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From The Archives (2006) – Beyond Traditional Advertising

Our Thinking

It’s Time To Think Beyond Traditional Advertising
Published In Dawn, Aurora, June 2006

By Umair Mohsin

An upcoming media revolution has arrived in Pakistan and has forever changed the way the Pakistani consumer reacts to and consumes media. Traces of it were seen when ‘Capri’ held the first beauty pageant in Pakistan called ‘Capri Face Of The Year’. Soliciting entries from as far as Kashmir, it was amongst the first of its kind of what would be called reality-based branded entertainment. Nestle soon followed suit with MilkPak’s ‘Aao Galay Milain’. The revolution came into its own, however, after the years 2003-2004, when the ‘new media’ segment exploded with programs like the ‘Lux Style Awards’, ‘Sunsilk 21st Century Woman’, ‘Commander Safeguard’, etc, the latest of which have been Tapal’s Chai Banao, Dhoom Machao, ‘Pepsi’s ‘Code Batao’ and ‘Mountain Dew’s Survivor’.

‘New Media’ is the name given to any media vehicle (usually digital) which broadly encompasses an attempt to deliver the brand experience to the customer while actively engaging the customer. It encompasses everything from multimedia in various scales to hypermedia, which emphasizes interactivity. This is in marked contrast to ‘Traditional media’ which is ‘intrusive’, meant for singular one-sided communication and is built for short exposure. In case of non-traditional media, the brand’s presence in the consumer’s context is that experience. It may not need any communication as we know it.

Lost In Tradition

Over the last five years both the consumers of Pakistan and the clients have witnessed a paradigm shift in the way brands are marketed. There have been many reasons that have been cited for this phenomenon. Amongst them are the rise of plastic money, media, international exposure, fast changing lifestyles and the trend of ‘concurrent media usage’

One of the oft cited reasons for the changing consumer is the rise of ‘consumerism’. Plastic money and the increasingly available easy financing schemes have changed our customers to expect more and the change we’re witnessing has come from people who have started to live their dreams and aspirations. This combined with increasing income levels due to new investments by foreign companies especially in the telecom sectors, the rising real estate prices, bullish stock markets and a booming economy has given rise to the more brand conscious and demanding consumer.

“The youth of the previous generations used to live for someone – their family, their spouse, their children. This new youth is now living more and more for itself. Traditionally savings had always been low in our country but with the invasion of media showing ‘the good life’ more and more people are joining the consumption race”, said Ali Naqvi, Marketing Manager, Dawn.

Secondly, with the arrival of over a 100+ local and foreign channels and as many radio channels, 200+ publications, the rise of the outdoor clutter, the always switched on mobile phone and the one-click away internet connection, the traditional media companies have seen their once largely passive audience consuming whatever the producers, editors, etc decided change to an active and fickle audience getting more and more used to ‘having things their way’. This explosion of media has inculcated a sense of quality in the consumer. They are more aware and have infinitesimal more choices today to get satisfied through one medium or another. More and more the audience now demonstrates program based loyalty than channel based loyalty.

The media glamour not only has changed the Pakistani psyche but has also been cited for blurring the lifestyle and buying patterns between the urban and rural masses. The exposure to other cultures and lifestyles has changed the non-urban settler to become as aspiring as their urban counterparts.

This has not come without its consequences however. The youth especially has become increasingly disoriented and has started emulating what they see around them, giving rise to the sophisticates, the person whose identity is more and more tied in to the possessions they have. The more expensive the possessions are, the higher the sense of ‘identity’ the youth has.

“One class in our country emulates the Indian film industry. This mostly comprises of mature audiences. The second class is the youth that emulates what they see on music channels esp. Channel V. Infact, we can call this upcoming generation the ‘V’ generation because ‘V’ is how they define themselves. Their sense of identity comes from each other. Thus, within this chaos is a growing clash in the minds of the youth between traditional familiar values and the glamour from the west”, said Syed Haroon, GM Marketing, Tapal.

