Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

This article is part of our cover story **Future Imperfect?**
This article is part of our cover story Future Imperfect?

AdAsia 89 was a major milestone and the culmination of a journey that started with the First Pakistan Advertising Congress held in 1979 in Karachi held under the chairmanship of Javed Jabbar. It was this spirit of collaboration that enabled the profession to make a successful bid in Seoul for Pakistan to host the 16th Asian Advertising Congress (AdAsia 89). AdAsia 89 turned out to be a spectacular success, deemed by foreign delegates and speakers alike to have been one of the best AdAsias ever held. It put Pakistani advertising on the global map in the best possible light.

The 16th Asian Advertising Congress has been a long journey of trials and triumphs. The next four days will be the true test of the Organising Committee’s ability and endurance – as Pakistan hosts the largest international congress organised by the private sector.  

The Organising Committee of AdAsia 89 Pakistan. The 16th Asian Advertising Congress was organised in Lahore after Pakistan made a successful bid in Seoul in 1984 and won over Australia to host the event. Come 1989 and Pakistan played host to one of the most memorable AdAsias, despite the lack of conference and entertainment facilities. (photo: The Congress Handbook, AdAsia 89, and S.M. Shahid)
The Organising Committee of AdAsia 89 Pakistan. The 16th Asian Advertising Congress was organised in Lahore after Pakistan made a successful bid in Seoul in 1984 and won over Australia to host the event. Come 1989 and Pakistan played host to one of the most memorable AdAsias, despite the lack of conference and entertainment facilities. (photo: The Congress Handbook, AdAsia 89, and S.M. Shahid)

A year ago, on February 19, 1988, AdAsia 89 was launched by Punjab Chief Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. A year before that, Senator Javed Jabbar was elected Chairman of AdAsia 89 by the Central Executive Committee of the Pakistan Advertising Association. 

AdAsia 89’s theme: ‘Together Towards Tomorrow’ was proposed by IAL and selected by the Organising Committee from over 30 suggested. The Congress logo, a visual interpretation of the theme, was designed by Oscar Advertising. 

The list of speakers is like a ‘who’s who’ from the world of mass communications. They include Edward de Bono (the inventor of the term ‘lateral thinking’), Alban Lloyd (Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi International), Clay Timon (President, IAA & VP/Director Worldwide Advertising, Colgate-Palmolive), Shuzu Ishikawa (MD, Dentsu, Japan), Ronald Beatson (Director-General, European Association of Advertising Agencies), Antonio De Joya (Chairman, AMDC and Chairman Emeritus, Asian Federation of Advertising Association), Arun Poorie (Editor, India Today), John Stacks (Chief of Correspondents, Time) and David Wheeler (Director-General, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, UK). 

The venue was almost a Hobson’s choice. Karachi has the hotels but lacks ‘culture’; Lahore is somewhat backward in accommodation facilities but compensates with its architecture and environs. The Al-Hamra Arts Centre ultimately clinched the choice in favour of Lahore. The Punjab Government sanctioned Rs 2.5 million for its renovation for AdAsia 89. 

ADEX – An exhibition displaying print advertising and design will be displayed in the art gallery of Al-Hamra. Film commercials will be shown in the auditorium as part of the Congress programme.

The Organising Committee has turned a drawback into an advantage. The absence of large, plush hotels in Lahore will force Congress delegates into the more exciting outdoors and a true taste of the city’s culture. Imaginative scenarios are being created: ‘Costumes through the ages’, ‘Artisans at work’– and the Grand Finale at Lahore Fort, where delegates will light a ‘burj’ and contribute to a gigantic fireworks display. 

Excerpted from AdAsia 89, published on February 19, 1989.  Re-published by Dawn on March 31, 2018.  Zohra Yusuf is Chief Creative Officer, Spectrum VMLY&R.


Thirty years on, Pakistan was host once again to AdAsia 2019, this time under the leadership of Sarmad Ali, President, AdAsia 2019 Working Committee. Despite considerable trepidation over whether Pakistan would be able to pull it off – and as spectacularly as AdAsia 89 – the event delivered on its promise, proving once again that when this profession sets its mind to do something and unites in this purpose, it is able to defy the odds and come out winning.

