Published in Sep-Oct 2019
Number 2, Clifton Road is gone. The beautiful 2,000 square yard bungalow that housed International Advertising Limited (IAL and now IAL Saatchi & Saatchi) for nearly three decades has fallen prey to the concrete ‘junglisation’ of Karachi. For me, it seems a part of my life has just disappeared. I spent seven years of my life in that house, running up and down the majestic staircase from media to client services to creative. And of course to the office of ‘ED’ – as Naseer Haider was always fondly referred to as.
However, the memories of great campaigns and the mad men who worked there in the golden age of Pakistani advertising remain. This is where advertising practitioners such as Imtisal Abbasi, Faraz Maqsood Hamidi, Imran Irshad, Naira Islam, Sohail Kissat, Imran Mir, Ali Rez, Nafisa Rizvi, Cyma Zulfiqar and many more burnt the proverbial midnight oil.
I clearly remember the day I first walked into the offices of IAL in July 1987 for my interview with Naseer Haider. There was Naushaba Muraj shouting down the staircase at someone and as I introduced myself, she guided me to Naseer sahab’s office. I was offered the job straightaway and joined the next week. And so began my romance with advertising and with it a great relationship with Naseer Haider, who by the way, reminded one of Clarke Gable.
I remember working on some of the campaigns that came out of Pakistan. When I joined, IAL was going through a transition phase. They had just retained PIA’s international account in a two-way pitch with Ogilvy worldwide. Ogilvy’s positioning was We Care And It Shows. One of the reasons why Ogilvy lost the pitch was that one of their ads had used a mouse and a cat to describe Muscat... there went the campaign.
Naseer sahab was working on the campaign and the media plan with Nasru (K. Nasruddin), PIA’s GM Advertising and Zaidi sahab (Shafiq Hasan Zaidi), IAL’s Manager International Media. Imran Ahmed of PACE, who represented Time magazine and a stable of international titles, and Arif Salahuddin of INS, representing Newsweek, were in and out of the IAL offices.
And with this began my friendship with Imran. As part of IAL’s reorientation it was decided to move away from the agency’s dependence on their owners (PIA) and their account. The first client we pitched for was a mineral water brand called Minra. It was the first time a brand was seeking to affect a major shift in consumer behaviour by asking them to pay for water. Then we went in for a pitch for Brooke Bond Supreme. We worked along with Naira and Nafisa, and of course Asif Khanzada, on the bid and won the account against heavy odds. M.I. Ansari was the Managing Director and the Marketing Director was K.M. Zafar, who was distantly related to me.
This was the beginning of a new chapter and IAL became a sought-after agency. Instaphone, Pakistan’s first cellular service, followed soon. We (Naseer Haider, Farrukh Morriani, Cyma Zulfiqar and I) worked 23 hours a day for almost a week to put together a world-class, fully integrated presentation. We won the account. I still remember Stephen Child, Salman Qureshi and Qasim Rabbani (QR) walking into the agency to inform us about our win. With this also began one of my most cherished friendships with QR.
The work on the launch of P&G’s first two brands started with a visit from Qaiser Sharif and Bari Abdul. Sharif was the country head and Abdul was the marketing director. We worked on the launch of Oil of Ulay and Head & Shoulders. Great campaigns... Mujhey Hamesha Yaad Rahega Kay Main Nay Head and Shoulders Ka Istimal Kaisay Shuroo Kiya... and the ‘apple’ copy for Ulay... Iss Main Bhari Hay Nami Aur Aap Ki Jild Main Bhi... the commercials were shot in Kuala Lumpur.
In 1988, Pakistan Peoples Party came into power and despite the fact that IAL was the national airline’s in-house agency, the account was shifted to Omer Kureishi’s (OK) Interglobe on the instructions of Begum Nusrat Bhutto out of her and the party’s respect for Omer Kureishi.
There is a new song in the air stated OK’s campaign. But soon, the PIA account was back because of Arif Abbasi who had become the airline’s CEO and General Imtiaz Ali who was the defence advisor to the PM. Neither Begum Bhutto nor the Prime Minister knew that PIA had their own in-house agency! IAL was then told by Arif Abbasi to pull up their socks and look for an international affiliation. The search for a global tie-up ended in early 1990 with the agency signing an affiliation agreement with Saatchi & Saatchi. Naseer sahab and I travelled to Singapore to meet Saatchi’s regional management. Andrew Thomas from the International Herald Tribune (now The International New York Times), played an important role in finalising the agreement. The contract was signed in March when Bill Timmerman and K.C. Wong travelled to Karachi. I still remember the agreement being inked and signed after crossing all T’s and dotting all the I’s in the conference room on the ground floor. Saatchi’s first international campaign for PIA was launched with the first ad titled ‘Birds’.
Soon the fruits of the Saatchi affiliation started to ripen. First P&G and then BAT (now Pakistan Tobacco). Panasonic and Mashreq Bank followed. The work on the launch of P&G’s first two brands started with a visit from Qaiser Sharif and Bari Abdul. Sharif was the country head and Abdul was the marketing director. We worked on the launch of Oil of Ulay and Head & Shoulders. Great campaigns... Mujhey Hamesha Yaad Rahega Kay Main Nay Head and Shoulders Ka Istimal Kaisay Shuroo Kiya... and the ‘apple’ copy for Ulay... Iss Main Bhari Hay Nami Aur Aap Ki Jild Main Bhi... the commercials were shot in Kuala Lumpur.
Alan Hamilton, Saatchi’s former global account director on P&G, was seconded to IAL. He trained us on P&G and I made many friends there... Bari, Ali Habib, Maliha Khan, Numair, Sabir Sami, Qaiser and of course Saadia Shariff, who became my colleague at the Jang Group a couple of years later and still is. We held the launch function at the Marriott Hotel, and Wilfred Kestner (P&G’s Asia Pacific head) was there. We had Alamgir singing specially P&G developed songs based on some of his famous numbers.
I worked at IAL until December 1993 and loved every moment there. But by then the time had come for me to move on and I joined the Jang Group towards the end of December.
Despite leaving IAL, I continued my visits to Number 2, Clifton Road until the agency moved to its new office in Phase II Extension, DHA. By then Naseer Haider had passed away and with him my memories of the beautiful bungalow that housed IAL for over 30 years were gone.
Sarmad Ali is Managing Director and President Revenue, The Jang Group/Geo.