Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Talking Heads 2023

Aurora polls Pakistan’s agency heads.
Updated 16 Feb, 2024 11:40am

Aurora asked Pakistan’s leading advertising and corporate heads to answer three questions:

1 What has been the greatest achievement of the advertising industry?
2 The greatest failure?
3 The three brand innovations that have had the most impact in changing people’s lives?

Here’s what the advertising agency heads had to say:

Syed Hassan Abbas
Founder & CEO, Golden Circle

1 In the last five years, many Pakistani campaigns have won multiple international awards (Cannes, Campaign, Dragons of Asia). This shows the effectiveness of our creative work. It is encouraging and a great achievement for Pakistan’s ad industry.

2 Integrating the wonders of AI. We are still following orthodox methods of communication. We need to evolve our ecosystem and implement modern technology so that we can improve our creative output, as well as explore new ways to reach and interact with our target audience.

3 Digital innovations that connect buyers with sellers (online shopping, ride-hailing and food delivery) have had a major impact on how we travel, dine and shop.

Imran Afzal

1 Ad agencies have evolved at a rapid pace. Old style agencies are becoming obsolete and new entrepreneurs and boutique agencies are blossoming. This will diminish nepotism and more professionals will run the show.

2 Underestimating our consumers. More and more brands are selling products rather than ideas and purpose-based insights. We have a long way to go in churning out insight-based work.

3 E-commerce and online business. Social media and digital platforms. R&D data analytics.

Aftab Ahmed
Associate Director, Print/Cable, GroupM Pakistan

1 Pakistan’s ad industry has achieved significant milestones in promoting cultural diversity and fostering social awareness. Notable achievements include campaigns by brands like Coca-Cola and Surf Excel that present diverse narratives, celebrating unity, tolerance and positive societal influence.

2 The occasional reinforcement of gender stereotypes, perpetuating outdated norms. At times, ads have inadvertently contributed to reinforcing gender-based expectations rather than challenging them.

3 Easypaisa Mobile Banking, Telenor Health Telemedicine and’s real estate platform are three transformative brand innovations, revolutionising financial access, healthcare and property transactions for millions of people.

Shahnoor Ahmed
Founder & CEO, Spectrum VMLY&R

1 Developing creative solutions that serve both businesses and people. Adapting in an ever-changing media landscape. Embracing digital and social media platforms. Connecting with a broader, more diverse audience.

2 Effectively address and challenge societal issues, including gender stereotypes and cultural sensitivities.

3 The introduction of affordable mobile telecommunications and connectivity. Mobile wallet services have revolutionised financial inclusion, making digital payments and banking accessible to a wider population. Ride-sharing, delivery apps and online purchasing have transformed lives.

Nadeem Akbar
CEO, Midas Communications

1 The advertising industry’s digital transformation, leveraging data analytics and personalised targeting stand as the greatest achievements. They have revolutionised how brands connect with audiences and measure effectiveness.

2 To address privacy concerns and the rise of intrusive practices, such as excessive data tracking and ad targeting. This has eroded trust and sparked debate on ethical boundaries.

3 Google Ads’ targeted advertising revolutionised online marketing. Facebook ads’ personalised social media promotion. Influencer marketing platforms like Instagram reshaped brand collaboration, transforming how advertisers reach and engage audiences.

Ammar Anwer
GM & Head of Client Services, Blitz Advertising

1 Harnessing the digital revolution and data-driven targeting. Unconventional platforms like Walee, Daraz and TikTok offer brands exceptional reach and engagement, enhancing advertising strategies.

2 To retain and nurture talent while offering competitive compensation that values experience over titles. Emphasising robust HR practices and clearly defined career growth is crucial. We should formalise career paths, as many people no longer see advertising as a viable long-term career option. It’s time to change this perception.

3 Digital financial solutions are transforming lives by enhancing inclusion, convenience, cost-effectiveness, empowering women and promoting transparency. Streaming services have revolutionised entertainment, offering on-demand, ad-free content. Smartphones have significantly transformed communication, information access and daily life.

Farishteh Aslam
CEO, Talking Point

1 The digital facelift marketing has gone through during the last two decades and the introduction and rise of content marketing.

2 Lack of transparency. The boom in digital advertising has also led to false metrics, fake clicks and impressions that are not authentic or genuine.

3 Smartphones have revolutionised communication and access to information. Social media has turned the world into a global village. Streaming has forever changed the way people consume entertainment and content.

