Published in Mar-Apr 2021
I remember when, a few years ago, I reached out tentatively to Campaign Asia and offered to write about digital marketing in Pakistan. To my surprise, they answered and requested me to write about Pakistani marketing instead. Taken aback, I asked why they wanted me to write about Pakistani marketing in general. They replied: “Because we get so little information about your market.” That was probably in 2012. Since then, the situation has improved with Pakistan winning a number of awards at Cannes and other awards shows.
However, Pakistan is still not quite on the map of the global marketing community and the reasons are manifold. One is that we are located adjacent to India, which creates localised campaigns that are rolled out in the region whereas that is not the case in Pakistan. Secondly, we are part of Asia, but not Asian in the way that China, Japan or many other countries are which have a multicultural society with a high number of expatriates. Another reason is that data in general, and marketing data in particular (usually shared widely by brands elsewhere), is sparse in Pakistan. In our market, brands don’t like to disclose figures pertaining to market share and case studies on successful campaigns read more like a brag sheet than an objective document intended to share knowledge.
In fact, due to our mindset and our fear-based management systems, Pakistanis hate to share useful knowledge with their peers. This mindset makes the role of PAS even more relevant.
Upon entering the advertising community in 2005, I remember immediately joining the Marketing Association of Pakistan to learn and meet my peers. I did not know about the existence of PAS until probably 2011. It was the Digit 2012 event that put PAS on my radar and then the PAS Awards, Pakistani advertising’s first official awards. Now, PAS has brought the Effies to Pakistan and that is definitely a step in the right direction. Pakistan needs global exposure.
I remember, as a media planner in my early days at Lowe in 2006, reading about the Young Lions Competition in Cannes where young advertising professionals from around the world would compete to create a campaign in 24 hours. In 2019 two young Pakistani marketing professionals from HBL, Wajiha Arshad and Lynnette Rodrigues, made it to the competition, after having won the local Young Marketers Competition held by PAS. A team from Pakistan participating at one of the most talked about global awards show was no small feather in PAS’s cap. Recently, Pakistan has been winning awards at regional and global levels, but these were more about individual agencies like Bullseye DDB or creative geniuses like Ali Rez and his team.
One of PAS’s goals is to create knowledge hubs and if you visit their site, you can see that they have a vast amount of useful and practical information. This includes position papers (academic opinion and research based articles), white papers as well as articles and thought pieces from the global marketing world. The website is a very good resource on a variety of topics and disciplines related to advertising and marketing. I think that academia needs to actively encourage their marketing students to visit the PAS website and make use of this resource.
PAS also organises trainings and workshops, open to both members and non-members, where they have the benefit to learn from global communications experts. I attended one training session at Digit 2012 conducted by Michael Leander. His approach and style were very conducive to learning and retaining the information he gave. PAS organises webinars on topics such as retail, marketing, brand building and offering marketers access to regional perspectives. However, these are member only, so the dissemination of the knowledge gained is limited and in my opinion, these webinars should be open to everyone so that the largest number of professionals can benefit.
I remember in my first year at Lowe, I had a voracious appetite for learning and knowledge and I signed up for the MAP meeting specifically to attend the talk given by Atfab Tapal and paid from my own pocket. Later, trying to obtain permission to attend another workshop was a struggle. I had to run from pillar to post to convince HR and other departments that allowing me to attend was worth the agency’s time and more importantly money. I thought it would be a lost cause until I took action and approached the MD; he agreed and I attended the workshop. If this was the scenario at a well established agency, I can only imagine the situation at smaller agencies and even today what hurdles employees may be facing in obtaining permission to attend lectures and events. Training is mostly ‘paid lip service’ and agencies and companies still fail to regard them as an investment – and this is an area PAS needs to work on because the Pakistani advertising industry can only grow if regularly exposed to global best practices.
PAS is a brilliant platform and has achieved a great deal. All they need to do is raise the bar and encourage participation at events and trainings, cater to marketers according their level of experience and play a role in bridging the industry with academia.
As Robert Frost writes in his poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, there are “miles to go” and much to be done before PAS can rest on its laurels.
Tyrone Tellis is Marketing Manager, Bogo.