Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

“I have learned that we have to locally develop our clients”

Published in Nov-Dec 2022

Aleem Durrani, Founder & CEO, Media Pulse, speaks to Mariam Ali Baig about the media landscape post-pandemic
Photo: Tahir Jamal/White Star
Photo: Tahir Jamal/White Star

MARIAM ALI BAIG: What is the connection between Media Pulse and Media Matters?
ALEEM DURRANI: They are two separate entities, and both are private limited companies. Media Pulse is a media planning and buying agency and Media Matters deals with PR and Communications. I founded both agencies; Media Pulse in 2005 and Media Matters in 2009. Both agencies have worked hard on building long-term relationships with our clients. This shows our credibility, our understanding of the market and our clients’ business.

MAB: Why did you add PR to your portfolio of services?
AD: In 2010, we began to see that there was a requirement in the market for PR. It is very important that the messaging is communicated through organic outreach, rather than paid for. PR plays a very important role in brand building and it was an important step in evolving our offering and complementing our social media division.

MAB: By organically do you mean influencer marketing?
AD: Influencer marketing entered the picture later. When we launched the PR vertical, it was about disseminating information about our clients. We developed the industry by providing relevant information about our clients and their industry.

MAB: How important is influencer marketing in your content mix?
AD: Influencer marketing will soon become part of mainstream marketing.

MAB: How has the media landscape changed in the last couple of years?
AD: The media has evolved in the last two years. Electronic media accounts for 55% of the mix and digital almost 20%, while print is around 15%. OOH and events have faced challenges, especially during Covid-19, and have declined to approximately five to seven percent. These are estimated figures so there may be a variance of about plus/ minus five percent.

MAB: Do you see OOH and activations bouncing back?
AD: Every area will bounce back. OOH and on ground are very important components of 360-degree marketing. Events and mall disruptions will be back very soon.

MAB: What about radio?
AD: Radio is a recall medium and it will always have a place, especially if your audience commutes by car.

MAB: Given this scenario, how have your agencies evolved?
AD: We have brought in new verticals. In Media Pulse, we added a digital media planning wing to provide digital solutions to our clients. We believe that by providing clients with solid digital media expertise, we will also be helping the industry overall. We have added a social media division at Media Matters. In the past two years, we have noted another growing requirement from our mid-tier clients, and that is in the area of content and creative solutions. We have partnered with creative agencies to provide clients with a 360-degree integrated marketing platform.

MAB: Which creative agencies do you partner with?
AD: With several creative houses. We ask them to provide creative solutions based on the strategies we develop for our clients. In fact, one of our strengths is the strategic solutions we offer; these are then complemented by the different verticals we offer. Clients have the benefit of a one-window solution for their brand communication in terms of content management, media planning and buying, PR and influencer marketing. Most mid-tier clients do not have very elaborate marketing departments and are therefore not in a position to manage five or six different agencies doing different things.

MAB: Would you agree that from a revenue perspective digital is not as profitable compared to TV in terms of production costs and media placement?
AD: The point is we are providing solutions according to the requirements of our clients.

MAB: How has content evolved?
AD: Commercials used to have a duration of about 60 seconds; now, for digital, the duration has been reduced to about 15 seconds.

MAB: Most of the ads that pop up on social media are usually excerpted from an existing TV commercial. Frankly, they are not effective, they don’t make much sense and end up annoying the audience.
AD: We are working on this. This is an area where we are trying to provide clients with creative solutions.

MAB: Are clients reducing their media spending given the economic situation?
AD: I don’t think clients are reducing their budgets. What they are doing is pivoting their budgets from electronic to digital to PR to communication, to influencer marketing. In other words, they are not reducing spending; they are giving an equal share to the different verticals of communication.

MAB: Given the presence of other media buying agencies in the market, would you describe Media Pulse as a local media buying agency?
AD: Yes.

MAB: What benefits do you bring your clients compared to the multinational media buying agencies?
AD: We are very proud of the fact that we are a national, homegrown, top media buying house. We have developed our planning and monitoring software. In this regard, it is important to mention that the revenues we make from our clients remain in Pakistan and we reinvest them in developing new platforms and verticals that will help the industry to grow. We have seen a gap in e-gaming marketing and have partnered with one of the big platforms in the country to move into that area.

MAB: How big is e-gaming in Pakistan?
AD: Globally I would estimate it at worth more than $200 billion. In Pakistan, the estimated accounted-for market would be somewhere around $50 million and the unaccounted-for around $250 million. It is a big area and a lot of talent is coming up on this front. It will be a game changer for our market.

MAB: Almost 80% of local businesses, if not more, do not advertise. Do you think this trend may change given the impact of social media and the fact that it does not require huge advertising budgets?
AD: One of the reasons why we are one of the biggest national media-buying houses in Pakistan is that we are mindful of what you have just pointed out. We are focused on providing 360-degree solutions, especially to mid-tier local clients who do not have very big marketing departments. The objective is to help local companies get noticed. A few years ago, when regional TV channels entered the media scene, they could not charge the same rates as the big national channels. We encouraged some of our clients to advertise on these channels and when they did, their sales picked up and eventually they were able to move to the mainstream channels. We are using the same formula now for our mid-tier clients. We want to provide them with a holistic strategy that meets their requirements and their brand profile. I have learned that we have to locally develop our clients.

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