Danish Sohail Aziz
Head, Business Development, Message Communications & Digital Message

1 The progression of digital marketing, with channels evolving significantly to enhance accessibility for brands.

2 Decline in creativity. Campaigns often lack the fundamentals of advertising, resulting in reduced attractiveness.

3 Opting for economically priced products with excellent value for money. Prioritising local brands over foreign alternatives. Elevating the quality of local brands.

Latif Amin Bawany
Executive Director, Blaze Group

1 Data gathering and analytics in OOH media and which has ensured better planning and ROI-based results based on tracking, monitoring and data analytics.

2 Lack of standardised regulation and enforcement. This has hindered growth and transparency.

3 Technology has been a game-changer. Google Search has enabled easy access to information. Uber has made transportation accessible to everyone. Apple and Samsung have revolutionised how we connect, communicate, entertain and access information.

Owais Bikiya
CEO, Media Feathers

1 The ability to influence and shape consumer behaviour through data-driven marketing techniques, create brand awareness and drive economic growth through creative and persuasive messaging.

2 Late adoption of AI for marketing automation.

3 Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry and altered the way people travel and find accommodation. Google Search has transformed access to information and knowledge sharing. Tesla has advanced sustainable transportation and renewable energy adoption.

Usman Atique Butt
CEO, Interlink Advertising

1 Surviving the storm of the past three years. We survived because we are adaptable.

2 Not paying enough attention to human resources. Industry professionals must help universities design curriculums and activities that are not textbook-based, but bring them closer to reality.

3 Campaigns designed by my agency. ‘Bache Do Hi Ache’ population campaign. Population growth rate decreased from 4.4% to 3.5%. PEPCO Energy Saver Campaign. Increased domestic energy conservation nationwide. Bank of Punjab’s ‘Sadqa-e-Jariya’ – helped Bank of Punjab solicit millions of donations for Pink Ribbon and Indus Hospital.

Hasan Daudpota
Founder & CEO, Keys Productions & PR

1 The ability to evolve, leveraging technology and creativity to craft compelling narratives, driving brand awareness and engagement. Covid saw a major shift in digital (international) content consumption in local households.

2 When campaigns unintentionally perpetuate harmful stereotypes or lack cultural sensitivity. Balancing creativity with responsibility remains a challenge. We still follow the old model of exaggerating situations. We do not undertake creative experiments and follow the same old formulas and ideas.

3 Smartphones for revolutionising communication, access to information and daily tasks. Virtual events platforms for redefining event participation, connecting people globally in real-time. Streaming services for changing how people consume entertainment, offering on-demand and personalised content experiences. ChatGPT and AI for taking ads to another level. Live commerce and quick commerce for changing the future in highly dense countries like ours.

Aleem Durrani
Founder & CEO, Mediapulse

1 Shan, Dalda, Jazz, Tapal and Sooper are prime examples of successful campaigns that bolstered the brand and contributed significantly to the revenue streams of advertising platforms. The industry has been instrumental in shaping and sustaining the growth of TV channels. Our industry has extended its support to web publications, paving the way for digital media growth.

2 Investing time and resources in comprehensive market research, consumer behaviour analysis and data-driven insights. This has hampered the effectiveness of ad campaigns and leads to a disconnect between the message and the target audience. The industry’s organisational structure and compensation models often lack clarity, creating ambiguity in agency commissions and career paths for professionals.

3 Innovations in the telecom sector and tech breakthroughs have revolutionised the way people interact, transact and navigate their daily lives. Pioneering fintech solutions like JazzCash and Easypaisa have democratised financial access. Platforms like Daraz and Foodpanda have redefined shopping and dining experiences. Ride-hailing apps like Careem have transformed urban mobility.

Natasha Durrani
COO, Media Matters Communications

1 The ability to create impactful and memorable campaigns that captivate and influence audiences. From iconic slogans like ‘Daagh to achay hotay hain’ to creative TV commercials by brands like Jazz, Tapal and Shan, advertising has found unique ways to connect with audiences and shape popular culture.

2 Ensuring the messages are genuine and resonate with the intended audience. Nobody likes to feel that they are being manipulated or deceived. It is all about building trust and delivering meaningful content.

3 Smartphones, streaming services and ride-hailing apps. Smartphones have revolutionised the way we communicate, access information and stay connected. Streaming services have changed the way we consume entertainment, giving us instant access to movies, TV shows, music and podcasts anytime, anywhere. Ride-hailing apps have transformed the transportation industry with convenient and affordable alternatives to traditional taxis.

Muhammad Ghouse
CEO, Alliancez

1 The successful adaptation to digital platforms, leveraging data analytics and targeted content to enhance consumer engagement.

