Interview: Zameer Qureshi, CEO, Dial Zero
Published in Nov-Dec 2020
MAMUN M. ADIL: When was Dial Zero established?
ZAMEER S. QURESHI: Dial Zero was established earlier this year to enable us to bid to become the Authorised Sales Partner (ASP) for Facebook. The main reason why the bidding took place was because Facebook recognised the need to be in closer contact with advertisers and agencies in Pakistan and decided that an effective way to do so would be by appointing an ASP. After a competitive bidding process, Dial Zero was appointed. I think our edge was our understanding of the local market and insights and these were the key factors that helped us secure this role.
MMA: By definition, Facebook ASPs are extensions of Facebook’s sales teams that help advertisers and agencies achieve their business goals. Please elaborate on the role Dial Zero plays in light of being Facebook’s ASP.
ZSQ: Facebook ASPs provide local assistance, strategic direction and expertise across the Facebook family of apps and services (including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network). All partners are vetted, trained and educated by Facebook to ensure quality in the services they provide. As Facebook’s ASP, we engage with local businesses, advertisers and agencies and take into account their needs in order to make it easy for them to succeed using a people-based and highly measurable advertising approach as well as strong targeting options and a rich range of creative tools. We give priority access to our clients and once a client is on-boarded, they can start spending through their new rupee ad account [as opposed to a dollar account] which is shared with them by Dial Zero. Consequently, they have access to a prioritised support channel with a faster turnaround time on support queries.
MMA: What other services do you provide?
ZSQ: We provide high-quality media consultancy free of charge to all agencies and clients who are looking to further scale their business results. This entails familiarising them with Facebook products and training them to ensure that they get the maximum results with the least amount of money. We provide in-region support, local billing and consulting on both the strategic and optimisation aspects of their campaigns. Lastly, we offer access to programmes and training, including Facebook Workshops and Facebook Blueprint, to help local businesses, advertisers and agencies learn new and essential skills.
MMA: What is Facebook Blueprint?
ZSQ: Facebook Blueprint is an online learning and certification programme that helps people build their Facebook marketing skills. All our employees are Facebook Blueprint certified across various specialisations, including media planning, media buying and creative. We provide training workshops to brands, agencies and professionals to develop their capacity and eventually take the relevant Facebook Blueprint exams to acquire certification.
MMA: With regard to Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, which platforms work best for which types of brands and services?
ZSQ: Firstly, when one is advertising on the Facebook family of apps, it is recommended to consider all placements and platforms together and let the automated system decide where the results can be delivered most efficiently. Agility for businesses plays a pivotal role in today’s fast moving world and automation and optimisation help businesses remain agile. Secondly, the digital world is constantly evolving; platforms like Facebook are always aiming to stay ahead of consumer needs. Facebook started as a social networking website where friends could stay connected and while it has stayed true to its fundamentals, over the years, it has also explored many different avenues that are very user-driven. Finally, due to the pandemic, the world is a different place and for 2021 on a global level; I would say the shift is more towards conversational commerce. This means that people want the buying experience to be a two-way conversation [between a brand and a consumer] instead of passive content consumption. Digital mediums and messaging platforms have enabled this trend and changed the commerce game entirely. Today, conversational commerce is the name of the game.
MMA: Brands seem to be placing the first five to 15 seconds of their TVCs on Facebook rather than creating customised adaptations. What are your views on this?
ZSQ: I don’t think creating adaptations is the challenge itself. The challenge is more on understanding why these adaptations are important for consumers, since the thumb is in charge of everything now. There is so much clutter that it takes a lot to stand out and make that thumb stop. This may be perceived as a challenge to many advertisers but as someone who has experience in the industry, I understand the barriers very well. But it is important to take advantage of those crucial five to 15 seconds, versus losing your customer’s attention completely because you cannot let go of the 60-second copy [used in a TVC].
MMA: How will the role of digital agencies change with Dial Zero’s presence? Will brands start dealing directly with Dial Zero rather than going through a digital agency?
ZSQ: No, I would like to clarify that Dial Zero is NOT an agency. Instead, we work with them to add value for their clients. Clients could previously speak with Facebook directly or through their agency and we operate on the same model.
MMA: What does your role as CEO of Starcrest entail and has it changed since you assumed the position of CEO of Dial Zero?
ZSQ: Starcrest is like a first child to me; we were the first agency to provide 360-campaign plans at a time when it was a rarity. It is the company that helped me establish myself in the world of advertising. I am fully responsible for all departments at Starcrest, I do have team leads who report to me but they are fairly independent. Pre-Dial Zero, my role was primarily client relationships and managing profit and loss with the help of my team leads in Karachi and Lahore. I feel it is safe to say that my role has not changed post-Dial Zero as my time is now fairly split between the two companies.
MMA: What are Dial Zero’s expansion plans?
ZSQ: At Dial Zero, we are trying to create an ecosystem in Pakistan for people to get more jobs and create more online businesses. We are not here to eat into the business of digital agencies – we can educate them to deliver the best service possible to their clients. We currently only have offices in Karachi but we want to spread into other cities with our own employees – not representatives – beyond Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Quetta – and into cities such as Multan and Rahimyar Khan.
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