Published in Jul-Aug 2022
MAMUN M. ADIL: What led you to create Jack of Digital in 2020, after working for organisations such as Brainchild Communications, Z2C, Manhattan Communications and Post Amazers in senior capacities?
FAISAL SHEIKH: My focus since I completed my education has been on using technology to aid decision-making, delivery and the optimisation of advertising. Even when I was at Post Amazers [as COO], it was in a marketing and business development capacity. At Brainchild [and Z2C] I set up digital buying and planning units and I moved from a local role to a regional one, looking over the businesses in Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. I spent almost 10 years with the group, focusing on developing resources and techniques and introducing technology. After 20 years of working on the ‘other side’, I saw an opportunity to start operating on a different level and representing international platforms in Pakistan. This led to the establishment of Jack of Digital.
MMA: Jack of Digital is the exclusive advertising and data sales partner for several international platforms; how did these partnerships come about?
FS: The platform partners we work with, be they Eskimi, SHAREit, Spider AF or TikTok, are aware of the potential Pakistan offers in terms of growth in digital advertising. In offering services to our platform partners we have been fortunate enough to employ the best people in the market and I believe that is the reason we have been able to enter into these partnerships. We operate as exclusive representatives of these platforms and help advertisers and agencies understand how we can help them achieve their objectives. We do this via consultative sales, which require telling potential clients how these platforms fit into their marketing plans, how many people they can reach and why a platform that provides them with high reach at lower costs should be at the top of their marketing plan. We offer training to advertisers, media buying houses and creative and digital agencies regarding best practices in order to help them achieve the best results.
MMA: How many people does Jack of Digital employ?
FS: From three people in 2020, we now have over 20. Finding talent is not the issue; the problem is finding good people with an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow with the organisation. We make sure we hire people who can learn. If they understand the business, we can train them and they don’t have to ‘know digital.’ We hired people with purely TV sales experience and trained them in three months because they understood marketing and advertising; the only difference was that the medium was digital. Here, let me point out that the majority of the terms we use in digital are borrowed from print media, be it CPM, ATF or BTF.
MMA: Jack of Digital and Entravision entered into an agreement recently, whereby the latter will acquire a stake in the former. What can you tell us about this? FS: At the moment I cannot comment, except to say that it is the first of its kind deal, whereby an American company has acquired strategic stakes in a company of Pakistani origin.
MMA: What are the most popular forms of advertising on TikTok in Pakistan?
FS: TikTok offers a full suite of advertising products that advertisers can use to reach a growing number of users in the country. These include mass awareness ad units and micro targeted performance advertising options. The hashtag ‘challenge’ (it created a ‘revolution’ online) was brought about by TikTok. We recently launched a challenge with PepsiCo and within two weeks or so we had seven million video views.
MMA: One of the most prevalent stereotypes about TikTok is that it is ‘lowbrow’ and only young people use it.
FS: Walk into any restaurant or recreational facility and you will see young and old people on TikTok, either consuming content or creating content or both. TikTok has more young people for sure but that is the dynamic of the country. If you imagine that every smartphone user is not affluent then there is not much left for imagination. Growth on the platform is phenomenal and I see it going well beyond other leading platforms in Pakistan very soon.
MMA: What solutions do Eskimi provide clients?
FS: Eskimi is a programmatic platform with a data management platform (DMP) that is available to advertisers who use it. In essence, you can select your target audience based on the data provided. Ads can be delivered on websites, apps, games and other channels – essentially anywhere the target audience is available – and they can be selected by advertisers. What Eskimi does differently is that it allows users to use rich media interactive creative assets (it excels at these), in addition to micro-targeting and geo-fencing capabilities. Once advertisers understand how Eskimi can benefit their business strategy, they are hooked. We get clients from all over the world for Eskimi and any digital buyer is a potential client.
MMA: How do SHAREit and Spider AF work?
FS: SHAREit offers in-app advertising to a large and growing user base in Pakistan. People spend a lot of time on it every day and this provides advertisers with an opportunity to communicate with their audiences in greater depth compared to other platforms. Spider AF essentially allows advertisers to check and block the delivery of ads to non-human traffic, saving money and improving overall performance, which is becoming all the more important as the world is realising that a large amount of traffic on the internet is ‘non-human’ and affects the delivery of online advertising.
MMA: Would you estimate digital penetration in Pakistan to be adequate?
FS: Calling it high or low is subjective. The way I look at it is that with a population of 220 million, we have over 100 million digitally-enabled people. If we divide this number by the average number of households, it results in almost three devices per household across the entire country. Of course, affluent households have a higher number of smart devices, but even people who earn Rs 22,000 a month tend to have a smartphone.
MMA: What about penetration in rural areas?
FS: That is an audience that advertisers did not think about even when they used conventional media. However, any e-commerce merchant will tell you that they are receiving orders from places they have never heard of in rural areas, because people living there can order online. I was involved in the launch of a Karachi-based start-up, and even though we did not advertise elsewhere in the country, people in non-urban areas found our products online and ordered them. That gave us a window into increasing our operational strength to other cities faster than we planned as we realised that there were other markets that could quickly absorb our costs. If you look at search statistics, you will find that Pakistan is a low branded search market, so we have a lot of generic searches compared to branded ones. Every time a campaign is run on digital or conventional media, you suddenly see a spike in searches for related products, or a comparison between different brands for those products.
MMA: What are your plans for the future?
FS: We are exploring opportunities to introduce new and exciting platforms to Pakistan. Under our agreement with Entravision, we will be expanding our horizons and bringing more options to enhance our offerings to Pakistani advertisers.
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