Digital Audience Measurement In Pakistan

Digital Audience Measurement“Since the beginning of radio, the broadcaster has been interested in how the owner of a receiver reacts to the programs presented over the air. Some of the questions to which the broadcaster, whether he is an educator or advertiser, is anxious to secure the answers are as follows:

  • When does the listener use his receiver?
  • For how long a period does he use it?
  • To what station or stations does he listen?
  • Who listens (sex, age, economic and educational level)?
  • What does he do while the receiver is in operation?
  • What does he do as a result of the program?
  • What are his program preferences?

—Frank N. Stanton (1935)”

Frank Stanton, who later became president of CBS, wrote those words in his doctoral dissertation. Little has changed since that time. The media has undergone great transformations, but the basic research question—a need to know the audience—has been one of the most enduring features of the media industry.

The need for measuring audiences online has been a recent trend in our country. Once the domain of techies, it is fast became a need for marketers and advertisers for evaluation of their digital spends. Ever since the inception of internet in Pakistan, there have been multiple challenges to address the issue of measurement. The biggest challenge namely being that the internet is HUGE and the rapid growth that it has seen in Pakistan renders any assumption about the data gathered of its size, pretty much useless.

The second problem we had been facing since inception of the net has been to chart the growth in subscribers and the services they subscribe to. With exponential growth any information regarding visitors access is rendered useless with the introduction of new services and changing tastes online due to new users. This is a challenge even more so when we think in terms of  the fact there are no geographical boundaries on the net. Thus how do we define ‘access in Pakistan’.

Third and not the least are the lack of standards and impartial definitions that still continue to create measurement problems in Pakistan e.g. just over a decade ago the standard on which audiences were measured was HITS (the number of client (browser) requests) to a ‘website’ (after all Facebook wasn’t around then). This was a reasonable method initially, since a web site than often consisted of a single HTML file. However, with the introduction of images in HTML, and web sites that spanned multiple HTML files, this count became less useful, since each client (browser) would now send hundreds of hits on every page load.

These problems are still present to date and attempts to measure audience of Pakistani online advertising campaigns or digital platforms have not been consistent or transparent enough to provide reliable standard metrics. Understanding how well your brand is doing is about more than clicks and page views. It’s about the audience and that is where the troubles start. Take the metric of ‘new visitor’ e.g. there is really no such thing as a new visitor when you are considering a web site from an ongoing perspective. If a visitor makes their first visit on a given day and then returns to the web site on the same day they are both a new visitor and a repeat visitor for that day. So if we look at them as an individual which are they? The answer has to be both, so the definition of the metric is at fault.

Online measurement methodologies in Pakistan also have a problem on how the data is gathered. One way e.g. is through reading cookies (small text files saved on computers with unique individual IDs) which gathers data on the user from site to site. This only works on ‘persistence’ basis. When the user deletes this cookie from the browser, the user will appear as a first-time visitor at their next point where the cookie is read. Without a persistent and unique visitor id, conversions, click-stream analysis, and other metrics dependent on the activities of a unique visitor over time, cannot be fully accurate. This approach also does not take into account that the user doesn’t just consume digital “cookies”. They’re a shopper, a home maker, a tweeter or a power texter, the process which misses the audience completely and looks at the trees for the forest.

With over 10 million broadband users in our country more and more people are now viewing their favorite programs, browsing information on websites, socializing via networks on digital screens & platforms such as PCs, tablets and mobile. With this growth in digital audiences, there has never been a greater need to profile and provide accurate and reliable data to clients through modern measurement techniques. Advertisers, agencies and marketers have grown used to the regulated and reliable measurement of ‘traditional’ media, and they now seek the same standards from digital media when it comes to measuring the scale and behavior of online audiences, one that provides for a consistent, reliable approach for validating their ad campaign.

Thus whatever standards we implement in our industry, at the heart of the audience measurement should be an understanding of consumer behavior which not only need to be holistic it should also analyze consumer behavior and trends, advertising effectiveness, brand advocacy, social media buzz and more to provide a 360 degree view of how consumers engage with online media.

Different approaches exist worldwide to measure audiences. The survey method is still a popular method though one can never be sure of the sample’s authenticity. Another approach followed by online research companies worldwide combines representative, people-based panels with, tag-based measurement to deliver a holistic view of the digital universe and its audience. The representative panel offers deep insights across demographic characteristics of Internet use, while data collected through tags placed on participating publishers’ pages provides measurement of the content consumed tracking their demographics, web visiting, online and offline transactions, search behavior, video consumption and ad views. The result is a Total Internet Audience metric that offers a sophisticated approach to understanding consumer behavior and provides comprehensive digital media measurement across all devices and locations, including mobile devices, tablets, secondary PCs and access points outside of home and work locations. This problem with this approach is that it completely misses niche content and is highly skewed towards what is popular.  Other approaches use a mix of impressions, unique reach, frequency (how many times a person saw the ad online), Testing of different creative and tie in with incremental sales.

The first companies to take on Internet audience measurement had been firms with an expertise in estimating computer usage (more Google Analytics) rather than mass-media consumption. However as the media permeates more in our lives and as the new forms of media become live especially mobile, so will the content consumption and behavior of our audiences change even more. Thus from a web based landscape that once required Internet users to visit specific destinations for content will evolve to one in which content is pushed directly to consumers. In order to uncover the size, growth, composition and value of these distributed multi-channel audiences, audience measurement technologies will have to keep pace. Sadly we are not even at the first phase yet.


