Published in Nov-Dec 2019
In September, Aurora published a blog about a Facebook page called Khalid Alvi Marketing Next (KAMN), written by one of its founding members. The article gave the administrator’s perspective and ‘sort of’ answered some of the criticism levelled at KAMN. I said ‘sort of’ because it appeared more of a take it or leave it response. Reading the blog, I couldn’t help thinking that pages such as KAMN have a responsibility towards their audiences. I have used the word responsibility which differs from accountability.
Of course, the administrators of KAMN are not answerable to anyone; however, a page that boasts an audience of 44,000 members needs to be the voice of the community, not just another Facebook page that posts ads with a caption stating just the word ‘thoughts’.
Let’s take a step back and look at what Pakistan’s Facebook audiences have to offer the marketing and advertising communities. KAMN, which started eight years ago, is undoubtedly the leading community for marketing professionals. Communities such as Advertising Pakistan have a higher fan base (double that of KAMN) but they do not match the quality of KAMN’s audience. Then, there are magazines such as Aurora and Brandsynario that run their own Facebook pages. I too started a Facebook community two years ago aimed at students and called it Marketing Phir Say (MPS), which currently has a little over 12,000 followers. There are also communication agency managed pages, such as Kinetic Pakistan and Brand Act, which surprisingly have a huge fan base. Last but not the least, there is Ad Mad Dude (AMD), the notorious unwanted rebel of the ad industry of Pakistan.
First and foremost, we must appreciate the people behind these pages. Even if they are monetising the pages, at least some content on, and views about, the local marketing industry is available. The problem with these pages is the limitation of original content. I will start with my own page. When we started, we had eight videos on multiple topics, ranging from research, branded songs, celebrity endorsements and so on. There was a rapid fire section and a special episode about Coke Studio with the Coke marketing team as guests. Those videos gave us our initial traction and audiences started building up.
However, due to the time and geographical limitations of the co-founders, we were unable to create more original content and fell into the trap of sharing ads. In 2018, we had an Independence Day campaign review and we tried to bring in more reviews rather than just post ads. KAMN too has minimal original content. It has been over a year since there was an interview with Khalid Alvi, (the man who gave the group its name) was posted. The other groups mentioned above have zero original content. AMD is a reviewer of content and is popular among the younger crowd due to its candid (read: abrasive and profanity led) tone. AMD at times articulates what other people are feeling but cannot say, because… well… he can. The drawback again is the lack of original content.
The other problem with these pages (including MPS) is that we review and critique what comes out on the media, but no one comes up with solutions. KAMN is 90% criticism of campaign, AMD blasts the ads, yet the new campaigns that keep rolling out have the same standard, effectively meaning that these reviews are not working. While MPS and AMD have young audience, KAMN claims to have the top brains of Pakistan’s marketing community (the decision makers) contributing. Yet, these same people develop new campaigns with the same flaws highlighted on the forum.
These communities take themselves too seriously. For example, in the blog mentioned above about KAMN, there was mention of an incident when Qashif Effendi, CEO, Reem Rice, came forward to defend his campaign. This means that recognition matters to the group founders. In the Independence Day campaign review on MPS, the winner was Strepsils’ Acappella campaign. RB’s management, including their CEO and brand and the agency teams, shared our review, after which we began to start taking ourselves very seriously without realising that all the other campaigns reviewed, including Super Hai Junoon, Total Parco, Ufone and others did not take any of it seriously. The Coke Studio episode featured guests from Coke giving their perspective whereas Pepsi refused to comment on the success or failure of Coke Studio.
As an advertiser, I have asked this question of myself: does it matter to me what is posted about my campaigns on those pages? My answer and that of many of my close associates in the marketing business is “absolutely not”. This is similar to film reviews. An IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes rating and box office success are independent of each other. What matters to the producers is the amount of money the film makes. Similarly, what matters to brands is the impact of the campaign on the KPIs set, which are for the target audience, not the marketing community on these pages (unless your campaign is targeted at the marketing community). As advertisers we are in the business of selling our product and services, not ad campaigns. These reviews matter to the people in the business of selling ad campaigns i.e. the creative agencies.
As a founder of one of these communities, I believe there is a need to relook at what we want these communities to be. Do we want to create platforms for anyone and everyone to give their half baked, at times uneducated, opinion? Do we want to be seen as experts who know everything about marketing and advertising without even reading the creative brief, target audience and the brand challenges of a particular campaign? Do we just want to post new ads, get the views and move on? Do we want to have fun and use abusive language and be popular with younger audiences? Or do we want these forums to be meaningful and give something back to their members?
There is nothing wrong in any of the choices above. All can coexist as the objectives of the community. However, if it is a question of giving something meaningful to members, then we need to start thinking in terms of solutions. If an ad campaign is found to be wanting, let us discuss what could have been done to improve it. Simultaneously, there is a need for more collaboration between the leading marketing forums in order to establish on-ground activities such as marketing events and workshops for students and young marketers. With all the expertise available on these forums, the younger generation should be learning a lot more, so that when they in turn become the decision makers for future campaigns, they don’t have to face the humiliation of being thrashed by an Ad Mad Dude or being ripped to pieces on KAMN.
Sami Qahar is Marketing Director, Haleeb Foods.