Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

I Still Don’t Know What You Did Last Summer

Tyrone Tellis on why our industry requires a reframe when it comes to media spending.
Published 24 Jun, 2024 12:01pm

On Friday, May 31, I attended AdMeet 4.0 by AdStreet, an event I had been looking forward to. It was a panel discussion that featured quite a few people I know and respect in the advertising and marketing industry. The topic was ‘Will Digital Media Replace Traditional Completely’. The panellists were: Umair Masoom Usmani, Founder, Myco; Rizwan Ahmad, CEO and Founder, Viral Edge; Saeed Ahmed Khan, Head of Media and Digital, BSPAN, Lipton Teas and Infusions (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka); Emaad Ishaq Khan, Executive Director, Synergy Group; and Anum Matri, Director, Starcom.

Source: AdStreet Facebook Page
Source: AdStreet Facebook Page

This topic, off the top of one’s head, might seem interesting and exciting, but as I sat there and listened to the points being raised, a realisation hit me. Debating whether digital will become the only type of media in our market is a brilliant way to attract attention but is actually irrelevant. This is not to cast any shade on the panellists or moderators. The discussion was interesting and informative, too. Everyone involved did a great job, especially Javed Jafri, Media, Digital and Data Lead, Unilever Pakistan and Ali Azfar Rizvi, CEO, What’s Next Entertainment, who spoke after the panel discussion and shared their views. The whole session was ably moderated by Umair Saeed, who works as a consultant, advising several ad agencies and businesses.

Economics teaches us that there are infinite wants and few means or resources. When we plan a campaign, usually the budget is set and then mediums are selected to create the most impact for the given amount. The deciding criteria to select a medium is usually reach – how many people can the message be exposed to? That, in itself, is not a bad thing; the issue arises when the valuation is based solely on the cost. Whether digital will completely replace traditional media seems like a really important thing to know in this framework. But the issue is the onus on efficiency, not effectiveness, with cost-cutting masquerading as bang for the buck.  

Looking back on my years as a media planner, I have often felt that locally we make a lot of effort to choose the right media mix and little or no effort to, firstly, craft a creative that will be impactful and salient, and secondly, we fail to use each medium selected effectively because the ads on other mediums are usually TV-led and other mediums are used as support for the TVC. So while you may save on cost, you lose out because if you see the OOH, you cannot understand it completely until you see the TVC or DVC. This is a terrible waste of the medium and money, so in an effort to save money, you are actually wasting it. Penny wise and pound foolish is an apt way to describe the scenario. 

I am not sure if I have written about this before, but the actual situation and the desired scenario remind me of two famous Hollywood movies. Because our creatives are mediocre and the mediums are not used to their strengths and for complete communication, our brands tend to play ‘catch me if you can’ with our consumers. It’s basically a process of trial and error and hits-and-misses. Like the FBI agent played by Tom Hanks trying to catch the con artist Frank Abagnale played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can. The desired situation is represented in my view by another Hollywood movie, I Know What You Did Last Summer. This would mean brands know their customers, behaviours and media habits – like the serial killer who anticipates the moves of his victims and both shocks and surprises them.

How do we get from A to B? How do we gather more data about consumers and media habits? The simple answer is to put your money where your mouth is and invest. Invest in research and in setting up media measurement systems and frameworks for better TV ratings, print, radio and even OOH. That would require a consolidated effort and a desire to work for the good of the industry and market. Right now, that resolve in Pakistan seems sadly lacking.

Another way to approach the problem is one that was mentioned at the event: when planning a campaign, one should not hold preconceived notions about what media should be used. Instead, one should flesh out the creative idea first and then select the media to use. 

This would again require a shift in thinking. Einstein was once asked, if he had one hour to save the world, what would he do? He replied, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” We are not Einstein, but you don’t have to be a genius to challenge the status quo and the way things are being done. Our industry requires a reframe and time will tell when we muster the courage to implement it.

Tyrone Tellis is Senior Manager, Corporate Sales and PR, Bogo.