Online Classified Market In Pakistan

Online Classified Market In PakistanPakistan has traditionally always been a nation with strong social support systems rather than institutions. Even for things as simple as schooling or buying a house, we seek after the opinions and recommendations of our own and extended family and friend networks rather than depending on external reviews or peers.

Over the last few years however this system has seen a gradual shift especially in the upper income segments. As technology has permeated into our lifestyle, the increased exposure and information flows has resulted in making judgements based more on the recommendations of strangers and experts than just existing peers. The increase in more and more people shifting to nuclear families as well just amplifies this trend further. To cater to this sophisticated audience, a growing plethora of classified advertisements sites are springing up in the anticipation of this growing market of the future.

Globally a $100 billion business, Classified sites are the new form of how consumers and businesses or more appropriately sellers and buyers find each other. Whether individuals or businesses are looking for a used car (, a new employee (, a place to sell their mobile ( buy a plot for investment or their new home (, or even find a partner (, the first stop is increasingly becoming the Internet to sites such as these and more. The appeal lies in the convenience and ease of use such sites provide with powerful search capabilities, more personalized “push” services such as automatic ad alerts, more timely and up-to-date listings and features such as photos, video, and sound clips in online ads. Best of all they are FREE!

In some aspects, the evolution of the online classifieds in Pakistan is unique from its global counter-parts. Pakistan has seen the rise of vertical sites i.e. specializing in one area such as jobs, real estate and matrimonial first unlike say US where the first and still biggest classifieds site is Craigslist, a horizontal site specializing in many categories simultaneously. Secondly, unlike the west, where online classifieds have taken business away from newspapers, online classifieds in Pakistan have grown the overall market. During this time even the print classifieds have grown substantially. This is comparable to our telecom markets where the fixed lines though have been growing gradually, whilst the mobile market has shot through the roof improving tele-density significantly. The future however is mobile and similarly, the online classifieds industry will ultimately cross the print classifieds through the sheer reach, flexibility, cost effectiveness and ease of use for both advertisers and searchers.

Classified sites are the ideal web 2.0 business for a country like Pakistan for unlike Ecommerce models based businesses such as EBay or Amazon where the transactions are completed online, users never buy directly from these classified sites thus our limited infrastructure and payment gateways do not restrict the growth of these online business. Instead, users to these sites use the service to look for best offers and get in touch, while transactions are conducted in person or by phone. The sites benefit from advertising revenue and some paid listings for ‘Featured’ ads. Whilst numbers of the size of the market and revenues are harder to come by, leading the traffic race is OLX with 2.2 million unique users every month in Pakistan. Local sites such as Pakwheels, which deal mainly with second hand cars, claim 15 Million Page views in a month and 150,000 registered users. claims over 180,000 unique monthly visitors and 10,000 site listings a month.
“The market is interesting because of the potential – Pakistan is a huge market in terms of sheer numbers There are roughly 20M Internet users in Pakistan today, and we believe that this number will grow substantially over the next decade. So there’s definitely a big potential in the Pakistani Internet market. We believe that a free, quality classified site like is a service that most of the Internet users in Pakistan will want to use”, said Nils Hammar, CEO at, one of the pioneers of classified sites in Pakistan.

The launch of since November last year is interesting because this is a horizontal site, much like OLX or Locanto in Pakistan and amongst a growing number of foreign horizontal sites investing in the future of this country and this market. Even with local players, also the market is shifting from vertical category sites to horizontal category sites. Even the players who were earlier in one category have launched other verticals or their own horizontal sites e.g. Pakwheels have launched and, verticals for general goods and mobile phones in Pakistan.

The trends and the factors governing classified ads markets support their assumptions. There is a substantially large numbers of micro and small entrepreneurs who are increasingly looking at advertising options that are free or low cost to market their businesses, services or products online. Online classifieds provide them with a local as well as a national reach and like we mentioned it’s free. A site like already claims 50,000 listings in a span of few months.

Classifieds online is definitely evolving but it needs a critical mass. Pakistan’s online industry is in the nascent stages. The overall internet population in Pakistan is limited. Even though it is said to be around 20 million, a person accessing Internet at least weekly is not more than 5-8 million (estimated). Out of this, people looking for search based information would be 2-3 million. This is not a critical mass when compared to US or other developed markets. Secondly, there is a problem of information hoarding e.g. the real estate brokers thrive on their knowledge of whose buying and whose selling and would not part from this information easily. However even with these challenges, the number of classified listings and the audiences would increase substantially in the next 3-5 years because of two things:

1. Pakistan is an emerging market growth with both GDP per capita and online media consumption growing at a good pace. The increasing salaries, more disposable income (many times due to both partners working), increased choice of goods has ensured that users are changing their laptops, PCs and cars faster than before. 50% of mobile especially gets changed within 6 months of purchase. These trends are resulting in a spurt in online listings. People are selling everything – right from washing machines to laptops and even air conditioners. Currently the household in Pakistan which wants to sell items doesn’t have any option offline except the people they know. Hence, online classifieds sites are providing these solutions.

