The advertising industry in Pakistan has witnessed remarkable growth and transformation over the past six decades. What started as a small industry with a few players and limited advertising techniques has evolved into a multi-billion-rupee sector. The industry’s evolution can be categorised into different eras based on the changes and advancements it underwent.
The first era (1947-1964) was limited to print ads mainly in urban regions. The arrival of television stations in the second era (1964-1978) brought about a significant shift in advertising practices, as visual messaging proved more effective. Colour TV broadcasts and classical jingles characterised the third era (1978-1988). The fourth era (1988-1998) saw the use of new graphic technologies to facilitate limited-time concept ads. The fifth era (1998-2008) witnessed a golden age of modern advertising and visual effects, resulting in a 500-fold growth.
The history of media buying houses in Pakistan dates to the early nineties when the government started to deregulate the media industry. Before this, the state-owned Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) was the only broadcasting channel in the country. The demand for media buying houses increased with the emergence of private TV channels and FM radio stations.
Initially, there were only a few media buying houses and they operated on a limited scale. However, with the advertising industry’s growth, the number of media buying houses increased. Today, there are over 100 media buying houses, ranging from small agencies to large multinational companies.
In recent years, the media industry in Pakistan has seen a significant shift towards digitisation, and the evolution of media buying houses can be attributed to changing market dynamics and technological advancements. With the emergence of digital media, media buying houses have had to adapt to new technologies to stay relevant. They had to learn new skills such as social media marketing, search engine optimisation, website development, mobile app development and online advertising. The rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram revolutionised how people consume media. As a result, media buying houses have played a crucial role in Pakistan’s media ecosystem, serving as intermediaries between advertisers and media platforms.
Media buying houses have also evolved in terms of the services they offer. Initially, they only provided media planning and buying services, but with increasing competition, they have expanded and now offer a complete range of advertising services such as creative design, market research and PR. Media buying houses have also become more client-focused and work closely with clients to understand their needs and provide customised solutions. They offer value-added services such as monitoring and evaluation to help their clients measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns
Another critical factor in the evolution of media buying houses is the increasing demand for data-driven insights. Advertisers now seek more than just ad placements; they want to understand their audiences’ behaviours, preferences, and interests. Media buying houses are stepping up to this challenge by investing in data analytics tools and hiring experts who can provide insights into audience behaviour and media consumption patterns. These insights allow advertisers to make informed decisions about consumer behaviour and ad targeting.
Media buying houses that invest in data analytics, automation, and technology will be best positioned to thrive in the coming years. However, there will be challenges that the industry will need to navigate through while staying ahead of the competition. By investing in data analytics, transparency and technology, media buying houses in Pakistan can continue to serve as valuable intermediaries between advertisers and media platforms, helping clients reach their target audiences and drive business growth.
Looking to the future, PEMRA should mandate internet protocol television (IPTV) and push for a hybrid approach that delivers broadcast TV over platforms like DTT, satellite, or cable, and on-demand and interactive content over broadband. There is also a need for multiple currencies for television audience measurement instead of a monopoly. The sample size representation needs to be enhanced, at least in Pakistan’s urban and semi-urban cities, with a tier-based representation.
The private association of TV and radio broadcasters should also advocate the adoption of emerging technologies and push for developing OTT branches. The Pakistan Advertisers’ Society should hold workshops and sprint sessions to foresee the future of the media and advertising space. As audiences on owned OTT platforms grow or channels consolidate digital streaming with a locally owned OTT, media buying houses can play our part in mitigating the current account deficit to ensure advertising expenditure dollars are not leaving the country.
There is also a need for a representative body for media agencies to debate the steps needed to secure the industry’s future, agree on a roadmap, and then advocate the supply side of the equation, including the regulators. There is a need to identify vital media supply chain issues related to media transactions and discuss how best to create the frameworks for brands, agencies, and publishers to engage directly with consumers in an increasingly fluid and measurement-constrained marketplace. The body should also commission studies to understand Pakistan-specific issues covering brand safety and ad fraud, identity, data, consumer privacy and ad experiences and measurement.
In conclusion, media buying houses in Pakistan have come a long way since their inception in the early nineties. They have adapted to new technologies and changing market dynamics to remain relevant in advertising. With Pakistan’s advertising industry’s growth, media buying houses will likely play an even more significant role.
Farhan Khan is CEO, Brainchild Communications.