These trends are increasing the size of the pies across industries because of which new competition is emerging. This incidentally is also one of the main reasons of the rise of the ‘media wars’ across all mediums, significantly adding to the media clutter and fragmentation of the consumers.

Part of the blame, however, of for the clutter caused also lies within the revenue models of the media companies themselves. Ample real estate of media is now available at throwaway prices and the prices are falling every year.

“Everyone from MNCs to the shopkeeper next door has jumped into TVCs and with so much demand for advertising, programs have been limited to 40 mins duration with 20 mins of advertising. If you don’t have the frequency the money is wasted. If you do, the consumer hates you”, said Shahbaz, CEO, Nucleus Entertainment.

Haroon says it differently however. “5-7 years ago, if someone wanted to reach 50% of the population, a budget of Rs.100-150 million would have been enough to do so inclusive of reminder advertising. Now if someone wants to achieve the same numbers, they’ll require between Rs. 300-500 million, just to break the clutter”.

The fast changing lifestyles however are producing their own consequences that the traditional advertisers should beware of. According to AC Nielsen data for ‘Projected Household Usage of Free Time’, there is a growing trend of not being able to watch TV due to lack of time. In the Urban centers, only 53% of the households profess to watch television. The most watched channels being ‘PTV’ at 35% and 36% for males and females respectively and Star Plus second at 18% and 45% respectively. However, 79% would rather prefer spending time with their family and children than do anything else.

“The reason for that is there’s a finite supply of ad time on TV and a finite time that viewers watch the top programs they like”, said Fauzan Sohail, the owner of “Thus you can already see the ad budgets leaving the traditional media and going into the digital space, albeit on a limited scale but compared to a few years ago, the trend is becoming more pronounced. Thus, I look at it not as fragmentation, but as hyper-fragmentation. It’s mind-boggling the way the multiple platforms are creating multiple sources for new revenues.”

Aside from these trends, however, there is another phenomenon that is rarely mentioned in marketing circles but is growing at unprecedented speeds across the nation. People now talk on their mobiles while watching television. Their children instant-message friends while listening to music. Women talk on the phone, chat with their significant other, all the while they’re cooking. “People somehow managed to shoehorn 31 hours of activity into a 24-hour day”, said Kirmani.

This trend is significant for marketers because most of these multitasking tasks involve television plus another activity, whether it’s reading a newspaper, surfing the Internet or talking on the phone giving us therefore a mix of clutter wars and span wars. When you have cases like these, than the question arise which activity is getting primary attention? It’s hard to evaluate levels of engagement.
“We know people are watching with shared attention and that the trend is especially strong in women” said Ehmer. “But we don’t know to what degree it’s less-than. We’re still struggling to understand the realities of this concurrent media usage. However two things we know. This kind of multitasking does not apply only to young people, as was once believed and secondly the amount of time spent multitasking is rising across the board in all demographics.”
While consumers have become more informed and looking for more and more insperiences (experiences that create the WOW!), becoming increasingly cynical to traditional advertising tactics in the process, the client is now demanding more action and accountability from the same.

Asad Qureshi, GM, Media Max – Ary Digital says “We still nod with the statement “I know half my advertising expenditure is wasted. Trouble is I don’t know which half”. It’s ironic because with the advent of media fragmentation and channel hopping, the premise that even half of that works, is beginning to look like an over-estimate”,

For advertisers, the challenge therefore would be to get their message across in one medium while the consumer is active at the same time in several others. The buzzword these days is “engagement” — as in how engaged, or involved, the consumer is in a particular activity.

This is where the ‘New Media’ comes in.

Brand The Experience

“There are two reasons why we now need a new creative strategy. Audiences are changing and technology is changing. … and technology is increasingly shifting towards empowering our audiences, transferring control from us to them, letting them consume what they want, when they want, letting them participate”, says Ehmer Kirmani, CEO Media Ideé. “We can safely say that the era of mass media is slowly giving way to one of personal and participatory media.”