2. Sellers are not online, while buyers are all over the Internet. How many apartment landlords are willing to put up their rental ads on a website? Infact how many landlords are Internet savvy in the first place? However as awareness about online classifieds increase, this will change and more people will join in the marketplace. Online classifieds currently stand to become the trade portals of all C2C transactions in Pakistan and fill in the huge gap between buyer knowledge and sellers disadvantage.

The future for these markets look bright. Internet penetration in Pakistan has been constrained because of broadband and PC penetration where as Mobile penetration has been explosive. People are beginning to realize the ease of access of Internet through their mobiles and in many cases they are having their first exposure to internet through a mobile handset. Online classifieds on Mobile are gradually gaining traction and with the rapidly growing mobile internet users, it could become the largest chunk soon.

“A great mobile service is a must as the Internet usage goes mainstream. We have a mobile site today on that is being used by all kind of mobile devices. As the market grows we will add more options for mobile users. The future looks promising. We have a lot of belief in Pakistan and the Pakistani Internet market and we want to be a part of the progress as the market grows. So far, the response we’ve had from our users has been great, so I really believe will bring value to the Pakistani market”, said Hammar.

One thing is for sure, no matter how the classifieds market will look like in the future, more Internet users mean better services being developed, and better services in turn attract more Internet users. Hopefully we’re in the beginning of this positive spiral where it’s hard to imagine 5 years from now a better way to sell our cars, buy our houses or even find our partners for life.

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The Client Brief – Perfecting The Art

The creative brief is your roadmap. Your Sherpa. Your guide to the buried treasure. The creative brief is the contract between the client and the agency and between the agency account team and the creative team. It spells out in inspiring terms exactly what is that needs to be produced to solve a specific business problem.

Yet it is either treated like a piece of literature with an unending number of pages or an uninspiring piece of paper with check boxes to be filled out. There is also a problem of inconsistent understanding of how to develop and use the brief. Usually the account team does not think about adding value on top of what the client provided. The creative brief is developed in silos and this creates disconnect between the strategy, account management and creative teams. Given that the quality of the final work depends on the brief (Garbage In is Garbage Out) there needs to be a shift in the way we approach the creative brief. Creative Brief

To improve the briefing process, PAS recently hosted a one-day training workshop ‘The Client Brief – perfecting the art!’ on February 1, 2012 at Marriott Hotel, Karachi. The workshop was conducted by Sunil Gupta, a Master Trainer and a veteran of Indian advertising with 28 years of a wide range of experience across diverse brands, consumers and markets.

The new brief is a growing testament to the availability of hyper-choice in an extremely cluttered marketplace where traditional differentiation is no longer enough. The creative brief now is no longer just about the document. It’s about the thinking behind it and the ideas that comes after it. “I want to expand the definition of the brief from that piece of paper in which you put down that I want a 30 second Tvc and two print ads to this is my problem and I’m looking for a communication solution part of which can be advertising. Can you come up with ideas that create customer delight”, evangelizes Sunil Gupta. “The customer has to say WOW!” He continues, “Word of mouth now is very critical and that is created by experience. Now you have to say as your communication brief or engagement brief, what is the experience we want to create for our customers and can our systems support those experiences. Therefore internal communication and training becomes as important as communication and advertising. That is the point to create today. Your entire company has to be aligned around your brand. This is a question of willpower and discipline. You can have the best advertising and it still might not meet objectives because the product experience is damaging. Thus advertising is just one part of the strategy today”, said Sunil Gupta.

Muhammad Shoaib Baloch, Creative Director, Prestige Communication concurred with an observation of his own “A brief is a process and the agency is never made part of the actual process of what resulted in the need for advertising. Brief can be the dust or the gold, depending on how the client briefs the agency. The more exciting the brief, the more the out of the box campaign you’ll get”.

Thus it can be said that the brief is not a form to be filled out but the beginning of the creative process, the first creative thinking, the first imaginative leap and the first ad of the campaign and if it’s not written in the format that gets into the agency people’s minds, than they will not measure their work against it – one reason why despite bad briefing, the agency still produces great work…They simply ignore the brief.

Creative BriefYet advertisers cannot afford to take this aspect of communication lightly. With the pace of business quickening and as the number of brands multiplies, increasingly it is not companies but the customer who will decide which brand lives and which brands die and to do that it is now highly important to stand out in the market place. This means finding something, anything which can separate your brand from the clutter. To start this process ask yourself “Are you Asking The Right Questions”. The brief in 1992 which the agencies used to send to their clients included questions like:
• What is the problem or opportunity?
• Who are we talking to?
• What should the advertising achieve?
• What thought do we want to leave with others?
• What will make them believe this?
• What is required?
• Anything else?

Come 2012 and for most part agencies still follow the same brief format namely a problem to be solved by advertising, consumers’ to ‘target’, a message to say AT them, reasons to believe, tone of voice and what media the client needs. This is despite of the fact that the consumer and the media both have changed dramatically in the last decade. A more relevant method of questioning now is What’s the real problem?, Who is this among?, How might we best approach solving this?, Why might they talk about this idea?, How do they get involved? and What will keep the conversation going?