2 The invasion of privacy through aggressive data collection and targeted advertising, eroding consumer trust and raising ethical concerns.

3 Three brand innovations with significant impact include the iPhone for revolutionising communication and technology. Tesla for reshaping the automotive industry. Most importantly, AI.

Faraz Maqsood Hamidi
Chief Creative Officer, The D’Hamidi Partnership

1 The advertising industry does not discriminate. Every message has an audience. And every bad message starts a conversation.

2 Not a failure in advertising’s ideology, but rather one of its mediums – everything is an ad on social media. Everything sells on social media. Products, lives and privacy.

3 This one is easy; sliced bread, no-screw hinged glasses and electric cars.

Jawad Humayun
Chairman, Channel 7 Group of Companies

1 The transformative impact on cultural narratives, consumer behaviour and global communication. Utilising digital tools, advertising has become a dynamic force fostering economic and societal growth.

2 The occasional ethical lapses, enabling deceptive practices and manipulative strategies. Some campaigns perpetuate harmful stereotypes or prioritise profit over social responsibility, damaging public trust.

3 Tesla has transformed the automotive industry, popularising sustainable transportation and reshaping perceptions about electric vehicles. Airbnb has changed the way we travel and find accommodations. Spotify disrupted the music industry by offering a vast library of songs accessible on-demand. It has changed how we discover, share and listen to music.

Afzal Hussain
MD, M&C Saatchi World Services Pakistan

1 The elevation of our local craft that has led to the global recognition of our best work.

2 Breaking away from tired formulaic approaches aimed at meaninglessly driving consumption.

3 Access to high speed internet and the real life improvement brought about by democratised consumer services (Careem, Foodpanda and Zameen) and smart pivots by brands that link consumerism to increased social good (for example, donating meals).

Seema Jaffer
CEO, Bond Advertising

1 Agility and resilience. Be it digital technologies, economic fluctuations, or political uncertainty, the industry has adapted to – and weathered – many storms and continues to grow. More recently, the role advertising played in addressing social issues and contributing to positive change.

2 To create platforms for learning and inculcating a culture of creativity. Mentorship opportunities, networking events. Industry collaborations with media, advertisers, tech and educational institutes. The promotion of diversity and inclusion and a supportive work environment.

3 Google, smartphones and AI.

Ahmed Kapadia
Chairman & CEO, Synergy Group

1 The ad industry lacks notable collective achievements. While commendable work occurs in isolated instances, it falls short of industry-wide success. However, the continued interest of young people in advertising, fuelled by technology and social media, remains a positive aspect in the industry’s overall performance.

2 The failure to develop people who understand the advertising process and go through the grind to create the magic in advertising. Every agency is faced with the challenge of finding good people. The second failure is our inability to present a unified front against brands that appropriate our work and mistreat agencies. Agencies lack a robust platform to advocate for their rights against such infringements and injustices.

3 CSR can drive innovation, as brands seek meaningful ways to contribute to societal well-being. This can range from environmental initiatives to community development projects. Brand-consumer relationships have evolved, with increased communication and transparency. Social media and other digital platforms play a crucial role in facilitating this direct communication. Delivery services have forced brands to re-evaluate their sales channels and marketing strategies, with a focus on the convenience of doorstep delivery. This shift is especially relevant in the context of changing consumer preferences and expectations.

Umair Kazi
Partner, Ishtehari

1 Creating a ‘Goldilocks zone’ between commerce and creativity. To me, working in advertising is the most varied, exciting and impactful job one could have.

2 To maintain a barrier to entry in terms of quality of thinking. While I appreciate advertising’s embrace of misfits, we should keep our guard up against lazy ideation.

3 Humour. Attribution. Creators. I have great respect for pioneering brands that have embraced fun in storytelling, pushed for measurability and embraced the self-regulating chaos that is the creator economy.

Adeeba Mahmood Khan
Chief Creative Officer & Head of Strategy, Manhattan Communications

1 Revolutionising consumer culture by leveraging data-driven strategies, leading to crafting compelling narratives that play out elements of social change, amplifying brands’ reach, impact and resonance in an evolving media landscape.

2 Perpetuating harmful stereotypes, promoting unrealistic standards, contributing to social disparities – at times prioritising profit over ethical considerations – leading to mistrust, misinformation and manipulation of audiences.

3 Smartphones and the internet have revolutionised global connectivity, reshaping work, communication and daily life in transformative ways, including how we shop, access information, navigate and entertain ourselves.

Azam Jalal Khan
Co-Founder & CEO, Digitz Digitas

1 Adoption and the practice of an integrated marketing communications methodology. This has enabled all partners to come together and develop award-winning campaigns that reach their full potential in terms of creativity, impact and audience reach.

