“The naysayers will continue to deny that digital has overtaken TV, but the numbers point in a different direction”
MAMUN M. ADIL: Why was Jack of Digital recently acquired by Entravision?
FAISAL SHEIKH: Jack of Digital was established by my wife and I during Covid. I had worked on the media agency and client side earlier and this was a transition. We started as a small company with big dreams, and initially, we had a very small team. Today, we employ over 35 people. We became the official resellers of platforms such as TikTok and Eskimi along the way and in 2022, Entravision acquired a minority stake in Jack of Digital and then earlier this year they acquired 100%. This is the first of its kind acquisition in the industry – where a New York Stock Exchange traded company has acquired a company in Pakistan. As a result, my wife and I are not shareholders anymore and Jack of Digital is now known as Entravision Pakistan and the Middle East.
MMA: What is Entravision’s main focus globally?
FS: Entravision has a presence in about 42 countries with major centres in the US, Spain, South Africa and Iceland. It has two main remits; one is traditional media sales and the other is representing platforms such as TikTok, Meta and Spotify in multiple markets.
MMA: How did the acquisition change things?
FS: We now have wider access to more platforms. For example, we now represent Pinterest in Pakistan. We are also more involved in strategic discussions, and overall our operational capabilities have improved as we have access to more tools, products, technology, expertise, and learnings from other parties.
MMA: What changes have you seen in the digital space in the last year or so?
FS: In the last 12 months we have probably brought nearly 400 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) into the tax net because we refuse to work with people who are not registered with the Federal Bureau of Revenue. These SMEs constitute a significant chunk of the advertisers in the online space, although they are not considered ‘documented’ in the sense that they are not traditional advertisers that come through agencies or are registered with the PBA or APNS. Many have never advertised on TV or placed an ad in a newspaper. However, due to ease of access, they advertise on digital in a significant manner; they can advertise with as little as Rs 1,000 and compete with larger businesses without having to create a fancy commercial and spend millions of rupees acquiring talent, shooting and post-processing.
MMA: What has prompted this change in smaller organisations?
FS: As some experts say, Covid was the best ‘Digital Officer.’ It pushed people into thinking how to connect with people in a world that was previously completely dominated by the physical aspect. Many stores had to close down and this triggered many smaller businesses to advertise online and they were able to grow in an agile manner, unlike larger organisations where there are bureaucracies. This created a level playing field whereby small companies could compete with larger organisations on the same platform and at the same cost. Smaller businesses have a presence on most platforms and we have a team that services them. They have very interesting insights and they know exactly who their audiences are and who buys their products, so their targeting is much better compared to some of the larger organisations since they are not bound by restrictions – or perceived restrictions – and they will try everything out and hammer their message in a targeted manner.
MMA: How so?
FS: For example, I dealt with a well-known client who decided to make a really long commercial and which took about four months to complete. However, even though they spent a lot of money on it, the commercial did not work. Despite this, they came to us, saying that they needed to increase the number of views and were willing to spend even more because they had committed a certain number to their management. Ultimately, they were willing to waste the company’s money just to make sure that the ‘management reporting’ was taken care of, irrespective of whether the ad worked or not. We have seen people who have spent more money making commercials than actually airing them and this has been an industry practice. People want to do a brilliant job with celebrities, yet they don’t have the budgets to show the content to their audience. So these efforts turn into a kind of ‘stock library’ for them to say, ‘Hey, we did this!’ People do this all the time, but they need to understand that at the end of the day, they have to be both effective and efficient. You cannot be one and not worry about the other. You need to be very clear on the objective which is to improve shareholder value. If you don’t do that, whatever else you do will backfire eventually.
MMA: When do you think digital will overtake TV?
FS: It has already done so. Even the industry experts do not know how many people watch TV in this country, yet internet numbers are published, be it by the PTA or on other platforms and you can also measure the effectiveness of a campaign online. People still consume content produced by traditional TV channels but not in the traditional way. YouTube is viewed by many people through their phones or by streaming. In the rural areas, where load shedding is a bigger issue compared to the urban areas, most people consume content on their mobiles. Some people even rent UPSs so that they can charge their phones; mobiles are therefore their top medium for entertainment, especially since the cost of access has decreased. The naysayers will continue to deny that digital has overtaken TV, but the numbers point in a different direction. You don’t have as many TV screens in Pakistan as it is claimed because half the country does not have electricity.
MMA: What are your short- and long-term goals for the company?
FS: What I envision for Entravision in this part of the world is continued growth. We pretty much offer all services to advertisers and platforms and act as an intermediary. There will always be a need for intermediaries, especially those that can facilitate the process for people needing access to international platforms, and in this regard, we provide local payment solutions. In terms of how we see the world change, technology will continue to progress and people will continue to figure out ways of making improvements and although the pace is getting harder to keep up with, adoptions will happen. AI will take over certain decisions and I think there will be more focus on machine learning than AI to get rid of repetitive tasks.
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