The brief also needs to follow some guidelines amongst which are:
Marketingese / jargon has no place in a brief. Speak with personality (ideally that of a consumer), and immediately you’ll use far more evocative inspiring language and not hide behind generic marketing nothingness.
A briefing is not a dictation. Make a brief closed or directional, and you’ll know what the creatives will produce even before they go away to work on it. A brief should be a platform from which they can launch off from. Not a means for you to force your ideas on a team. Always double check – can you think of two or three ideas from the brief you’ve written immediately? Are any of them your pet ideas? If yes, your agency will produce more or less the same.
A brief should not be written in exclusion of others. Whilst the planner should own the final document, but it is absolutely imperative to go to speak with the creative teams when writing it. Take some options, get their point of view.

If the creative brief is not itself creative, if it does not suggest solutions to problems, present information in an expansive and interesting way, and interpret the information with imagination and flair, then its authors and presenters have no right to expect anything different from the creative agency. To check whether it’s an engaging proposition or not, it helps to ask questions like Is it instantly clear and does it communicate exactly what you want to say?, Does it contain a fact about the product you didn’t know before you started writing? Is it surprising or thought-provoking?, Does it contain a strategic insight?, Does it contain a benefit to the consumer?, Do you yourself believe it? If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these, it isn’t an engaging proposition e.g. we can say Dawn Newspaper is the paper of choice of the upper income segment of the population of Pakistan which are the core decision makers of the country, which in all likelihood will produce a typical ad. However a better brief would be Dawn Newspaper is for people who like to make up their own minds and a great brief would be Dawn Newspaper – not written for sheep. Thus when writing a brief, these are the top tips.

Consistent – The brief is brief for a reason. There is no space for tangents and multiple ideas. Pick your core theme, and trail it through EVERY element. If it is as fertile a thought as it should be, this will be easy.
Get the right info in the right boxes – Often boxes are mixed up in which Insights are passed off as objectives and the audiences are often found in mandatories. There are no “dull, functional” boxes. Everything should inspire and stick to your theme.

Language – Work hard to avoid the mundane. Let your vocabulary flow and inspire. Rewrite it. Rewrite it again. Every word is sacred. Make them all work hard. Remember, if you leave a loose word or loose thought, what’s to stop the creative picking up on this and basing their idea on it.

Follow The Template – It is a fixed template for a reason – to stop everyone going on for pages. If you need to shrink text or expand boxes, you are writing too much. Edit yourself, not the template.

How To Advertisement

Find your trueline – Marty Neumeier in his book ‘Zag’ says that all brand communication should emanate from your trueline. A trueline is the one statement you can make about your brand which is the reason why your brand matters to customers. It can’t be reduced, refuted or easily dismissed. The key to crafting a trueline is to focus on a single proposition. If you find yourself using commas or ‘Ands’, you may need more focus e.g. Avis – Because We’re Number Two, We Try Harder or for a insurance company don’t let your illness cripple your family.
With the wealth of increasing clutter of products, features, media, advertising and messages creating a poverty of attention in our world today, we need to ensure that we create emotions, aesthetics and experience that excite our audiences and creates vibrancy again in an increasingly dull and similar advertising landscape. To do that kind of magic requires crafting a magical brief.

Published: Dawn, Aurora Magazine, April, 2012.

The Future Of Advertising … Is Not Advertising

The Future Of AdvertisingWe live in an era that isn’t business as usual anymore. Living in a networked economy with an increasing overlap between consumer and technology is opening up opportunities for businesses and the resulting advertising to evolve. As Mark Earls has said marketing is increasingly moving from a world where you are marketing to people to one where people are marketing to each other on your behalf.

Daniele Fiandaca is one of the foremost trendsetters in the field and is currently running his own consultancy, Digital Fauna (DF came from the initials of his own name). Prior to starting his own consultancy, London-based Daniele Fiandaca was CEO (Europe) of Profero, an independent, privately owned digital marketing agency founded in London in 1998, growing it from a small team to the global business it is now with 300 employees in fifteen cities across the globe and boasting a highly diverse roster of clients, among them AstraZeneca, COI, Guinness, HBOS International, Johnson & Johnson, Lufthansa, and Western Union. Under Daniele’s creative leadership, the agency had won many awards, including a Gold Cannes Cyber Lion for its MINI “White Rabbit” campaign.

He also continues to run Creative Social which he founded, alongside Mark Chalmers, in 2004 and has sat on a number of juries including D&AD, Festival of Media and Revolution. His passions include film, collecting vinyl toys and traveling to exotic places.

Umair Mohsin caught up with him at the PAS Digital and Social Media workshop held at the Sheraton on September 21, 2011 and had an engaging ‘conversation’ about social media, marketing people to people, whether agencies will survive in a new media world and the future of advertising as we don’t know it.

Q. How do you usually define Social Media?

Social media is really a conversation facilitated by lots of technologies. It really is a ‘conversation’.

Q.When we say conversation do we mean between the consumer and the brand?

No! It’s a dialogue between people to people.

Q.So where do the brands come in to this?

