Ahmed Kapadia disdains the rise of mediocrity and
compromise on quality, particularly in the industry to which he belongs
— advertising. As the Managing Director of APNS Award winning Synergy
Advertising he blames mediocrity on one single factor — the acute
absence of leadership. "Talent alone is not enough, it needs
mentorship which we lack here in Pakistan."
It is this dearth of leadership, he says, that has
hindered the growth of advertising as an institution despite
availability of immense talents. He feels that most advertising
agencies, almost all of them inherited, are incapable of seeing beyond
their noses to realize that they have to return something to the system
they immensely benefited from. "There has been no attempt to make
an investment in people, to develop, nurture and groom the raw talent
that we have in abundance."
These betes noires and concerns need to be taken
seriously by the advertising industry, or what passes for it, as Ahmed
has worked his way up since he started his career 17 years ago "by
an accident" even before he did MBA. That also explains why he
feels that it gives his "un-inherited' agency a "professional
Besides the lack of leadership another major
deterrent to groom the talents is the economic reality itself, adds
Ahmed Kapadia. "It is not that there is a dearth of talents. This
is obvious from one simple fact: Despite jobs being in short supply
everybody seems to be looking out for quality employees. And yet the
search remain futile as while advertising is all about common sense, I
myself did not know anything about it when I started my career with MNJ
in 1986, there are no venues to find, develop and groom the inherent
talents. There are no schools specialising in advertising to groom the
natural-born talent for advertising.
"Merit did not matter for much in the 1980s.
What mattered more were the connections. Things have definitely changed
for better due to wider penetration of airwaves by the satellite
channels changing the way the consumers think. They have become more
educated and informed to become more demanding in turn. The exposure has
made advertising companies, and for that matter their clients, more
sensitive to the needs of consumers realizing that old formulae would
not work anymore."
Ok, so the merit has started to make inroads into the
advertising agency but what about the creativity? "Advertising in
Pakistan still keeps reeling from the creative flair and the execution
that it requires. It takes, as they say, two to tango. An advertising
agency is just as good as its client. If a client is good agency would
also be good and vice versa. However, don't expect an advertising
company to turn a concept into an affective commercial if the client is
not willing to provide the environment, the people, the framework and
the last but not the least the appropriate funds? Demanding quality
output without providing quality input can hardly be expected to work.
Quality has a price."
"Having said that it is also important to
understand that unlike many other countries, including India, the lack
of professionalism and creativity in the Pakistani advertising industry
can also be attributed to dearth of technical skills. It is an
established fact that advertising industry draws its strength from the
film industry. We are all aware of the lack of professionalism and
technical know-how in our film industry and thus our ad industry is
unable to draw the needed technical backup."
Another restricted growth of the ad industry can also
be attributed to the ground realities of the Pakistani market. Like all
other businesses advertising too should not be expected to perform in
isolation. It performance depends heavily on the performance of the
other sectors of the economy. And that explains the reason for the
changing role of the advertising agencies from that of mere providers of
traditional services as print and audio-visuals. In the digital world of
today, they have to provide a range of services like marketing, event
manager and brand builder all wrapped up in one.
While the expansion has helped many advertising
agencies to diversify their business to find alternative sources of
revenue to achieve economies of scale it has also put an enormous burden
on work on them. Many clients try to take an advantage of this situation
by pressing the advertising agencies to do the consumer research as if
it is part of the job. Is consumer research a part and parcel of an
"Consumer research is a specialized job which
requires money. Asking the ad companies to carryout consumer research is
unfair indeed. We at synergy have done such researches but it's just not
fair for a client to expect an advertising agency to do it without
paying for it."
So what is the future of advertising in Pakistan?
Ahmed Kapadia strongly feels that it belongs to 'brand development.'
"We must realize that advertising is just a part of brand building
and not the other way around. Look around; even war is brand development
today. 'Shock and Awe' and 'Operation Liberation Iraq' are brand
building advertising campaigns. However, it must also be realized that
advertising cannot sell a bad product. In fact, advertising would do
increased damage to a bad product."
Can the government do anything more to promote the ad industry?
"Yes it can — by giving it ads purely on the basis on