Golden Circle: Campaign's Agency of the Year
AURORA: In your own words, can you talk about the background of Campaign's Agency of the Year awards?
SYED HASSAN ABBAS: Since the early nineties, Campaign’s Agency of the Year awards recognize inspiring leadership, management excellence, outstanding business performance and overall achievements in advertising and brand communications. With results tabulated by PwC Singapore, it is the only programme to honor agency excellence at both a local and regional level. The awards are open to all media, advertising, creative, digital, PR, independent and specialist agencies from across the Asia Pacific region and within the UK.
A: What is the criteria for these awards... is one nominated for them or do agencies apply to be nominated?
SHA: The Agency of the Year consists of leading client marketers across the Asia-Pacific region where agencies from all across the globe compete for different awards and the pattern is similar to leading awards shows like Clio & Effies. You need to register for the award and present your work for judging to qualify for an award. The judging panel consists of leading client marketers across the Asia-Pacific region. In the first round of judging, judges review and score entries independently and the scores are sent directly to PwC Singapore for tabulation and verification. In the final round, each group of judges convene to discuss the shortlisted entries and pick the winners.
A: Which awards has GCA won?
SHA: We have secured laurels in the following award categories: South Asia Independent Agency of the Year, South Asia Boutique Agency of the Year, Pakistan Creative Agency of the Year and Pakistan Digital Agency of the year. Golden Circle is the first-ever Independent Pakistani agency to secure awards in the categories of South Asia Independent Agency of the Year and simultaneously South Asia Boutique Agency of the Year – where we have competed with leading agencies from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal & Bhutan. On the other hand, for the categories of Pakistan Creative Agency of the Year & Pakistan Digital Agency of the Year, we are the only agency which is independent across Pakistan & India and shared the winning stage with powerful agencies from affiliated networks of the global advertising fraternity.
A: How does Golden Circle feel about receiving this honor?
SHA: We are overwhelmed by all the attention. It is unheard of for an agency to achieve so much in a short span of 2.5 years. We entered our work in four award categories and by the grace of God, we won all four. At the time it seemed so unreal and the achievement took time to sink in. The awards are a testament to the hard work and efforts of the entire team. They have proved that you don’t need international affiliation or a decade of history to win awards. All it takes is big ideas. The whole team is overjoyed and we are motivated to work even harder and achieve bigger next year.
A: Describe the challenges you have faced both internally as a business, and externally for client accounts.
SHA: As a start-up, Golden Circle faced increasing odds ever since its inception. But it is said that in the midst of great crisis lies great opportunity and Golden Circle took every opportunity to prove its critics wrong and come out strong despite all the odds. Golden Circle is a success story of triumph over challenges on all the fronts. Golden Circle started operations in mid-2019. The company started with a bang by launching nationwide integrated campaigns in the home appliances category, FMCG and dairy segments. Partnerships with local and international players brought great benefits at every end of the business. The brand signed on more creative work and the team grew in numbers and experience. The team worked hard to ensure even greater output than their normal operational days, since brands became more demanding to find innovative ways to market their brands to make up for lost revenue due to Covid-19 restrictions. Our focus and strategy at this time was to ensure the smooth running of the financial base and continued team building over the span of two years. While many advertising/creative hubs were shutting down their business or laying off the employees, Golden Circle thrived and kept signing on new projects while maintaining employee strength and motivation. Breaking the stereotype and curse of a new agency: They say that creativity has no bounds and a creative idea can come from anywhere and anyone. However, leading brands in the market don’t adhere to this principle.
A: What other milestones has Golden Circle achieved over the years?
SHA: Golden Circle seeks to be recognized as the champion of change. The team has successfully ensured the development of a strong work ethos centered around creativity at its heart. The increase of overall digital landscape has reshaped the dynamics of the international advertising scene. However, the impact is slowly transitioning into Pakistan. The evolution of advertising is swift in terms of the creation of dedicated small scape agency networks, but in the boarder scheme of things, the agencies are not focused on providing integrated communication. The investment is oriented towards either the creative side or the media buying. The traditional media agencies have evolved to use digital spaces but greatly lack in terms of developing content relevant to the medium. They focus on adapting content instead of creating meaningful engagement with their audience. On the other hand, the creative agencies simply are unable to ensure the most effective dissemination of their creative output due to a lack of understanding of the digital media and its metrics. Their practices remain orthodox and capital intensive, making it an impossible target for the smaller and medium size business ventures to grow their brands with professional expertise. Golden Circle aimed to fill this void and ensure success for all clients, irrespective of their revenue base. The management deployed a seasoned team of professionals in the realm of digital marketing which brings an integrated approach to digital advertising by deploying strategic planning, innovative media allocation and out of the box creative content development. We are able to adapt to consumer behavior while maintaining strong focus and create consumer experiences that they may not even realize they want. This practice is the driving force behind the success of Golden Circle.
A: What would you say makes Golden Circle stand out and enable itself to have won these four awards?
SHA: The circle was created with the perfect alignment of handpicked experts in their respective fields. from strategy to creative to design to servicing who came together to create the Golden Circle. The purpose was to bring together the best in the business to go beyond traditional communication and develop something that inspires and does real brand building. Golden Circle’s mission with regards to the external stakeholders is to improve the communication landscape and deliver great marketing success in terms of business ROI figures. The clients today need a complete advertising solution instead of specific medium based solutions. We are able to strategize and develop a balance between the different advertising mediums to find the sweet spot that could give brands maximum mileage on their investment. We focus on developing an integrated ATL and digital strategy. This strategy helps evaluate the pros and cons of each medium and perfect an approach that leverages the strengths of each while overcoming weaknesses. Our strategic approach always gave us an edge in major pitches and we are able to win over clients due to our integrated approach to advertising.
A: How is Golden Circle different from others in the region, in terms of work ethic, company culture and the creative process you go through?
SHA: We believe in quality over quantity. We believe in work that brings about a difference, in long lasting relations and creativity that counts. Today, competing with prominent names in the industry, we take pride in differentiating ourselves through our work and by delivering results. The seniors of the agency, whenever called upon, have actively participated in talks, gatherings and educated the young minds. The agency team often pays visits to colleges and universities such as LUMS, Punjab College, NCA and others for lectureship and mentorship. Emerging talent is also given the opportunity to work as Interns at the agency in a suitable department. We have strived to develop a very homely atmosphere where people feel at ease and enjoy the work culture. This is important, because it helps people connect better. When creative people feel happy and motivated, only then can they deliver the best creative output.
A: What project/campaign is Golden Circle most proud of to date, and why?
SHA: At a time when brands were hesitant to tap into TikTok, one of the fastest growing social platforms, we took the initiative with a view to connect with the youth and create positive brand engagement. Going by the hashtags #SMARTHAIERCOOLLIFE #INSPIREDBYHAIER, Pakistan’s first major TikTok campaign was launched by us in the year 2019, which brought about remarkable results. It generated 500 million views during the lockdown and more than 5,450 user generated videos. This was by far Pakistan’s biggest digital campaign in terms of views and engagement and user generated content.
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