It’s a conversation so it’s the same conversation that we might have if we were having dinner or if we were going to someone’s house. When people are having such conversations do they expect a brand to leap in and become part of the conversation? They don’t. So why do the brands feel they can do it online. What they [the brands] need to do is provide social currency to these people to actually fill those conversations. People tend not to want to speak to brands, so the brand itself has to be fundamentally interesting if it wants to become part of people’s conversations. A lot of brands don’t get that.

Q. So why than should brands take a look at social media in the first place?

Word of mouth has always been the most influential marketing media ever. Now however word of mouth now equals world of mouth. Brands can now get into those conversations and actually have people promoting them with one person conversing about it to a hundred people or even a thousand people and that’s extremely powerful.

If brands provide interesting content, interesting offers, interesting conversational pieces, some entertainment than they have more chance of people spreading it without having to spending media dollars. It can be mass reach without the cost. Fundamentally however it means you do have to have a good product as to the same extent it is much easier to get found out. You also have to be interesting.

Q. You use the word interesting a lot. When we say Interesting what do we mean? Is making someone laugh interesting?

Brands need to have social currency to be interesting. If you can make something simpler, faster, more inspiring, more available or effortless than you’ll have currency. For other examples look at the social currency wheel.


Credit: Steve Sponder

Q. Brands like McDonalds, Starbucks, Pepsi or Coke do not need social media to have social currency because of their existing heritage. Does social work in the same aspect for new companies or brands?

There is a telephone company called GifGaf in UK which is a phone network built using social  media. They ensured that the community engagement happened consistently and sustainably adding value both to the brand and the community. Secondly, this form of media works best when the whole business is geared to not just accepting but embracing the value and the power of its community.

Q. What was the thing that they did different?

They listened. That’s it. You have to understand the fundamentals. People in pubs do not talk about biscuits or bulbs. You have to create something that they might talk about. Wheat Thins is a fantastic example of creating something quite humorous utilizing people’s use of social. Brands have to engage their fans and if they don’t have any than they do have to ask this question of why not and that’s the issue which they have to address first.

It must be mentioned that advertisers focus on numbers when social is not about numbers but about the quality of engagement. If you can have a group of 100 fans you can learn so much including about the products and they can be your biggest evangelists. So it’s not about the numbers. That’s why it’s a CEOs job to ensure that their company embraces social across the  board.

Q. How has business changed because of social media?

Because of WOM phenomenon now products actually have to be good whereas in the past products have been successful without being so. Bad customer service is also a thing of the past, most brands do not get away with that anymore. What we’re also seeing is that people have to be far more open and honest. You have a lot of examples of businesses using social media who tried to hoodwink people and got found out very quickly.  So social media has made the businesses need to be more honest.

Q. Isn’t it too many choices and too many lines of communication? How do you keep up?

If the CEO of ZAPPOS, a multi billion dollar company can spare time for twitter then no business has the right to complain. Like I said it’s the CEO that leads the whole culture. The problem you get in UK and possibly in Pakistan too that it’s the more junior people who recognize the need for social and in all honestly many senior management don’t get it. What you find is that those CEO do get it and actually embrace it will gain a competitive advantage as a result of engagement with its community.

Q. What factors should companies consider when choosing to engage on social media?

The first thing you have to understand is that what are you trying to achieve first. Going on Facebook is not a strategy. You really have to understand what it is you are trying to do. Are you trying to build a community, do you want to use it as a CRM tool, do you want to experiment and see what happens, can you recruit your biggest fans to manage your Facebook group for you… there are different ways you can do stuff. Some of the basics are that do not open a twitter account and follow a 1000 people just to have them follow you back. You have to know what the Twitter account is for. If you’re a telco e.g. and you have customers tweeting their problems to you, you can’t ignore that. You have to have a system which can respond to those tweets straight away. The acceptable time on Twitter is really no more than an hour.

Q. Best tactics, where do I start, how do I find my focus and efforts.

Listen first, be human, and first listen to what people are saying about your brands. Nielsen Buzz metrics is an excellent tool for listening.

Q. How do you pay the agency which does social media?

I don’t think advertisers should be using agencies for handling their social media. It should be in-house. The only people who know their brands are the people who work in them. How can an agency know how to answer on FB or Twitter. Agencies should be in consultancy or giving lots of training. Agency people should sit in the business if they are handling it to understand the business and talk to people around you but it should be internal to the company.

Q. Is there a future of agencies than if brands continue to grow their own communities and market themselves?

(Laughs) The future of agencies is as making brands interesting e.g. WCRS was the agency behind Orange Telecom. They made the mobile operator interesting. Great ideas are great ideas and agencies are good at great ideas. Agencies will be successful if they can provide ideas which people can belong to.

Q. What elements should be addresses in the plan and how would you measure success.

One of the ways is that people are starting to measure the avg. value of a Facebook customer vs. a non FB customer. 40% of people want to join because they want to receive discounts and promotions and then you use the engagement to help them become customers.

Rural Broadband In Pakistan: Powered Off

Goth in Sindh40 Kilometers out of Karachi, in the neighborhood of Sultanabad, Kemari Town lies a small goth named Anwar Thaheem of over 3000 inhabitants. The village consists of a school, a single entertainment area and just one bricked house which is owned by the chieftain whilst the rest are thatched huts. The majority of the residences are illiterate and despite the presence of a single computer which was donated to the school long ago, it has never been turned on due to lack of knowledge of the populace. This goth in particular is of interest because the electricity wires that reach Karachi pass overhead (official kunda costs only Rs. 500 per month) and the fiber optic cables that connects the country pass within 20 feet of the village.

