Published in Mar-Apr 2023
Congratulations are in order. We have made it to 75-odd years of the advertising industry, and while most of it is still about 20 years behind the standards of the rest of the developed world, and we really should be celebrating a 50th birthday while pretending we are in 1998, we would still choose to celebrate 75. Because why not.
This is a pivotal moment. Both for the country and industry. As the economy takes a Bollywood-style last few breaths, we see infighting in political circles, drawing rooms and WhatsApp chat groups – and stand at a crossroads of not knowing where we are about to head. Will the protagonists succumb to their injuries and pass away broken, or will they suddenly spot their mother/lover in the distance and use that as a catalyst to revive themselves into a powerhouse?
We don’t know. But let’s imagine for a moment that we could choose a future. A future for our industry. The next 75 years where we want to head. Based on what we decide.
Join me as we fast forward fictionally to 2098. Sure, we are all plant-food by then, but this industry will hopefully carry on without us (although some in it may argue otherwise). So here we are, let’s explore our possible future.
The year is 2098. Pakistan has just finished celebrating its newest ranking on the global Cannes Lions Creativity Index and the nation has scored yet again at No. 3, just behind the countries of California and the Un-United Kingdom. It is the 11th year in a row that Pakistan has made it into the Top 10 Most Creative Countries list, a ranking that is mostly a result of not only its advanced use of robotic intelligence and new media but of a new generation of innovative risk takers who experiment constantly with marketing sciences, inventing new methodologies. Keith Richards is in town to headline a celebration party.
The National Ministry of Creativity, which was established by a group of industry leaders 45 years ago, is thriving and is a major reason behind Pakistan’s phenomenal new record of the most patents filed by any country in the world. This is due to creativity and critical thinking having been made a mandatory subject to learn in primary and secondary school, featuring topics such as ‘It’s Good to Question Everything,’ and ‘The Benefits of Risk Taking.’ Even higher institutes of learning such as IBCA (the C now included for Creativity) are teaching topics such as ‘It’s Okay To Be Questioned By Your Juniors’ and ‘Make An Ad For Your Consumer, Not Your Boss,’ continuing to create a new era of managers who advocate debate and disagreement leading to more innovation.
Specifically, brands from Thailand, Turkey and the UAE now travel to Pakistan on self-flying machines to sit with AI generators to create content. They often fondly reminisce about the ancient era when Pakistanis left their own beautiful country to go to Thailand and dress up a desi stall to make it look as if they were shooting in Pakistan (but with East Asian extras because budget, yaar). No longer are haram kickback-taking managers ordering halal food on shoots in Bangkok – there is no need anymore.
The quality – oh, but the quality of the work has improved significantly. A few decades ago, several creatives who had had enough of the mind-numbing mediocrity being churned out daily, decided to establish an NMMC (‘No More Mediocrity Clause’) – an industry-wide agreement that no agency will deliver any more content that makes people want to pour hydrochloric acid into their eyes and cement into their ears. Voiceovers that started with “Jee haan” were put on a forever blacklist, along with the use of the phantom camera to shoot food and the phrase: “Let’s shoot at a faster frame rate so that everything looks better even if it doesn’t have a concept.”
Pakistanis developed an AI tool that lets you know where your content scored on a scale of 1-10, 10 being ‘Outstanding’ and 1 being: ‘This has been done 363,903,362,946,498 times before so you’re gonna have to buy a crapload of media space to hammer this into people’s brains.’ Anything below a five wasn’t allowed to air. This meant that Pakistanis can now watch Pakistan win their 18th Cricket World Cup title (the first one in the brand new five-overs limit) without subjecting themselves to Stage Four PTSD due to repeated jingles every over.
Agencies have prioritised mental health and people initiatives, focusing on diversity and inclusion, and enforcing strict anti-toxic behaviour, which means that psychotic managers who shout at employees to demonstrate ‘power’ are surely a thing of the past. The focus is on creating good work. It has been revolutionary, yet simple. There are many more women directors, inversely proportional to egos.
All this has led to an astounding revival in the economy, with creativity feeding into practically every sphere of the country, driving innovation and problem-solving. When you are not having a hologram meeting at Empress Market MegaMall in the Metaverse, you can delegate your AI assistant to fill in your Effies form (yes, the Effies, like Rooh Afza, will always be around, but now with a reduced 8,000-person jury). Advertising and marketing in Pakistan, as engines of growth, have driven the commerce cycle into a positive uplift, speeding up manufacturing and services, and providing creative technologies to the rest of the world. The Pak rupee, now trading at one to $15, is doing well.
The entertainment industry is booming after its 26th Oscar win. Pakistan has now expanded into creating its own international industry awards which are powered by the billions brought in through selling content to platforms around the world. During the 2048-2053 pandemic of Covid-48, the world turned towards consuming more rich Pakistani content as it was relegated to a five-year quarantine, which was ended through a vaccine developed in… you guessed it. You can say we saved the world. This content boom happened through a dedicated effort to focus on building more storytelling, and better production.
In summary, it’s a beautiful time for Pakistan in 2098. But none of this would have happened had it not been for a pivotal moment after the 2023 publication of Aurora’s celebration of the first 75 years of advertising in Pakistan, a choice made with a simple promise: “We will not make any more work that is shit. We know when it’s bad, and we will stop fooling ourselves by saying bad work is good. We will change, in 2023, so that the next 75 are wonderful. It’s up to us.”
Ali Rez is Chief Creative Officer at IMPACT BBDO MENAP. He is a 27-time Cannes Lions winner.