In the past, consumers usually were at the very end of the business process. Now, with the internet, the mobile phone and the ever-more-amazing array of new services, consumers have moved centre-stage. Our industry has always considered the customer to be kings but with the advent of these technologies the consumer is transforming into the ‘Informed Monarch’ or even a ‘Brand Brother’ (aware of everything that goes on with the brand).

Ehmer Kirmani, CEO, Media Ideé says, “The consumer’s power has never been so unrivalled before in the history of media to edit out or altogether avoid advertising courtesy of a wide variety of technologies. More of the same is certain to follow”.

The clients are recognizing that the way people are consuming traditional media is changing, and the money is going to follow that.

“More and more clients are looking for what I call Brand Maximization.”, said Ehmer Kirmani. “This is different from Brand Activation from the way we know of it, because here activation platforms have been made limited to events only. Maximization means taking the brand into all the ideal mediums possible…taking the brand’s equity into Branded Entertainment, Events, PR Activities, Experiential Marketing, Interactive, anything which strengthens the relationship between brands and consumers”.

The reason behind new media is simple. You have to make the consumer experience the brand and ATL cannot do that. Ground level activities are needed for that with which you can target your core consumer.

New media is also important as it gives you a singular platform and allows you to be interactive with your customer. The purpose behind it is to communicate directly with the end consumer who is increasingly being driven by entertainment, news and celebrities. They are increasingly editing out brands that fail to entertain them and as such the current brand communications are in danger of falling into the ‘heard it before’ pit.

“An activity such as Tapal’s Chai Banao makes your consumers talk. It excites them. It also develops your credibility that that these things do happen and people do win great prizes”, said Haroon commenting on Tapal’s recent activity.

“Previously the bigger companies used to have 90% of their budgets in traditional advertising. Now it’s 70%. More and more the focus is towards ‘on-ground’ activities’ like Dawn Lifestyles. For Dawn, it’s also a natural extension what we’re doing. We’re a vehicle for advertisers. In the shape of Dawn lifestyles that vehicle adds more for our advertisers”, said Ali Naqvi.

Such entertainment offers the opportunity to bridge the gap of ‘What’s in it for me?’ between the company and the consumer. It differentiates you from the other ‘boring brands’ out there and creates a pull effect.

Crossing All Lines

The rise of using celebrity endorsements in recent years illustrates the growing appeal of the Pakistani consumer towards emulating their ‘favorites’, those whom they see on the media. The problem with celebrity endorsements, however, is that in most cases the celebrity over-shadows the brand. In recent years, this has been demonstrated amply by Tapal and Moin Akhtar, Walls and Ali Azmat / Strings or Bakeri with their last communication featuring three celebrities. In each the brand got lost amongst the communication. This trend has been amongst the prime drivers of the shift towards ‘create your own entertainment’.

New media as we have mentioned before encompasses many shapes. However the most dominant one in Pakistan has been Branded Entertainment, which is also what we’ll take up as our study.

Branded entertainment (sometimes referred to as product integration or strategic entertainment) can take many forms. It is not just merely showing fashionable women or people using the product on a show. Branded entertainment is best defined as where a brand creates consumer entertainment that would not have existed without that brand and where consumers actively choose their involvement.

Its recent resurgence coincides with the rise of reality television, where a lack of scripts and a focus on “real world” situations lend themselves to the integration of products and brand names. At its most basic, branded entertainment can take the form of passive product placement, such as the prominent depiction of the Coca Cola name and marks in the program American Idol. In other cases, the product is integrated into the “storyline” for the program.

Sometimes, branded entertainment appears as a form of sponsorship, with marketers like Mobilink attaching their names to programs such as Jazz Icon. Meanwhile, other marketers attempt to combine a variety of these elements, as BMW internationally demonstrated by launching a host of BMW movie films.