It’s places like these that serve as a reminder that despite the promise of information technology that has brought prosperity to millions of (mostly Urban) Pakistanis, unless the rural-urban divide is bridged and the issues of systemic issues not taken up more seriously, the broadband connection to over 1000 cities despite the hoopla will prove to be of little benefit to our country and the economy at large.

The promise of broadband for the rural sector has been hyped up for years.  It has been seen as unlocking the great potential of the digital revolution in the service of relief to save lives, sustainable development and lasting peace in rural areas. ICT has been seen a means of providing accessible and affordable education, while marginalized groups will use it to play a key role in economic development.

Over the last few years, some of this has come about. Due to the policies implemented by the govt. especially with regard to telecom, Pakistan has seen the growth of broadband at a good pace. Though penetration is still at 0.66% as of December 2010 with 1,140,781 broadband subscribers as compared to 643,892 at the end of December, 2009, it still shows a 77% growth over the last calendar year with 1000 cities covered to date.

The path ahead is still not easy. One of the great challenges of broadband is to provide service to potential customers in areas of low population density, such as to villages and small towns. In cities where the population density is high, it is easier for a service provider to recover equipment costs, but for each rural area it’s tougher as each area may require expensive equipment to get connected and for few customers. The quality of service for internet service providers too remains a question mark. This is mainly due to old copper media for landline connections which prevents reliable service available for home-users who are 1,500 meters or farther from the telephone exchange. Some of these challenges are being mitigated with help from the USF (Universal Service Fund) which has been running rural telecom projects to provide basic telephony and data services in several remote areas of Pakistan. The USF backing on rural projects have changed the focus of telecom operators from urban towards rural population. Until now, contracts have been awarded for Rural Telecom Projects to provide a subsidy of PKR 4.2 billion in total. All these projects aim to provide services in 12,000 un-served muzas. These projects have started bearing fruits as the number of previously un-served muzas where service has been provided has reached 3,500. In addition to this, it is mandatory for telecom operators in rural areas where USF is providing subsidy to power their infrastructure through renewable energy sources. So far, 66 Base stations are on solar. However the future is a long way away.

Broadband can be the great enabler that restores Pakistani rural’s economic well-being and opens doors of opportunity for all to pass through, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives. With the escalating costs of living especially with the rise of fuel prices, the economics of rural sustainability are in question which rural broadband can resolve.  Even just a rupee jump in oil means people that are commuting to work can no longer make that economically viable.  Going to the next town to shop becomes an economic hardship.  The shifting of the economics is causing a lot of people’s livelihoods to disappear, at a time where rural broadband could provide clean, industry-sustainable jobs working for corporations that are physically located anywhere in the world.  Many more people would subscribe to high speed if they could turn it into an income supplement based out of the home.

But as with all technologies it’s not just about the infrastructure – it’s how people can rally around accepting their own full potential and that requires a change the mindsets. Rural poverty suffers from social isolation and lack of updated education.  The dream career of a matric passed student here is to get a low-level govt. job. Anything else is taken at blank. The second trouble is the lack of leadership. No tribal leaders shows up at any initiative, no teachers from the schools are  available for tutoring and worse even the MPs in the area never visit their own areas. So the ideal outcomes are hampered by the unwillingness of the leadership to hear what’s possible. Thus building in new capacity or new buildings is more of a wastage of capacity unless one can also take care of the systemic issues.

The resistance that rural Pakistanis have shown toward towards what is their greatest opportunity at improving their lifestyles is part of a great systemic  responses that will have to be addressed before rural broadband will take off. These anti-literacy, anti-technology rural attitude barriers will have to be broken. It will mean answering questions such as how do we educate our leaders who are not in school?  How do we educate teachers when there are not budgets for professional development for educators and at the end of the day it will come down to leadership.  If leaders are not keeping up with what’s possible through trends, etc, then it hampers the rest of us, and right now we have a generational inertia that is incredibly damaging.

The main thing that needs to change especially is youth’s readiness to accept change and to pay attention to what is happening around them, both locally and globally, and to give the youth an opportunity to receive current education and showcase their skills. Only than will the chasm ever be bridged.

Published in Dawn Images: 13th June, 2011

Jeremy Gutsche – Unlocking The Cool Interview

Jeremy GutschePopular is not cool. Cool is the next big thing and in a world of increased competition, intensified customer demands and globalization, understanding how to be creative and then build up a culture of innovation is more important than ever before. One of the ways companies do that is to use ‘Trend Hunters’ or ‘Trend Spotters’, people who research ‘what’s cool?’. One of the pioneers of the field is Jeremy Gutsche, a Canadian innovation expert, author, “one of North America’s most requested keynote speakers” and chief trend hunter at which has been described by The Independent as “the world’s biggest online cool hunting magazine”.

At the Marketing Symposium organized by Revelations, Jeremy was in Pakistan to talk about ‘Unlocking Cool: How to inspire innovation potential and infect products with Cool’.  Jeremy’s Culture of Innovation framework exposes the audience to ground-breaking ideas related to perspective, customer obsession, tolerance for failure and creativity. Aurora caught up with him to talk about the next big thing.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and do explain what do you mean by Trend Hunting?