2 We are still not experimental and prefer to play it safe. This is a vicious cycle that prevents brands, creative and digital teams from developing bold, out-of-the-box ideas.

3 Branded content. Technology for better customer experiences. Integrated marketing communications.

Sarwar Khan
CEO, IG Square Pakistan

1 The basic function of advertising is to help marketers sell products and despite all the challenges, we have seen companies grow and make profits. I would say advertising has worked to some degree, but have we achieved the pinnacle or something exceptional? NO. We still have a long way to go.

2 We have been unable to make this industry exciting and rewarding enough for young professionals to take it up as a serious career option.

3 Easypaisa has revolutionised the domestic remittances landscape, positively impacting people’s lives. Panther Tyres’ launch of a special tyre for women has generated awareness about inclusion. With only 16% of the female population contributing to the economy and commuting problems cited as one of the main reasons for this, this initiative will help encourage women to contribute to the economy. Careem, Daraz and Foodpanda are creating amazing opportunities for people to earn their livelihoods and contribute to the digital economy at the same time.

Aamir Khwaja
COO, Mullenlowe Rauf

1 Despite a ‘childhood’ often lacking in proper industry training, education and infrastructure, we have somehow organically ‘grown up’ and blossomed through sheer creative talent and resilience, entrenching ourselves and our most iconic campaigns in the nation’s popular culture.

2 Unite to fight for the true ‘value’ of an idea.

3 Innovation in technology has had the most impact on people’s lives by enabling life-changing brands to be created. In an ‘instant’, ‘on-demand’ world, Foodpanda is about what we want to eat and when. YouTube is about what we want to watch and when. WhatsApp has transformed the way we communicate to re-imagining how small businesses operate today.

Shiraz Malik
Creative Director, Half Full Studio

1 More awareness. It is easier to see through certain truths as brands become more transparent. The industry has adopted collateral or communication that is more open to 21st Century abstractions such as mental health, false beauty ideals and outdated social issues. Access to free information: with digitisation, audiences are no longer restricted to censored information and can access free information on a variety of topics through digital platforms, enabling them to make more informed calls on prevailing circumstances.

2 Unskilled creative service providers: it is hard to sift between experienced experts and mediators and between agencies that lack the creative expertise needed to make informed decisions about a brand. Resistance to change. The industry often resists change and prefers established or conventional formulae. Embracing innovative approaches and avoiding stagnant strategies could lead to more dynamic and successful brand campaigns.

3 It is essential to introduce brand guidelines as a mandatory practice to ensure consistency and prevent any deviation from the original concept. By embracing more automation, including software innovations with AI incorporated in tools, we can significantly enhance the daily processes of designers. Detailed innovations in changing algorithms on social media platforms have had an impact on sales derivatives and quantum purchases. Staying abreast of these changes is crucial in order to adapt to marketing strategies effectively.

Jamal Mir
CEO, Prestige Communications

1 Advertising is shifting from recall to relevance, prompting marketers to craft strategically differentiated communication in a competitive digital era and get recognised by excellence awards for impactful work.

2 Lack of standardisation and regulation creates a trust gap for advertisers. The absence of a uniform measurement system makes it challenging for advertisers to gauge campaign effectiveness.

3 The e-commerce surge. In 2023, Pakistan’s e-commerce market is anticipated to hit revenues of over six billion dollars with approximately a six percent annual growth, positioning the e-commerce sector for a substantial role in the economy. Pakistan’s fintech sector has surged, with local apps gaining popularity in terms of providing convenient financial services through technology. This growth is particularly notable in digital banking, peer-to-peer payments and mobile wallet services. Gen AI is transforming advertising by enabling the analysis of customer data, the identification of patterns and the creation of targeted campaigns. AI is enhancing customer experience through personalised interactions.

Salman Munawar
CEO, Firebolt

1 Leveraging fast-paced digital channels. We reach millions swiftly, turning months into days. Direct consumer communication has revolutionised brand interaction, creating rapid impressions.

2 The inability to create content that resonates. Inadequate use of digital stems from sub-par content production. We must prioritise quality over quantity for lasting impact.

