A panel featuring women who have broken the glass ceiling at Ad Asia Lahore.
A panel featuring women who have broken the glass ceiling at Ad Asia Lahore.

In the three decades that AdAsia hasn’t come to Pakistan, the very face of marketing has changed – and Pakistani marketeers have changed, too.

While the first day of the AdAsia Lahore 2019 focused on a marketeer’s responsibility towards change, the second opened with how that change can be found.

Fireside chat with Shahzad Nawaz and Faraz Maqsood Hamidi
Fireside chat with Shahzad Nawaz and Faraz Maqsood Hamidi

Tay Guan Hin, JWT Global Executive Creative Director for South East Asia, spoke about imperfection and how it could build connections with the audience.

While in the past, images mirroring what people assumed to be perfection graced our advertisements. That’s how brands sought to inspire people. However, times are changing and “people are looking for things that are more real,” Hin said.

Read: Day 1 of AdAsia Lahore puts marketeers on the frontlines of social change

“No matter how unattractive you look, someone is out there for you if you find the right connection,” Hin half-seriously joked. He connected the idea of finding the right connection to the larger spectrum of marketing i.e. connect with the audience with imperfect stories that are more impactful than perfect stories that look artificial and connect with no one.

Tay Guan Hin, JWT Global Executive Creative Director for South East Asia
Tay Guan Hin, JWT Global Executive Creative Director for South East Asia

In one ad for Volvo, survivors replaced salespersons to show customers why they should focus on safety features because ‘flashy’ features such as the colour of the car. They brought their own experiences into the pitch, talking about how the Volvo had saved their lives. The engagement went up by 60% because of the connections being made.

“When you do an imperfect story, you are not just selling a product you’re making meaningful change,” Hin said.

Bharat Avalani spoke next by bringing to the stage the World Ad Congress. His words about Pakistan is misunderstood resonated with the audience.

“You can’t read about it, you can’t hear about it, you have to experience and feel Pakistan. And I’ve felt Pakistan and I can put my hand on my heart and tell you that Pakistanis will make you their own,” he told the audience.

Borrowing from Hin’s earlier talk, Vange Kourentis - Former Director Commercial of Manchester United, Head of Marketing and Digital Media at Manchester United FC, continued the discussion on how connecting with people is key to creating a behemoth brand such as Man-U itself.

With 650 million fans around the world, it is innovative thinking that’s extremely localized that has worked for the club.

“Fans became everything to us,” Kourentis told the audience. “There is no excuse today for not knowing who your fans are,” he later added.

The second day of the event was also packed with powerful women that took the stage by storm. Samina Khayal Baig shared her experiences travelling up the mighty mountains of the world – all seven summits.

“When you believe in the women in your lives, they can touch the sky,” she told the audience.

Her message echoed in the four-way discussion held between Dr. Zeelaf Munir, Managing Director and CEO at EBM, Seema Jaffer, CEO Bond Advertising, and Frieha Altaf, CEO Catwalk Event Management & Production. The session was moderated by Atifa Silk, Brand Director of Spice Asia.

The powerhouse panel featured women who have beaten the glass ceiling down only to come back for more. But the journey wasn’t easy.

The four women told the audience that women had to be change-makers. Dr. Munir spoke about the many glass ceilings that women will have to break in their journey while referencing the many times she had to do it herself.

“The glass ceiling of family and societal expectations, of professional life in a foreign country, and then finally returning to my own country only to have to with the glass ceiling of pressuring through family legacies and sociocultural limitations,” she explained.

Pushing back against existing societal structures is never easy. Altaf recalled her time in the 80s, in a post-Zia Pakistan, where the amount of freedom that exists today seemed absurd.

All the things she did were complete no nos. “You were told you will never get married; no decent boys will marry you if you model or act,” she recalled while telling the audience that irrespective of how hard it was breaking those barriers was an absolute necessity.

Seema Jaffer, CEO Bond Advertising, and Frieha Altaf, CEO Catwalk Event Management & Production
Seema Jaffer, CEO Bond Advertising, and Frieha Altaf, CEO Catwalk Event Management & Production

“When you are privileged, like we all are in this room, you have to take stock of your life and understand what’s happening in this world and then break the barriers you see,” she said, while adding that women needed to take the initiative and stand up for each other – and not just each other but also the men, who had to be shown a better way to do things.

To put things into perspective, Seema Jaffer noted the important contribution women bring to the table. “Women bring innovative, different perspectives, ideas, thoughts and creativity with them. They lead to better business,” she said.

The second day of the event continued with sessions on how change can and should become a part of the agenda for marketeers irrespective of the brands they are looking after. As an emerging market full of potential, Pakistan has a lot to offer to the world.

The event will conclude tomorrow in Lahore.

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