-home (OOH) are the two fastest growing mediums. The year-on-year growth between 2017 and 2018 is 11.5% for the internet and 3.1% for OOH. Total global spend for OOH in 2018 was $38 billion – 35% higher compared to 2010. Furthermore, of the top hundred OOH advertisers globally, nearly a quarter are technology brands – Apple (#2), Google (#5), Amazon (#6), Samsung (#17), Dell (#37) and Microsoft (#26).


With the recent mushrooming of digital OOH media in Pakistan, especially in Lahore, we are seeing more and more of this kind of synergy between the internet and OOH. In a recent study, Omnicom Group’s Benchmarking reported that when added to the media plan, OOH increases online search ROIs by 37%.


It may seem paradoxical that digitally-native companies are using OOH to market to their audiences, but the fact is that these tech companies look at OOH as one of the last mass-market mediums. Based on their huge consumer databases, they understand how, when and where to connect with their target customers and therefore, how to use OOH effectively.

According to a research study by Ocean Neuroscience, consumers are more likely to click on a mobile ad after having been exposed to the same ad on OOH. With the recent mushrooming of digital OOH media in Pakistan, especially in Lahore, we are seeing more and more of this kind of synergy between the internet and OOH. (For example, McDonald’s using DOOH billboards to display the current temperature in Lahore to drive sales for McFlurries or Jazz beaming live cricket scores on DOOH during the Asia Cup). In a recent study, Omnicom Group’s Benchmarking reported that when added to the media plan, OOH increases online search ROIs by 37%. Clearly, agencies need to change their approach and provide media-neutral and business relevant solutions to their clients. Let’s evaluate the specific factors media agencies need to address in order to remain relevant.

In Lahore, brands such as McDonald’s are increasingly using DOOH.
In Lahore, brands such as McDonald’s are increasingly using DOOH.

1.) Business consultant versus media buyer

Media agencies must engage with brands as business consultants and take ownership of the brand’s KPIs. They must redesign their HR systems and processes as well as align their advertising, design, technology and strategic capabilities in order to deliver great ideas as well as great business outcomes. Clients are demanding a stronger value proposition from their agencies and simple conventional media propositions are a thing of the past. Agency margins on conventional media are shrinking. However, clients are happy to invest in creative and technological ideas that will enhance their bottom-lines.

2.) Technology: an agency business enabler versus a consumer-brand connecter

Traditionally, agencies have invested in technology in order to enhance their business efficiency. Today, they must invest in technology that will help them communicate to the relevant market and impart media knowledge to brands as quickly as possible as this will help brands take timely business decisions.

3.) Conventional research versus new trends

Agencies must invest in research that contributes to developing a better understanding of consumer segments in terms of their lifestyle and media consumption habits and market trends.

4.) Comfort zone versus risk

The prevailing agency culture lacks experimentation and risk-taking. Agencies must encourage their people to bring forward bold, creative and cross-media connected marketing solutions.

To make the above factors a reality, the agency’s leadership must develop a long-term vision and embrace technology instead of avoiding it. The transformation required in agency systems, processes and business approaches will become a reality only if they initiate investment in their HR. Clients today expect their agency resources to have greater commercial awareness, a broader view of creative relevance, an informed view of global media and marketing trends, and the desire to engage in cross-media collaboration.

Bringing top talent to the agency business and retaining it is a key challenge. Agency heads must adopt a more inclusive approach with their HR in order to develop and implement their business strategy.

Ahsan Sheikh is CEO, Kinetic Pakistan.