3 Ride-hailing services, the digitalisation of retail and financial services for empowering consumers.

Shoaib Qureshy
MD, Bullseye DDB

1 It still continues to evolve, grow and develop into a better than before industry.

2 Make a global name for Pakistan as a key marketing or advertising marketplace.

3 Online and home delivery. Packaged food and drinks. Smartphones.

Sabene Saigol
CEO, RED Publicis

1 The shift from traditional media to digital platforms. Brands that traditionally only communicated above the line now solely use digital as their mode of communication. The game-changer is digital advertising, and it is not just about flashy banners and catchy slogans; it is about precision. We are hitting the bullseye with digital advertising and not shooting in the dark anymore. We can tailor our campaigns to specific demographics, cater to people’s interests and even tap into their behaviours. It’s like having a conversation with your audience rather than shouting into the void.

2 The lack of development of human resources, and we are collectively all at fault. With barely any training facilities, agencies are held hostage by resources one can count on the fingers of one’s hand. For future growth, we must devise a sustainable plan to develop young minds strategically and creatively, to keep up with the rest of the world and make our communication meaningful.

3 Digital payment solutions like Easypaisa and JazzCash paved the way for financial accessibility, ensuring seamless transactions and empowering the unbanked. Ride-hailing services, like Careem and Uber redefined commuting, offering convenience and economic opportunities. E-commerce and food delivery have become more than a convenience; they have become a necessity. These innovations address practical needs while reflecting brand adaptability. Collectively, these advancements signify a responsive approach to evolving demands and underscore how brands have become integral in revolutionising daily transactions, commuting, shopping and dining experiences in the digital age.

Khalid Saleem
CEO, RG Blue Communications

1 The successful integration of digital media into traditional advertising channels. This has allowed advertisers to reach wider audiences with personalised messaging. It has also added a more meaningful dimension to advertising in consumer lives.

2 Playing catch-up with rapidly evolving generations. Not being able to collectively promote inclusivity and diversity, or other such world-changing causes that are close to Zillennial hearts, has lost us the respect and credibility our industry enjoyed earlier.

3 Disruptions. YouTube, iPhone, Tesla, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Zoom. Insightful brand innovations have changed the way we live, work, play and choose to engage with the world. What required time/money/resources is free or freely available thanks to these innovations/interventions.

Kamran Sarfaraz
COO, Arey Wah

1 Traditional agency models moving towards specialised agencies for different disciplines.

2 Lack of investment in human resources, resulting in mediocre creative output.

3 Mobile technology and access to the internet have created many new sectors and provided convenient solutions for customers.

Zohare Ali Shariff

1 The shift towards gender equality. Women are increasingly offered equal opportunities to lead as creative directors, filmmakers and key decision-makers, fostering diversity and breaking down gender biases within the industry.

2 Moving away from the ‘norm’ in terms of creativity and being bold, with more engaging storytelling not based on hard sell.

3 Sunridge’s fortification of staple food products to mitigate malnutrition. Sarsabz’s app for farmers, helping them revolutionise farming and achieve greater yields. Jubilee Life’s health insurance products.

Zeban Syed
Partner & CEO, Ether Agency

1 Creating the aspiration to live better. Creating stories that resonate with consumers and develop lifelong associations with those brands.

2 Curbing the perpetuation of cultural and social stereotypes. To stay neutral politically and take a moral stance.

3 E-commerce, crypto, augmented reality.

Taha Zaki
Group Account Director, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi

1 Creating an impact with ad films. Campaigns today are more than just ads; they communicate a message and aim to reflect total transparency through the digital medium.

2 In an effort to maximise efficiency, ads have begun to follow a uniform formula, creating a sense of homogeneity. This makes the work monotonous and challenging for brands to stand out.

3 E-commerce streamlined delivery. Careem transformed public transport accessibility. Online banking brought unprecedented financial access. These innovations revolutionised lives by enhancing convenience and reaching a wider audience.

Dawood Zoeb
Executive Director, Oktopus Group

1 Sustainability across mediums and growth in a couple of them. TV, radio, print and cinema have sustained themselves, although many had written them off once digital media entered the advertising arena. Digital and OOH have shown growth as well as innovation. 3D and 4D billboards have shown immense capability to capture and inspire audiences, while digital advertising and social media influencers have taken advertising by storm.

2 To develop a strategic approach towards advertising. Most brands follow the competition and do not recognise their own brands’ uniqueness. Content on TV and radio requires drastic improvement in terms of their quality.

3 Daraz has had a great impact in people’s lives, reaching out not only to consumers but to the business community. Businesses are thriving and consumers are shopping through their cell phones, ordering whatever and whenever at their convenience. Foodpanda has levelled up the food business and food eating habits of the average Pakistani. MyCo has been a revolutionary OTT platform where viewers are paid to watch their favourite content. This is an important new phenomenon that will generate more attention as content stickiness grows among consumers. The idea of paying consumers while they watch is likely to gain in popularity, challenging paid platforms.