I guess the best background for me is just to say that I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and I never knew what my business idea was going to be. Everywhere that I worked I was trying to get that inspiration. So eventually when I started trend hunter, I wanted it to be a place where people could come when they wanted to get their ideas and I’d get ideas from all over the world and hopefully I’d find my own. As TrendHunter took off I never needed to pick. The interesting thing is that still guides us. We have the world’s largest trend spotting network with 50,000 contributors signed up around the globe from where we publish ideas each day and with 40 million views a month we gather data to understand what clusters and what groups are interesting.

Q. Why should marketers care about Trend Hunting and what’s Cool?

Cool is unique, cool is cutting edge and Cool is viral. Micro-trends and innovations surround us so how do we make sense of all the noise? Trend Hunting thus is basically the search for inspiration. Looking for something new, a pattern that could inspire your next big idea. It’s not about the rise of big trends that everyone knows about like ECO or FEMALE PURCHASING POWER since everyone knows about those including your competitors. We’re looking at micro-trends, those unique niches of opportunities. When you see these opportunities you can take advantage of them and if you don’t your competitor or a new startup might and overturn you.

Q. For most businesses your ideas are quite scary. You advocate constant change, relentless questioning and an anti-bureaucracy. How do you create a culture like that in a traditionally steeped organization?

There are two parts to that that are important. One is the idea that you need to constantly change. Second, you have to realize is that the world never returns to normal. If you look at marketing, you can see things like social media changing the landscape.

I like to say that ‘Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast’. Thus in terms of how you get a traditional organization and get them to change, an interesting way to get an organization to get more innovative is to create a ‘Gambling Fund’. The idea is that it’s tough to try to persuade everybody to do things a new way but the real thing that stops people from being creative is because you get caught up in a routine. With a gambling fund you are allocating a specific amount of money and time trying something new. BBC’s ‘The Office’ was their most successful program and that came out of that fund.

Q. You talk a lot about destroying value to unleash new creativity and innovation. Yet cannibalization in business is hard. Is there a middle way for managers where they can balance both shareholder demands yet ensure that they live for tomorrow.

In innovation there are best practices and having someone kill your idea is important. There is a need for people to challenge the idea and there needs to be a push in all directions. Situational Framing Dictates The Outcome Of Your Creative Process. What is it that you’re trying to do?

It’s so easy to get caught up in your profit center that you stop adding fuel to your innovative new ideas. When push comes to shove or when you need a little extra money, companies cut off their innovative arms. For the long term, one of the most important questions is how do you re-invent ourselves and that always comes from destroying that which you’ve created.

Failure is part of the experimentation process.  In order to win, you need to constantly be gauging customer needs, tracking evolving trends and testing new ideas. Google is an example of this. They’re constantly testing new portfolios.

Q. You have come up with “The Exploiting Chaos Framework.” Give us a brief description of each of the four tactics and how they work in the framework. Do you think these tactics can be employed by Asian cultures which are more passive in nature?

The framework has four parts. Creating a ‘culture of innovation’ – Deeply Understanding Your Customer and Willing to Try New Things. The next part is ‘trend spotting’ – you identify opportunities from your customer, competitors or other industries. The third part is adaptive innovation – constantly adjust your strategy to ensure that you’re on top of a changing world and the forth idea is ‘infectious marketing’ – to create a meaningful change it’s about finding a way to break through the noise and create word of mouth. What this framework is about is that in periods of change these are the elements that help companies adapt and win.

There’s a difference between how people remember you and having people feel how they see you as part of their team. You can either make an emotional connection or you can go deeper and making a cultural connection. The difference is that with a cultural connection I see you as being part of my team. I don’t see you telling me what to do, I see you as part of my team.  Because we’re on the same team I want you to win and you want me to win. In any industry when you make a cultural connection, people are willing to refer you. That someone else says your product or message is the best.

Q. I love the quote you often use, “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast”. Do tell us more about what that means and how does culturally steeped nations can create the Culture of Revolution you often talk about. Are we doomed to passivity?

No matter how cool your PowerPoint deck is, if the organization is not willing to adapt and embrace change than it’s not going to happen. At the end of the day, what will make your company succeed or fail is the culture you’ve created. This means both the culture within your organization’s teams AND the cultural connection you’ve made with your customers. Within your team, you will always be more successful if your team feels connected to your cause, empowered to try new things, and able to test and fail. With your customers, you will always be more successful if you can create a cultural connection that makes people feel like your product is made just for them. Too often companies speak “to” their customer, but companies that create an authentic cultural connection make the customer feel like they are part of the same team… They talk “with” their customer.

Q. For a message to go viral, you recommend that marketers should Relentlessly Obsess About Your Story. What does that mean?

People talk about it in a given way. You can control that message by having a story idea that is simple, direct and super-charged. The idea is that if you can only remember 7 words or less – slogan or in every part of my company – you might want to think what those words are. You need to best describe what you do. By constantly figuring out what are the exact words that best define what your company is about you can get a disproportionately better impact and each word really really matters.

