It’s the second day of AdAsia and it is supposed to begin at 9:30 a.m. We’re at the venue. On time. As are the foreign delegates and speakers. An hour passes. Very slowly. The hall is barely filled. (Why are Pakistanis never on time?)
Finally, at around quarter to eleven, the event begins. As it turns out, several of the speakers scheduled for today have not been able to make it for reasons unknown. However, as the day progresses, there are more speakers than the day before and although some are not as engaging as those who were present yesterday, there are several segments which are engrossing – even entertaining.(More details in our January-February issue – you’ll just have to wait.)
Beauty and the brand
The first session is on Imperfect Beauty (probably the best) led by Tay Guan Hin, Founder, TGH Collective. Hin who has a slight cleft on his lip, begins by asking the audience whether they think he is attractive. Most of the audience raise their hands and he responds with: “Sorry to disappoint you, but I am married.”
His presentation centres on how imperfections make people perfect. To illustrate his point, he showcases several ads that celebrate imperfection. “It’s the imperfections that make things beautiful,” – he says, quoting American author Jenny Han and adds: “Imperfect stories can bring beauty to your brand.” In Han’s view, when brands feature people who are imperfect, consumers find beauty in them, (all the more important in this digital era when people have low attention spans), making this an effective way to connect with people.
Hin captures the audience’s attention throughout his presentation, causing some to even to tear up slightly. His father was a successful doctor, while he was “successful at being unsuccessful”; he hated studying and had self-esteem issues due to a cleft lip. “It didn’t help when I was at school in Singapore. People called me clam mouth and I felt imperfect; I didn’t start dating until my twenties.” The girl he was dating told him that she loved a teddy bear.
Building on this idea of imperfection, Hin showcased several campaigns that used imperfect people. They included Volvo hiring car crash survivors to sell cars and another where Pepsi and Burger King used people who had been rejected by McDonald’s because they didn’t like the way they looked (#nowyouchoose). Another campaign was by Ten Cent China which asked people to take photos using an app that would create a photo of them with a cleft lip. The photos were shared by over 70,000 people and raised enough money to enable 60 children to receive facial reconstruction surgeries.
Battle of the Markhors
Due to the fact that a speaker was unable to make it, a conversation between Faraz Maqsood Hamidi and Shahzad Nawaz was substituted. Sarmad Ali introduced them as two of Pakistan’s most creative minds – “Mad Men,” he called them. It apparently turned out to be the first time they had met for such a long duration of time. Their conversation began with the Markhor Hamidi had used as part of PIA’s branding. Nawaz had done the same when creating communication for ISPR.
Maqsood asked Nawaz: “How did you come up with my inspiration before I did?”
Nawaz responded: “I felt ISI must have an identity and the idea of a Markhor came because it is Pakistan’s national animal.”
He added: “I breathe Pakistan in a different way; in a social media post I said that “Eating RAW is an instinct [for a Markhor].” He received a round of applause for this statement.
As Nawaz asked most of the questions, he remarked that: “backstage, we agreed we would both ask each other questions - at this point it looks like I am interviewing you.” Hamidi response was the time had come to let the audience ask the questions, but not before asking Nawaz the rationale behind using a peacock as the centre piece of AdAsia 2019’s communications. Nawaz explained that this was part of the brief he received (read ‘Anatomy of a logo’ in this month’s Aurora for details) from the PAA, adding he did not bathe for three days until all the design work for AdAsia was completed.
After that, Hamidi asked the audience to pose questions and although most received satisfactory answers, there was one exception. An audience member (whose English pronunciation may perhaps have not been quite up to Nawaz’s mark), stated he had been a designer and an advertising practitioner for decades and he was happy to be at AdAsia. He received a round of applause; however, Nawaz responded, “I could not understand a word you said, but I still clapped.” [This incident became a talking point at several tables during lunch; a well-known creative and Bollywood fan quoted Sridevi’s lesser known line from Chandni in response: “I can’t bliv [sic.] it! He’s so rude!”
Women take centre stage
As the day progressed two women-centric sessions took place. The first was led by Samina Baig, who conquered Everest and who was quite simply inspirational in the true sense of the word.The second was a session on Woman and Power moderated by Atifa Silk, Editor Campaign Asia, with pannelists Dr Zeelaf Munir, Managing Director & CEO, English Biscuit Manufacturers, Frieha Altaf, CEO, Catwalk Event Management & Productions, and Seema Jaffer, CEO, Bond Advertising. The segment centred on leadership among women in Pakistan and the issues they face in male dominated industries.
Although one could argue the session was preaching to the choir, it seemed to find favour among audience members. Jaffer eloquently said that women should stop being afraid to take charge and added that they feel that they should not be bossy out of fear of being perceived to be b*****. She added that she had always been hesitant to project herself, but was finally learning to do so and urged other women to do the same. Munir was of the opinion that organisations should hire more women because they have several traits (collaboration, integrity, moral compass, ability to inspire, mentor, coach and multitask) which makes them assets. More pertinently, Altaf lamented the fact that 50% of women who have graduated from college do not enter the workforce, mainly due to societal pressures and because male family members believe workplaces are not ‘safe’ and that is why companies should ensure that they are indeed safe and free from sexual harassment.
When Vange Kourentis, Former Commercial Director, Head of Marketing and Digital Media, Manchester United, came on stage, one expected an exciting session that would match even the most unpredictable of football matches. However, although his presentation was extremely informative as he charted the journey of brand Manchester United and how it evolved to include museums, restaurants and stadiums around the world in order to connect with their fans, it lacked engagement from audiences that the aforementioned sessions managed to generate. When he asked the audience whether they had heard of Manchester United, every single hand was raised, causing him to say: “100% brand recognition… I’ve come to Pakistan the first time and one conversation has united us – and that is the conversation of sport and it has the unique power to connect us all.”
All in a day’s work…
The day ends at around seven p.m., and after a short break we head to Allama Iqbal Park where Arif Lohar and his band of merry men thrill the audience. Crowds dance in unison before partaking in a Lahori feast of desi barbeque (again). The evening ends slightly early at around 11 p.m.; we have been warned that tomorrow’s session will begin at nine sharp as Randy Zuckerberg is expected to speak and has to leave immediately.
Does that mean everyone will be there on time? We will tell you tomorrow!