This is about the article published in the November-December 2018 issue of Aurora titled Pirates of the ad commercials by Sami Qahar. I would like to enlighten the readers with a few realities, which the author seems to have omitted. Although I understand his frustration about the malpractices observed in the production business, the observations are pretty much a cobweb of assumptions about “what would have happened?”, based on few dots that are visible and then connecting them; a phenomenon often mistaken for reality.
The premise of the article hovered around the assumption that production houses are making money beyond a reasonable margin and ‘becoming richer’ by throwing in a few terminologies and new locations. Yes, we are talking about a business, which has been responsible for the hike in production quality in the past decade. Whether they did it by keeping up with modern technology and at par with global standards of visual creation, or by partnering with foreign specialists to learn and bring home a trick or two in storytelling, it has added to the communication output. The times when it has not done so, is when the trend was followed blindly, for one reason or another, assuming it would work. It will work and has worked when done on the merits of the situation.
A production house such as ours that wants to build and maintain a process-oriented approach and does not cut corners on the shoots (because the satisfaction generated over the eventual result is the only way to retain clients), finds it increasingly difficult to maintain those standards – and we will never compromise on quality.
I understand the frustration, as there are many falsehoods prevalent in the both the advertising and production businesses. However, what boggles the mind the most is the carpet bombing and labelling the entire business as evil (the title of the article did not help either). This kind of stereotyping without knowing the facts is synonymous with all Pakistanis being labelled as terrorists in the past 20 years. Painful, isn’t it?
The fact is that the cost of resources we hire has gone up tremendously in the past 10 years, from directors’ fees through to the fees of cinematographers, art directors, costume stylists, make-up artists and even of the gaffers and the focus pullers. Furthermore, this is a natural hike observed in every industry. Also, the costs of equipment, locations and materials used in the set construction have gone up significantly. And at the same time, there is constant pressure to produce ads on the basis of costs we worked on 2013 or 2015. On top of this is the advent of ‘digital spends’, where the costs and margins have flattened to mere negligibles. A production house such as ours that wants to build and maintain a process-oriented approach and does not cut corners on the shoots (because the satisfaction generated over the eventual result is the only way to retain clients), finds it increasingly difficult to maintain those standards – and we will never compromise on quality.
There are entities, which are bagging exceptional margins owing to many factors, I would not want to delve into here. However, the devil should be dealt with where it lies. It is painful to see us become ‘collateral damage’ in a warfare fought on assumptions.
Lastly, there was mention of the economic divide in the advertising industry inferring that it is becoming wider as “directors and production houses are becoming richer and the content and the creativity is becoming poorer.” Shouldn’t the gap be narrowed by upping the quality of content rather than blaming the producers and the directors?
Better strategy is a product of learned brand management ranks. And quality content is an output of a creative mind. If there is some lack observed in these two, it certainly cannot be blamed on the production houses. These two are completely independent of how expensive the film will be. Sometimes, the most creative of the concepts are the cheapest to shoot.
By all means, the money the producers/directors presumably make and the quality of the content are mutually exclusive and if in some cases, there is a correlation, it would be appropriate to address it precisely on its merits instead of blaming a business that has shown potential to operate at par with the rest of the world.
Syed Faisal Hashmi is Founder, Stimulus Productions Worldwide.