MAMUN M. ADIL: You have recently been promoted to National Creative Director at JWT | GREY Pakistan. How will the role be different from that of your previous one of ECD?
SYED YAWAR IQBAL: I would not say that it is a different role; rather, it is an enhanced one. As a creative lead, one needs to learn the business side of things and this elevated role demands comprehension of it, be it about retainers or our business goals, and this role will help me build that awareness. One a global level, at JWT|GREY, the CEO and the Creative Head are partners, and that is the case in Pakistan as well, and the partnership requires I have business foresight, knowledge and even the data and these are aspects I will have to learn. I am not sure about how local agencies work now, but at JWT|GREY globally, every CEO is told “this is the number you delivered last year, and this is the number you need to deliver this year.” I am sure non-MNCs work similarly, but I don’t think such things are spelt out so explicitly. Every CEO inherits this task and they need a creative partner to make sure they deliver on that, whether it means bringing in new business, learning about potential ones or improving their creative team.
MMA: How will your role as a creative be impacted?
SYI: I will play both roles, but even my business point of view will be creative-driven. I will never be able to do what Sara [Koraishy, CEO, JWT|GREY Pakistan] does – I don’t have the acumen or the interest in business– but I can be an asset to her. While my role has been elevated, I will have to look at how to widen our client base, but my gut is wholly creative and I will never be a successful businessman.
MMA: What are the top three things you want to do immediately in your new role?
SYI: Polish my craft, elevate everyone around me and be a better leader. I was an irrational creative director when I worked at IAL Saatchi & Saatchi – it was something I inherited there. When I moved to JWT, I realised that would not work here and that my power is not my aggression and that is why I changed. I want to further improve as a leader.
MMA: Is there anything else you plan to accomplish in your new role?
SYI: To make sure that JWT|GREY has an even more distinctive voice and point of view with regards to the work we produce. I want to develop a strong visual narrative for Pakistan – this is my ongoing battle with everyone.
MMA: What do you mean by visual narrative?
SYI: Whenever we talk about Pakistan’s identity there is always a debate. For example, after the recent Hum Style Awards everyone commented that nangi larkiyan are not our identity. Then what is it? Just shalwar kameez? Or, at Ad Asia truck art was used for the communication because that is all we seem to have. Why can’t our visual narrative can be Sadequain’s work or the miniatures Ayesha Khalid does? As creative custodians, be it people in the advertising industry, writers, directors, artists, we all need to do something about this.
MMA: You have been at JWT since 2015 where you joined as ECD. What has kept you there?
SYI: What options do we have in this country? We literally have six large agencies – the top five which have been the top five for a very long time... You have IAL Saatchi & Saatchi, Ogilvy, BBDO Pakistan, Adcom and JWT and that is it and maybe a Manhattan or Lowe, and most of them – other than BBDO and JWT – are pretty much seth owned. For me, it is better to stick to a multinational and JTW|GREY are kind enough to continue to collaborate with me. One of the reasons why you don’t see too much shuffling at top levels within agencies is because we do not get offers that are worth moving for; and I don’t mean just in terms of money – I mean it in terms of the brands that the agencies work for – and five or six agencies more or less have the best brands. That is why, at most of the larger agencies, creative heads stick and do not move frequently, be it Rashna Abdi (IAL Saatchi & Saatchi), Awais Dhakan (Adcom), Zohra Yusuf (Spectrum) or Zehra Zaidi (Ogilvy Pakistan).
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