Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

“Data-led creative is now a reality”

Published in Nov-Dec 2021

Agha Zohaib, Managing Director, Mindshare Pakistan, on making it to Campaign Asia-Pacific’s 40 under 40 list.

MAMUN M. ADIL: What does making it to Campaign Asia-Pacific’s 40 under 40 list mean to you?
AGHA ZOHAIB: I am very humbled; I think I made it to this elite list because of the positive change brought about to Mindshare in terms of automation and thought leadership. I am particularly proud of the talent I have trained – we have even exported talent to other markets within our network and this speaks volumes of the quality of the resources we have now, something that was not the case until a few years ago.

MMA: What do you mean by automation?
AZ: Machines or bots doing multiple jobs. This was unheard of before I re-joined Mindshare three years ago. I changed the paradigm by hiring people from diverse backgrounds and making sure they were well-versed in technology. This is how we were able to automate several time-consuming functions, such as scheduling, data planning, creating release orders or reports and media planning. Other markets within the network are looking at mirroring these practices. In October, we won the Data Initiative Award and Data and Technology Initiative Award within the network.

MMA: How has Pakistan’s media landscape changed in the last three years?
AZ: Before the pandemic, although we were expecting changes in e-commerce, digital and data-led marketing, we thought it would take some time before they came into play. Covid-19 accelerated these changes at a pace we never could have imagined; consumers have rapidly become used to the advantages of quick commerce. Before the pandemic, e-commerce sales, even in the most established organisations, amounted to not more than five percent; today, this number is approximately 13 -14%.

MMA: Is this growth only in urban centres?
AZ: New developments always take place first in urban centres and semi-urban and rural areas catch up later. Airlift have expanded to eight cities which is big. Pandamart are expanding too and Daraz is delivering everywhere in Pakistan, including rural areas. It will take at least another two years for the others to expand to those levels. It is worth keeping in mind that internet penetration since the pandemic has increased from 38-39% to 51% and is likely to continue to increase substantially.

MMA: How are the other mediums doing?
AZ: TV is still relevant as a platform to reach mass audiences. News viewership has declined because there is a lot more positive news that people don’t necessarily want to watch. Several anchors have started their own YouTube and Facebook channels and this too has affected TV audiences, with some of the share moving to digital. We have seen growth in the entertainment genre and this can be attributed to improvements in the quality of the content and of the production values. However, although TV remains the cheapest medium (if you are talking about mass reach), there are other aspects that need to be considered when planning. For example, digital drives certain things that TV does not, such as guaranteeing clicks and sign-ups. Also, for example, when we advertise on YouTube, it is a guaranteed 30-second view, which is not necessarily the case on TV. Ultimately, unlike other media, digital provides guaranteed results and multiple advertising formats.

MMA: What about print, radio and OOH?
AZ: Print provides credibility and is effective when targeting segments such as the business community. However, people are spending less time reading newspapers and digital has taken over a large share of this audience. Radio has not evolved in terms of content and digital presence; people are now listening to music on their phones via YouTube and other platforms. OOH remains the same. Ultimately, the rise in consumption of digital content is a trend that will sustain itself.

MMA: What are the major new roles that media agencies are fulfilling that they didn’t before?
AZ: Earlier, media agencies had fewer jobs and although we focused on the lower funnel [purchases], the primary focus was the upper funnel (creating awareness), in addition to placement on traditional media. Everything we do now is linked to the client’s ROI, be it awareness campaigns or purchases. We are now part of the creative conceptualisation process from the beginning. Although this did happen before, it has now become more granular. It’s not as if clients ever said, “we have made this ad and now go and run it.” They always looked at us as partners, and we in turn added value, even at the creative conception stage. However, this was largely restricted to more sophisticated clients, now the smaller ones understand the value we bring.

MMA: Why do you think this is the case?
AZ: We are very close to the consumer because of the fact that we have data coming in from multiple sources, including Kantar, Google, Facebook and the media houses. As a result, we can provide data even regarding very small towns. The access to data has made Mindshare and other media agencies a very important component in the brand building process. Consequently, a lot more consultancy is taking place between media agencies and brands.

MMA: How has this impacted creative agencies?
AZ: The influence of creative agencies has lessened to an extent, primarily because they have not evolved at the same pace that the media and digital agencies have. For example, social media agencies are now a reality; brands have separate agencies working on TVCs and DVCs. In many instances, media agencies are briefed by clients at the same time as the creative agency. At times, we brainstorm together on domain agnostic ideas. TVC production still remains the domain of the creative agencies, but we are involved in so many other areas beyond TVCs, and this is the reason why clients need input from media and research agencies or third parties specialising in data. This again is due to the access media agencies have to data – data-led creative is now a reality.

MMA: How has the definition of ‘content’ changed with time?
AZ: It has transformed; it now has multiple facets. Content could be formulated in the shape of a brand-funded programme, like Mere Dost Mere Yaar, which was produced by Mindshare for Candi. That is one way. You can also curate content with a third party. For example, we tied up with Teeli several times to develop content for brands, or you can develop content with influencers or native content with publishers. Gaming content is different; you develop contextually relevant ads or become part of the gaming content.

MMA: Despite this, there seems to be a lack of customised content on various media.
AZ: It’s a valid comment, but you can’t point fingers at one party. A lot of costs, time and effort are involved in creating different concepts or different executions of a single concept, and if brands do not plan ahead for this, time becomes an issue – for example, the approval process takes too long. Other markets are quicker off the mark in this respect; hopefully, in a year, we will be at par with them. As an industry, we need to do more.

MMA: Brands don’t seem to be using influencers effectively.
AZ: That’s an absolutely valid point; we tend to ignore the details when it comes to influencer marketing. We will be launching Inca soon, which is a tool that measures the credibility and effectiveness of influencers.

MMA: How do you see 2021 panning out from a media agency point of view?
AZ: I think it is going to be a very good year. We will have to do things differently as post-Covid-19, we have a lot more clarity. We will experience massive growth, especially in terms of on-screen media, be it TV or digital because people are interested in moving content that has audio and video.

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