Published in Nov-Dec 2021
Gen Z is a popular term that has started to circulate inside Pakistan’s leading boardrooms. In fact, brands have begun to centre their communication strategies around the interests and emotions of this young audience and every commercial we see today incorporates elements aimed at creating resonance with Gen Zers. But are they resonating? Do brands really ‘get’ what makes this generation different? Perhaps, more pertinently in this context, what does Gen Z think about Pakistan’s advertising industry from a professional standpoint? To find out more, I spoke to three Gen Z creatives; Aisha Bhatti, Assistant Creative Manager, Red Communication Arts, Osaid Ali Khan, Creative Manager, Synergy Dentsu and Ayesha Rashid, Creative Manager, M&C Saatchi World Group. Here is what they had to say.
MUNEEB AKRAM: What led you into advertising as a career?
AISHA BHATTI: My sister was working for an advertising agency when I was in the eighth grade, and I thought her job was fun and very creative, hence, the attraction to advertising. Later, I interned at two well-known agencies before landing a job at Red Communication Arts.
OSAID ALI KHAN: Since childhood, I have had a firm grip on wordplay. As I grew older, whenever I would share my passion for writing with my parents, they were wary about the idea because writing is not considered to be a financially viable career path. Nevertheless, I stuck to my interest and when I was 17, I was offered a job after completing my internship at a start-up agency. I didn’t take it up because of my education, but my career in advertising began with another agency a few years later.
AYESHA RASHID: I accidentally joined advertising. After graduating, I wanted to work for a multinational beverage organisation or a brand. After three months of futile attempts to join the brand side, and totally coincidentally, I was offered an internship at BBDO. The work there never felt like work and I enjoyed every minute of it. Fortunately, they offered me a job as a content writer and my advertising journey officially began.
MA: What would you say about the state of advertising in Pakistan?
AB: When you look at the global advertising scenario, Pakistan has made progress in terms of communication and some of our campaigns have made their mark by winning international advertising awards. However, there is still a long way to go; in general, the quality of advertising is not remarkable.
OAK: Social media has been such a massive revolution; it’s all about numbers now. The success of an idea is measured in terms of digital reach or engagement. However, the ‘old-school’ approach still dominates the industry. Another point of concern is the extreme herd mentality that exists. When something becomes a success, everyone follows it until it is exhausted to death.
AR: Since the pandemic, WFH has become a reality, making communicating with teams more complicated. Personally, having colleagues around me keeps me motivated and I find WFH frustrating. We have had to unlearn and then learn so many things in terms of work culture, leaving on time and so on again.
MA: What have been your biggest challenges working with advertising agencies?
AB: I think a lot about being a good creative has to do with being great at selling. Many ideas appear exceptional in my mind, but effectively articulating them to the team, and ultimately the client, is my biggest challenge.
OAK: Young people are not allowed to express their creativity fully. The Millennial bosses have good ideas but have been conditioned to be safe rather than go wild and explore new dimensions in creativity. They are set on specific formulae and don’t attempt to break away from them in favour of different working or creative thinking methods.
AR: I consider myself very fortunate that I have found more opportunities than challenges. My first agency was very understanding about my learning and I never felt that my voice wasn’t heard or valued during the creative ideation process. I had a great mentor and that was really an optimal way to start my career in advertising.
MA: Do you think Gen Z is well-understood by today’s advertisers?
AB: Only to a certain extent. The problem is, in Pakistan Gen Z centric communications revolve around limited aspects of this generation; it is very formula-driven and generic. No one is focusing on what makes this generation uniquely different in terms of being more woke and authentic.
OAK: Everyone is battling for Gen Z’s attention, but also sticking to clichés. Gen Z is all about authenticity and they can see through any communication that is not. Gen Z is still exploring itself and evolving. It is a generation that picks up trends and adapts to following what is cool.
AR: Gen Z is very diverse. The older Gen Zers share many attributes with younger Millennials, while the younger Gen Zers are entirely different. Our advertising has yet to understand the complexity of Gen Z; brands need to address Gen Z’s diversity rather than look at them through a holistic lens.
MA: What do you think is the biggest ‘advantage’ and ‘disadvantage’ a Gen Z creative would have in Pakistani agencies?
AB: Our advantage is that we are young, so it is easier to start our careers at ad agencies through internships. The disadvantage is that it is very hard to make our voices heard in a culture dominated by Millennials, and generally, brands fail to understand how different Gen Z consumers are from what they believe them to be.
OAK: As a Gen Zer, I did not have financial responsibilities, so I had the freedom to take a wild shot at my career. I am sure this is also applicable to many Gen Z creatives. They bring a new perspective to the table during brainstorming sessions; they are more aware and woke than any generation before them. The disadvantage is that they do not like red tape and the chain of processes Pakistani agencies require. They need to make their operations simpler and friendlier towards younger people.
AR: Our knowledge of social media apps is more substantial. We have played all the latest games and are up to date with all the latest trends. Millennials turn to us for insights and opinions as things become more Gen Z-centric. The disadvantage is that we are not given the validation we deserve in terms of our contribution to the work.
Muneeb Akram is an in-house creative, NDURE. For feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org