“You can no longer satisfy the consumer with just visual communication. There has to be this form of experimentation because of Habituation and branded entertainment satisfies.” said Waqas Shahid, Group Head, Strategic Planning, BBCL.

However, the biggest reason for this rising trend of branded entertainment has been the lack of measures & metrics about what the core audience is watching, at what times and when. A problem usually cited to the lack of people meters in the country.

“You put in a lot of money and there is still no proper measurement… that’s unforgivable in marketing”, said Haroon.

For new converts to this form, there is usually an initial hesitation to adopting a non-conventional medias on grounds of reach, cost, lack of measurement and doubts on implementation capability. However, once the concerns are allayed and they actually implement a project, they are fully converted to the cause.

“Most of all what the clients want to be convinced on is the agency’s ability to implement the initiatives and to establish the right metrics”, said Asad. “The biggest enabler in non-conventional media is to adopt a communications approach (rather than reach, frequency, GRPs) and to articulate an activation platform for a brand. After that it is all about the ideas and the implementation ability”.

How do we measure the impact of these media though? “The non-traditional media is too large a field and no cookie-cutter analysis would work here. The operating principle should be: ‘plan, do, measure, learn and repeat what works”, said Asad.

Zia suggests a way to measure these activations however through the 3E process, using pre-defined metrics for Education, Experience and Engagement. He also suggests that any activated platform also requires constant investment. An ideal example in this case is of Commander Safeguard. They came out with new stuff all the time and generated excitement.”

In the case of Tapal e.g. they will follow the ‘Chai Banao’ activity with a floating kitchen activity especially into areas where viewership of Television is not strong and will also break Family Mixture ‘Khushi Kay Lamhaat’ soon to build the brand further.

Traditional Media – A Part of New Media

Clearly, Pakistani marketers are now exploring new ways of reaching out to target audiences with the help of these new media techniques. More and more brands are now moving into targeted niche segments and non-traditional media is definitely going to be the road forward to reach these niches. We can say that the concept of media syndication has arrived. However it would be just as ill-advised to completely dismiss traditional techniques as it would be to ignore the fact communications will never be the same as they were.

Despite the need to reach out and do one-on-one marketing, mass media’s decline has been overstated. There especially have been many talks of a demise of the 30-second spot, the bread and butter of media agencies in Pakistan.

“We are literally witnessing a revolution in the marketing world as the dominant importance of the 30-second commercial fades away and new forms of customized commercial content appears on the media horizon”, said Asad.

“There are quite a few examples that non-traditional media works. The debate to avoid is the one between traditional media and non-traditional media. Both work. It’s up to the brand, the market situation and its objectives which should decide which mix to use. Secondly, remember branded entertainment will never be used to promote consumer promotions.”, said Fouad.

“Short communications drive impact and can generate top of mind recall but do not deliver the brand message. The brand message has to come out and for that the 30 sec spot is ideal. Therefore it will not be lost as is currently thought. It will become just another part of the 360 instead of dominating the media platform as it does now. The future marketing communications will be a combination of all these different platforms and will be derived from the personality of the brand”, he added.

“Innovative marketing strategies will continue to impact and influence consumer purchasing behaviour”, said Salman Altaf, BM, Maggi, Nestle and “Brand integration in all forms of entertainment will continue to see success, but this does not mean that the television commercial is dead.”

Clearly, in just a few years from now, mainstream network television will not be as central to advertising-agency business as it is at present and the 30-second will lose its dominance. But I would warn against the common enthusiasm for premature obituaries. As long as TV will remain a unique source of information, of entertainment and education that continues to attract family audiences for several hours each day, ‘traditional advertising’ will remain an essential vector of campaigns.

According to Haroon, Tapal will maintain their spending on ATL channels, but definitely increase our spending on new media.

Traditional Media In The Increasingly Non-Traditional World

Media in Pakistan currently is enjoying an unprecedented boom right now. Channels, Radio, Music, all are growing at a rate that was unthinkable even a decade before. Perhaps it is this reason that most of the media companies are becoming increasingly blind to the oncoming train.

