Prior to lunch, the audience was informed by the organisers that due to the arrival of the President of Pakistan later in the afternoon, their phones would have to be checked before they could enter the auditorium. This was a surprise and there were many distressed faces checking their phones (who remembers going to an event without constantly fiddling on their phone?)
Measuring Effectiveness: The first post lunch session was by Edward Pank, MD, WARC Asia, who stressed the importance of measuring the effectiveness of advertising in Asia. He focused on several principles that would enable brands to do so and which he illustrated with examples and data. These included the importance for brands to focus on long-term rather than short-term gains (currently the case), as well as taking a stand on social issues. Two other ways were activations that make an impact in ‘real life’ so that they gain visibility online and gamification. He gave the example of Amazon’s Everyone Is An Amazing Book campaign, which required users to play a game that would determine their personality by using the Myers Briggs Test; an app would then match the user’s personality with a protagonist of a book. The results? 2.17 million people played the game and 14% bought the book which featured a protagonist whose personality matched theirs. Pank’s segment was interrupted mid-way due to the arrival of the President of Pakistan and although he left the podium graciously, an audience member objected for which she received a standing ovation. Shahzad Nawaz, who was hosting the session, smoothly diffused the situation by stating that the applause was for the President.
Presidential Address: The President touched upon several issues relating to advertising and the media. These included media ethics, especially fake news in an increasingly digital world. He also mentioned that he had a lot of friends from the advertising community whom he had met during his days as a practising dentist and valued their creativity. He also stated that truth in advertising is extremely important and that the lines between content and advertising have become increasingly blurred due to product placement and brand integration. Finally, he requested foreign delegates to spread the word about Pakistan being a wonderful country, as illustrated by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s recent visit as well as that of Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. In other words, rightly so, he requested them to improve the brand perception of Pakistan overseas.
Meet the Marketing King: Following the President’s address, the audience was finally able to hear a man they had been waiting for (he was supposed to speak on Day One) - Fernando Machado, Global CMO, Burger King. Describing himself as an ad geek, Machado screened a commercial for Burger King featuring several celebrities and then said, “I showed you this ad because I hate it. It was completely disconnected from the brand; it was too fake and glossy. It looks like a commercial and that’s not a good thing!”
He then highlighted the five things he did (and still does) to build the Burger King brand. The first was to understand the brand and this required speaking to “real people and fans of the brand” to understand why they liked the brand. The second was to create a great brief, in other words, ones that contain one or two strong sentences. For example: “Because fire is better” or “showcase whopper love”. Thirdly, let the idea grow and trust the power of that idea. He gave the example of the Burger King Detour campaign (to launch their app). Customers were asked to go to a McDonald’s, log on to the app and then buy a whopper for one cent. Burger King won several advertising awards for this effort, including a Titanium Grand Prix at Cannes Lions. Fourthly, be afraid; in other words brands need to come up with ground-breaking ideas and still have the courage to execute them. Fifthly, a one team approach within the company, and between the brand team and their agency. Throughout Machado kept the audience engaged – partly thanks to his dynamic personality as well as the communication efforts Burger King has executed over the years. Despite their being ‘out there’, these campaigns have won over 134 Cannes Lions in the last five years (so far), and witnessed a double digit growth in terms of sales. Machado was given a standing ovation.
The end? Not quite. Although the Congress ended later than usual, it wasn’t quite over as next came Macau Night hosted by the Macau Organisation Committee for AdAsia 2021. Chinese food was served and the entertainment included traditional Martial Arts dances performed by Pakistani students and a dancer from China going all out to the tune of Ballay Ballay. Although the night was not as frenetic as the previous one with Arif Lohar, it was a befitting, end to three frenzied days.
The curtain falls on AdAsia 2019. Although the event was not without a few glitches (which event ever is?), the three days Congress brought ideas and inspiration to the fore and in abundance. As a senior advertising professional put it: “The event was not just about networking or learning; it was about talking to professionals within the industry; people we have worked with before and exchanging views. That is something that the industry needs – a platform where we can meet regularly for longer periods of time.”
Congratulations to the Organising Committee for pulling off this event successfully. Given the response, it is clear that Pakistan needs many more events of this kind and on a regular basis. As for the Auristas, the four days we spent in Lahore were hectic but a lot of fun as well and will not be forgotten any time soon.