Mamun M. Adil speaks to Sarmad Ali (President, AdAsia WC), Numan Nabi Ahmed and Waqar H. Haidri, members of WC
MAMUN M. ADIL: Who are the principal organisers of AdAsia 2019?
SARMAD ALI: In addition to myself, the core Working Committee consists of Numan Nabi Ahmed (former Vice Chairman, PAA), Waqar H. Haidri (Group Chairman, PAA), Seema Jaffer (Vice Chairperson, PAA), Ali Mandviwalla (immediate Past President, PAA) and Sohail Kissat (Former Senior Vice Chairman, PAA). Waqar is looking after finance, administration and registrations; Numan and Seema are helping with sponsorships. Other senior advertising professionals whose guidance I have sought include Shahnoor Ahmed (CEO, Spectrum VMLY&R), Ahmed Jamal Mir (CEO, Prestige Communications) and Khalid Rauf (CEO, MullenLowe Rauf). Then there is the Advisory Committee which includes icons of the industry: Hameed Haroon (CEO, The Dawn Media Group), Javed Jabbar (Honorary Chairman AdAsia 2019) and Jamshed Qureshi (founding member, PAA). Bharat Avalani (Chief Knowledge Officer, Connecting Dots Consultancy) is helping us as well. Then there are the representatives of various organisations such as Qamar Abbas (PAS), Kamran Lashari, Director General, Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) and Shakeel Masud (President, PBA). Shahzad Nawaz is our creative consultant.
MMA: Why are there no young people on the Committee?
SA: There are several young people such as Asad-ur-Rehman, Chair of the Speakers and Content Committee and Ali Rez. Asad has played a critical role in identifying speakers, setting the conference agenda and convincing speakers to come to Pakistan; he is also working closely with Ali on the agenda.
NUMAN NABI AHMED: You never ask a test debutant to be the captain of the team; you need people with expertise to organise an event of such a scale. However, as far as young people are concerned, their opinion has been sought with regard to content. Furthermore, the PAA has chosen young people to be part of their executive team – we have given them the opportunity to learn from us.
MMA: What role is the PAA playing?
NNA: The PAA, by virtue of being the country representative of the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA) is technically responsible for the event. However, there is always a committee that is created to organise the event. This time, the Committee is headed by Sarmad because he took the initiative in bidding on behalf of Pakistan at AdAsia 2015 in Taiwan. The executive members of the PAA in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are playing supervisory and coordination based roles.
MMA: What have been the main challenges in organising this event?
NNA: The biggest challenge has been generating funds, which is especially difficult in the current economic climate. The good thing is that sponsors understand the value of their presence; they want to contribute to the cause and realise the importance of AdAsia in promoting a positive image of Pakistan.
MMA: How many sponsors have come on board?
SA: The premier sponsor is EBM; others include Careem, Dentsu, Hakuhodo, Hamdard, MCB, Midas Group and Star Marketing. The Advertising Association of Macau is a sponsor as they will be hosting Macau Night (AdAsia 2021 will be held there). We rely on sponsors for 70% of the revenues to fund the event; the rest is derived from the delegate fees.
MMA: What were the other challenges?
SA: Another challenge was convincing foreign speakers to attend. It was not so much about security, but the fact that for a lot of people, Pakistan is not perceived as an attractive destination. On the sponsorship side, despite the fact that ad budgets have been halved, sponsors did respond and hopefully an event like this will help provide an impetus to the industry to come out of this crisis and serve as a platform to showcase itself in the presence of an international audience. Ultimately, we hope to showcase Pakistan and its people as they really are. We believe there are two Pakistans: one seen in the western media and is extremely negative; the other is the real one which you cannot experience until you come here and are exposed to our rich culture, hospitality and history.
MMA: What has the response been in terms of registrations?
WAQAR H. HAIDRI: We are expecting between 600 and 700 delegates; at least 30% are expected from overseas and the rest from Pakistan. The fee is Rs 40,000. To encourage students to attend, their fee has been pegged at Rs 10,000. We are also offering an early bird discount of Rs 5,000 for registrations before October 31.
SA: One of the issues this year is that usually at least 100 delegates from India attend every edition of AdAsia; given the current political climate between the two countries, we are not sure if this will be the case this time.
MMA: Compared to AdAsia89, was this year’s edition more difficult to put together?
NNA: Yes; because the PAA of the eighties and nineties was far more dynamic and the icons and legends of the advertising industry were all part of it, be it Shahnoor Ahmed, Hasan Nawab Effendi, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafour, Syed Naseer Haider, S.H. Hashmi, Sultan Mahmud, Wajid Mirza or C.A. Rauf. When they pitched for AdAsia ’89 in Seoul in 1984, five newspapers released special supplements and their advertising revenues were used to fund the bidding costs. As we don’t have such iconic people anymore, putting the event together was more difficult.
MMA: Which entertainment and cultural events have been finalised?
SA: There will be a dinner at the Hazuri Bagh in addition to a cultural show; Arif Lohar was very popular when we held Pakistan Night at AdAsia 2017 in Bali and he is expected to perform at the event. We will also have a qawwali night at the Juna Mandi Haveli.
MMA: Are you contemplating including more contemporary musicians?
NNA: We are currently talking with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan; if he agrees, he will be a draw.
MMA: Which speakers have been finalised so far?
SA: The international line up includes Lord William Hague (Former UK Secretary of State), Richard Quest (Chief Business Correspondent CNN), Tasuharu Sasaki (ECD, Dentsu Network) and Randi Zuckerberg (Founder & CEO, Zuckerberg Media). Pakistani speakers include Hameed Haroon, Javed Jabbar (media expert), Seema Kamil (President and CEO, UBL), Taher A. Khan (Chairman, Interflow Communications), Ali Rez (Regional ECD, Impact BBDO Middle East and Pakistan) and Dr Zeelaf Munir (CEO, EBM).
MMA: What is the rationale for having speakers not linked to the advertising profession?
SA: This is always the practice; at AdAsia 2017 in Bali, speakers included Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary General) and David Coulthard (F1 Grand Prix winner). We have invited Prime Minister Imran Khan to talk about cricket, advertising and politics as he has served as captain of the Pakistan cricket team and appeared in several commercials prior to becoming Prime Minister.
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