Since the dawning of the internet, the world has increasingly seen a gradual transition to what might be called the age of personal or participatory media. The culture is already familiar to teenagers and twenty-somethings, especially in the richer countries of the world. Mature people usually just find it puzzling. Calling it the ‘internet era’ is not helpful. By way of infrastructure, full-scale participatory media does not presume on the availability of the ‘internet’ as much as of broadband and even then not of the common DSL that is available to all and sundry now.

The obvious benefit of this media revolution to the world will be what Mr. Saffo of the Institute of the Future calls a ‘Cambrian Explosion’ of creativity: a flowering of expressive diversity on the eponymous proliferation of biological species 530m years ago. According to Chris Andersen, editor of Wired magazine, “We are entering an age of cultural richness and abundant choice that we have never seen before in history. Peer production is the most powerful industrial force of our time”.

This new media culture can be witnessed through the actively ‘consumer generated content’ like blogs, wikis, podcasting, photos, videos or even social networking sites that have become the backbone of the new media companies such as Yahoo! Google and even EBay.

The effects of these technologies and changing information patterns have been felt in many areas including newspapers in the west, where circulation has been steadily falling since 1990 (Source: The Economist). The trend in other countries is pretty much the same. Most young people, the core audiences of many brands, now do not read the newspaper at all, preferring the internet for information instead and the trend is rising in Pakistan as well. There’s an alternative on the internet for everything that ‘traditional media’ can throw from internet radio to online videos.

Now before we proceed, it should be kept in mind, however, that since video never did kill the radio star and radio never replaced print, it is unlikely that non-traditional media will phase out traditional media completely. However, in the coming years, non-traditional media will definitely grow faster than any other medium.

This has profound business implications for traditional business models of the media industry, which are based on aggregating large passive audiences and holding them captive during advertising interruptions.

For the Pakistani marketers, it means understanding that now the consumers are empowered by technology and can choose what they want to consume especially on television. That is why more experimentation with the new media field will be required.

For the channels, it means that they will have to consider changing their revenue models slowly by reducing the number of advertising slots per program with higher charges per slot or move to an exclusive “brought to you by” advertiser model where only one advertiser participates in each show or program.

For the agencies, they will have to learn to answer to the greater awareness and greater volatility of the new consumer, The same technologies that empower consumers by giving them additional choices also makes reaching them with a mass approach more difficult, forcing more one-to-one marketing. Not only will they have to deal with more and more consumers, but, perhaps paradoxically, they will also have to plan more cluster based marketing and then as time goes by, more and more highly individually targeted campaigns. Unless ad agencies in Pakistan move to inculcate these practices into their future marketing efforts, the agency of the future will be described as “is it still around?”

Why am I espousing these ‘new media’ techniques? Allow me to let Fauzan answer that question.

“My answer is always a simple one: Ease of access along with metrics. Television programs sell. No doubt about that. But A) it’s a major investment, and B) the scope is limited. In terms of diversity of content, WeCite would e.g. always be miles ahead of the Muzik. Eventually, you’ll get tired of the songs and switch the channel. WeCite however takes away the remote control from you and gives you an all in one deal… every month! Not to undermine the channel as it is, but we have the edge in diversity and that goes for any good magazine or source of information online. You are given so much choice within a framework of one URL. How many channels provide that? Secondly, I can tell you exactly how your promotion is doing on a day to day basis. WeCite e.g. gets 9,875 (average) unique hits per day, with over 300,000 hits in May 2006 alone, out of which Pakistan accounted for 61,723. TV can’t do that right now.”

Our media industry is becoming increasingly passive in an active world and behaving in an opposite way than it should. In my opinion, the future belongs to the smaller and fresher companies, which have not yet crystallized or frozen in structure. I myself have no idea of what the future will be, but I can guarantee you that three key ingredients will be needed: change, change and change.