It took 30 years for AdAsia – the largest advertising and marketing conference in Asia – to return to Pakistan after its last foray in 1989. Masterfully planned by Sarmad Ali and his team at the Jang Media Group, the event lived up to its hype. The last time such big industry names from the industry got together in Pakistan was probably when the last issue of the D&AD Annual edition was flown in. For those who couldn’t make it, I put together the 30 most important things I picked up during the event (in no particular order):
1. Imperfect beauty, according to Tay Guan Hin, is essential for making better creative. Consumers resonate more with realistic depictions in lifestyle portrayals rather than over-beautification.
2. Randi Zuckerberg started her first Facebook Live session with only two people: her parents. Big products can start in little spaces.
3. Women should stop feeling afraid to take charge, Seema Jaffer said in the power panel of successful women which was highly inspirational.
4. Almost every single speaker acknowledged the warmth and hospitality they had experienced travelling to Pakistan. Bharat Avalani, in particular, mentioned how you must ‘experience’ Pakistan. Richard Quest and Sir Martin Sorrell termed themselves as Pakistan Virgins who were happy to be there.
5. In order to build a brand as big as Manchester United, it is vital to connect with people, according to Vange Kourentis. Localise your content.
6. Madness is essential to creativity, a very correct Faraz Maqsood Hamidi explained.
7. Raza Jafar pointed out how slavery is still an issue in Pakistan and the efforts being undertaken to battle it.
8. There is no better orator in Pakistan than Javed Jabbar. His mastery of the language is a delight to witness.
9. “Eating RAW is an instinct of the Markhor” was a very interesting explanation of the identity for the ISI as described by Shahzad Nawaz.
10. Organisations need to hire more women, rightly said Dr Zeelaf Munir, as they demonstrate excellent skills in collaboration, integrity, morality, inspiration, mentoring, coaching and multi-tasking.
11. Pakistan for the first time has beaten every other agency in South Asia to be ranked highest in the subcontinent in the Cannes Lions Global Creativity Report.
12. Fernando Machado, who won the Titanium Grand Prix at Cannes last year, showcased how a nervous client will find 100 reasons to kill a good idea. A brave one will find one reason to make it happen.
13. Ideas will be lost if we don’t keep in mind the integrity that should go hand in hand with profit, spoke Richard Quest.
14. Samina Baig urged Pakistanis to believe in the great things that women can do.
15. Randi Zuckerberg had pithy advice on changing the world: “None of us can change the world if we are constantly responding to other people’s messages.” Unplug, people.
16. Tom Goodwin explained that in order to effectively utilise a technology, one must fully understand it. For instance, you don’t understand technology if you are uploading films made for television online without any necessary modifications.
17. Amna Zuberi’s book Finding Lahore made the city look even more beautiful.
18. If you want a quick – and most interesting – tour of Pakistani art, there is no better person to give it than Salima Hashmi.
19. Frieha Altaf pointed out how companies need to make environments safer for women, as security and fear of sexual harassment is a prime reason that most families do not want women to work.
20. Wasim Khan explained how PSL is treated as a platform to not just unite the country, but also to portray Pakistan in a better light around the world.
21. Suggesting that “digital is not creative enough” is a cheap shot against it, according to Sir Martin Sorrell. He spoke about how the definition of creativity is ever-changing.
22. Digital is a great device to solve and enhance society, explained Yasuharu Sasaki. An idea to connect customers at a sushi restaurant with other eaters around the world was showcased.
23. The view from the rooftop on Food Street in Lahore is easily one of the best in Asia.
24. Fawad Khan mentioned how the roles we take on reflect the kinds of people we are. The lines have blurred.
25. You have to be afraid, and then get over that fear, to create the best work in the world, insisted Fernando Machado, who has created some incredibly epic campaigns for Burger King.
26. The President of Pakistan Dr Alvi spoke about how dental advertising can be misleading. Honesty is much needed in advertising. This is true, especially at a time when things are much more transparent.
27. The best use of data is to let it “inform creativity,” according to Sir Martin Sorrell.
28. Edward Pank of WARC showcased how it is important for brands to focus on long-term gains and purposeful advertising.
29. If you stand too close to Arif Lohar playing, you are going to end up with tinnitus for a month.
30. Sarmad Ali is a man of action – it was no easy feat to bring AdAsia back to Pakistan; he made it happen against so many odds. We need more people of action: doers who do rather than just talk. Well done, Sarmad and team.
Ali Rez is Regional Executive Creative Director for Middle East & Pakistan, BBDO Worldwide. He is an 11-time Cannes Lions winner.