Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The Bilgiç Effect

Published in Nov-Dec 2020

Interview with Shoaib Aftab, Director Marketing, Jazz.

ZEENAT CHAUDHARY: What operational changes has Jazz put in place since Covid-19 struck?
SHOAIB AFTAB: Although we were among the first companies to implement WFH, it was a learning process, and the initial days were crazy! We were unsure whether we would be able to coordinate solely by using digital tools. Previously, we would align daily matters with a five-minute meeting, but with WFH we had to lock a mutually agreed upon time with multiple people, go through preliminaries (mostly Covid-19 related) and then the actual discussion would take place. Plus, facilities like Blue Jeans and Zoom provide more of a walkie-talkie relationship and there are various issues people faced, such as poor Wi-Fi connections, distractions at home and so on. It took us some time to get used to it. One of the great things to come out of it was that Jazz took the initiative of connecting with their employees at far greater levels than before. To counter WFH related issues, we deployed Wi-Fi /data devices for our employees and partnered with furniture shops to give them special discounts. Our CEO held bi-monthly virtual townhalls to check in with employees and frequent surveys were carried out to gauge how they were feeling. A prominent issue that came up was severe burnout; with WFH you don’t know when work finishes and home life begins. Even at eight in the evening someone would call to say “Ghar par hi ho na? So just do this kaam”. It was then relayed to managers that WFH does not mean working continuously. Another issue was the fact that employees were starting to feel redundant; for example, people working at our experience centres. So, we relocated them to other departments because if you are unproductive you feel left out and de-motivated. Furthermore, we halted radio and OOH ad spend because people were not going out/driving and increased spend on TV. We performed zero budget cuts, layoffs or pay cuts.

ZC: What changes did Jazz see in consumer behaviour?
SA: Telecommunications is a fundamental part of our lives. During the lockdown, educational institutions needed it to conduct online classes and working individuals to earn their livelihood; hence, data was necessary, because although people were at home with access to Wi-Fi, it is a shared resource for most homes. We also saw voice usage drop, compared to pre Covid-19 times.

ZC: Did any marketing strategies have to be put on hold or revamped post lockdown?
SA: We had to reorganise our entire year’s roadmap and come up with a different one, and that too in a week’s time. And it was completely experimental. We decided to focus on our data leadership. If Covid-19 had not happened, one of our goals was to make people aware about smartphone usage in rural areas; we had planned various on-ground activations but we had to put them on hold.

ZC: Did you feel compelled to develop other initiatives because of Covid-19?
SA: We created an online platform called Jazz Cares to create awareness about Covid-19 and educate people about staying safe. The basic idea was “we are here and we have you covered.” The theme was ‘Darna Nahin, Bachna Hai’ and all communication messages were made from that perspective. For example, we launched our Wi-Fi bundle under this umbrella with the aim of making life easier while encouraging people to stay home. We plan to use Jazz Care later for other issues as well and not just Covid-19.

ZC: How did you carry out marketing and advertising with Covid-19 related restrictions in place, in terms of production?
SA: Since we could not physically shoot ads, we hired digital influencers (they make their own videos at their own premises) to make fun, witty videos that were disseminated across all media streams. We approached comedian Danish Ali for a five-series communication piece to highlight different Jazz products; we gave him the basic concept and left the creative execution to him. No other brand did something similar on mass media; as they say “desperate times call for desperate measures.” The feedback was pretty good considering the difficult times it was released in. During Ramzan, we produced a TVC without human characters to promote the concept of connectivity. In Ramzan, telecom usage dips because people’s habits change and this year it was Ramzan plus Covid-19. To counter this, we shot a TVC which was all about the need for our customers to stay connected. During this period, we were the most active brand in terms of advertising and the feedback was massively positive. We used an ‘always on’ marketing strategy, and be it TV or digital, not a single day went by when we were not on air. The message was: ‘Jazz is here, and we are not only thinking about our business but about you as well’.

ZC: Was this the main idea behind the ‘Pakistan’s No.1 Network’ campaign?
SA: Here we wanted to establish our data leadership and supremacy. The idea that people want to be associated with the best, and the message was about the difference between being good and being great.

ZC: Why did Jazz select Esra Bilgiç as brand ambassador, rather than a Pakistani celebrity for this campaign?
SA: Since early this year, Pakistanis have been in love with Diriliş: Ertuğrul and Halima Sultan – Bilgic’s character in the show. Recent research which showcased the global viewership numbers (other than Turkey) for Ertuğrul, placed Pakistan at the top with over 390 million views. India was at number two but with 190 million views. Such was the pull of Ertuğrul in Pakistan and we figured Bilgiç was the right face to promote the No.1 Network message. We realised that Pakistanis really wanted to see Bilgiç in a Pakistani context. The first teaser consisted of a 15-second sound bite of Bilgiç dressed in green and white, wishing Pakistanis Eid Mubarak. This sound bite (it was not even an ad) garnered a crazy amount of engagement; people loved it! This was the most brand love we have ever received; people took pictures of themselves with the ads and a huge female base replicated Bilgiç’s look in her green and white outfit. When your audience is creating social media trends without any paid ads at your end, you know it is the right connect. We further amplified this by producing two non-Jazz related videos of Bilgiç immersing herself in Pakistani culture (eating local food, speaking local slang), because such media resonates louder with consumers.

Video: YouTube

Video: YouTube

ZC: Can Esra Bilgiç be called the new Jazz Girl? How would you define the criteria for a Jazz Girl?
SA: Since 2018, we have moved away from the Jazz Girl/brand ambassador concept. Yes, we have celebrities if required, but the communication is what matters, not the face. Even with the No.1 Network campaign, we decided it would not be about Bilgiç but about Jazz; she was just the talking point vehicle. There was also a discussion on social media about “why isn’t Bilgiç in every Jazz ad?” The answer: because the message was more important. People should not say it’s a Bilgiç ad, but a Jazz/Bilgiç ad. We want the communication to speak for itself. When we used Ali Zafar, he was also endorsing QMobile, Lay’s and other brands and the novelty wore off.

ZC: Are you concerned this may happen with Bilgiç?
SA: Other brands should be worried because we were the first to sign her up and the campaign has done very well. So, the question should be: are other brands worried about it? What we achieved in terms of results may not even be replicable.

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