1 . Imperfect beauty, according to Tay Guan Hin, is essential for making better creative. Consumers resonate more with realistic depictions in lifestyle portrayals rather than over-beautification.

2 . Randi Zuckerberg started her first Facebook Live session with only two people: her parents. Big products can start in little spaces.

3 . Women should stop feeling afraid to take charge, Seema Jaffer said in the power panel of successful women which was highly inspirational.

4 . Almost every single speaker acknowledged the warmth and hospitality they had experienced travelling to Pakistan. Bharat Avalani, in particular, mentioned how you must ‘experience’ Pakistan. Richard Quest and Sir Martin Sorrell termed themselves as ‘Pakistan Virgins’ who were happy to be there.

5 . In order to build a brand as big as Manchester United, it is vital to connect with people, according to Vange Kourentis. Localise your content.

6 . Madness is essential to creativity, a very correct Faraz Maqsood Hamidi explained.

7 . Raza Jafar pointed out how slavery is still an issue in Pakistan and the efforts being undertaken to battle it.

8 . There is no better orator in Pakistan than Javed Jabbar. His mastery of the language is a delight to witness.

9 . “Eating RAW is an instinct of the markhor,” was a very interesting explanation of the identity for the ISI as described by Shahzad Nawaz.

10 . Organisations need to hire more women, rightly said Dr Zeelaf Munir, as they demonstrate excellent skills in collaboration, integrity, morality, inspiration, mentoring, coaching and multitasking.

11 . Pakistan for the first time has beaten every other agency in South Asia to be ranked highest in the Subcontinent in the Cannes Lions Global Creativity Report.

12 . Fernando Machado showcased how a nervous client will find 100 reasons to kill a good idea. A brave one will find one reason to make it happen.

13 . Ideas will be lost if we don’t keep in mind the integrity that should go hand in hand with profit, spoke Richard Quest.

14 . Samina Baig urged Pakistanis to believe in the great things that women can do.

15 . Randi Zuckerberg had pithy advice on changing the world: “None of us can change the world if we are constantly responding to other people’s messages.” Unplug, people.

16 . Tom Goodwin explained that in order to effectively utilise a technology, one must fully understand it. For instance, you don’t understand technology if you are uploading films made for television online without any necessary modifications.

17 . Amna Zuberi’s book Finding Lahore made the city look even more beautiful.

18 . If you want a quick – and most interesting – a tour of Pakistani art, there is no better person to give it than Salima Hashmi.

19 . Frieha Altaf pointed out how companies need to make environments safer for women; security and fear of sexual harassment are prime reasons that most families do not want women to work.

20 . Wasim Khan explained how PSL is treated as a platform to unite the country as well as portray Pakistan in a better light around the world.

21 . Suggesting that “digital is not creative enough” is a cheap shot against it, according to Sir Martin Sorrell. 

22 . Digital is a great device to solve and enhance society, explained Yasuharu Sasaki. An idea to connect customers at a sushi restaurant with other eaters around the world was showcased.

23 . The view from the rooftop on Food Street in Lahore is easily one of the best in Asia.

24 . Fawad Khan mentioned how the roles we take on reflect the kinds of people we are. The lines have blurred.

25 . You have to be afraid, and then get over that fear, to create the best work in the world, insisted Fernando Machado.

26 . The President of Pakistan Dr Alvi spoke about how dental advertising can be misleading. Honesty is much needed in advertising.

27 . The best use of data is to let it “inform creativity,” according to Sir Martin Sorrell.

28 . Edward Pank of WARC showcased how it is important for brands to focus on long-term gains and purposeful advertising.

29 . If you stand too close to Arif Lohar playing, you are going to end up with tinnitus for a month.

30 . Sarmad Ali is a man of action – it was no easy feat to bring AdAsia back to Pakistan; he made it happen against so many odds. Well done, Sarmad and team.

Excepted from Aurora’s Jan-Feb 2020 edition. Ali Rez is Chief Creative Officer, IMPACT BBDO MENAP.