You need your story needs to be simple. I’ll give you the words that you can tell us. The second is you need to be direct. You convey your value proposition and why I must choose you. Super-Charged – messages, slogans, titles that makes me want to tell someone else.

From The Archives (2008) – Online Marketing & Kids

Online Marketing & Kids
Published Dawn, Aurora Magazine, September, 2008

by Umair Mohsin

Imagine a giant commercial that kids can enter, where they can talk and play with products and brand mascots / characters, a commercial that gives marketers access to a plethora of information about individual kids who interacted with their brand, including knowing their inner-most dreams and desires. This is the power of the immersive worlds that marketers can create on the World Wide Web, a medium which is fast becoming an important marketing tool in Pakistan.

Current kids (age under 12) in Pakistan are becoming the first totally wired generation of our country, especially the ‘millennials’ (children born in or after year 2000), for whom the internet and mobile technologies have always been there. Increasingly because of this factor the difference between online, digital and offline medium is fast disappearing. Trouble arises however when one wants to estimate the number of kids online. According to the latest figures released by PTA the total number of Internet subscribers crossed 3.5 million and total number of users crossed the 17 million mark in December 2007. The growth rates in telecom and broadband that our country is going through has put us in the top 10 fastest growing countries in Asia – 8.861% growth in internet users between year 2000 & 2007 alone. However specific data related to kids or their online usage is still not available from any agency. At best, we can guesstimate the size of the users by looking at the statistics from various websites and initiatives undertaken in Pakistan. The biggest success story of online marketing to kids is P&G and Commander Safeguard. The total number of kids who registered themselves for access to Commander Safeguard’s online material on the website numbered two million whilst it was on the air. A more recent data is that of, an international website on which approx. three million impressions are generated monthly by a Pakistani audience aged between 7-15 years of age. Also recently Badar Khushnood, Country Consultant Google Pakistan on his personal website/blog @ estimated that around 5% of the Pakistani users online are less than 20 years of age. It’s hard to gauge which figure represents the truest picture, but it can be safely assumed however that the number of users in Pakistan below the age of 12 in Pakistan has crossed the millionth mark.

This is important for marketers because with kids influencing the purchase of billions of Rupees worth of products (see Aurora Article – Meet Generation NOW & Whose Afraid Of New Media), this audience is clearly an important part of the marketing mix. Kids may not have the spending power of adults but there is little doubt about their ability to influence purchases through ‘Pester Power’.  It can also be easily assumed that kids with the most access to the net also belong to the SEC classes with the highest spending power.

To date there are few examples of online marketing initiatives aimed at kids in Pakistan which one can use to identify best practices or key learning however one of the most-oft repeated tactics that marketers have employed in targeting kids online is to combine advertising with entertainment. Traditional advertisements don’t work on the Internet, so advertisers seamlessly blend advertising content with games and / or other activities. This engages children interactively, allowing them to react to the content provided by the marketer and participate in online environments. This branded entertainment, particularly games (also called advergames), have thus become the tool of choice for marketers.

For children, an “advergaming” website can be more than a place to play and to explore. As a form of mediated communication, it departs in significant ways from television, the medium advertisers have traditionally used to reach children and which engages children only as passive consumers. The adver-gaming medium is much more powerful than that. Online games can provide a more highly involving and entertaining brand experience than is possible with conventional media. We can even characterized these as “virtual amusement parks”, where there are no natural breaks between commercial and non-commercial content typical of television which allows kids to escape the core marketed message with the single press of a button. Here the message is the experience.

At a more fundamental level, marketers have also used the immersive world to serve as a central organizing platform for an entire integrated marketing communications program. It can and has been used to create synergies among various brand building programs so that the total impact is greater than it would otherwise be. Internet here is not displacing television viewing but rather supplementing it. Children already are doing more “media multi-tasking” or using multiple types of media simultaneously which gives marketers an ideal opportunity to ensure that the core message is heard across all mediums. This best example of this is the recent Energile campaign.

Unilever has shown a leadership stance in this, utilizing both of the tactics successfully with the launch of This initiative was made part of the Energile Youth Football Championship (EYFC) 2008 which heralded the beginning of Energile’s commitment to football in Pakistan. Partnering with brands such as Nike and Karachi United FC, the aim was to set up at a grassroots level, a forum where the best young talent of the country can showcase their talent. Aside from other features, the site utilizes an ‘adver-game’ highlighting its core energy message and the football platform. Unilever’s integrated this campaign further by developing ‘Energile Football’, a mobile game that can be downloaded by consumers in Pakistan. This game was recently promoted through SMS and internet advertising, and allowed consumers to post their hi-scores through fugumobile’s (developers) proprietary Game Tournament platform. High scorers were then eligible to win prizes from Energile. So far Unilever has kept mum about the results of the initiative but looks set to grow it further.

From a historical perspective this is nothing new. Companies creating branded content to appeal to kids is as old as the first days of television. However what is different in these virtual worlds that changes the equation for brand marketers is that a child’s interaction and emotional engagement is very high. Young consumers have to seek out desired content and interact with it in some way. This is an inherently active process: surfing through a website demands a continuing series of decisions and actions. It is this feature that distinguishes the Internet from a more passive medium like television. Rather than capturing children’s attention for 30 seconds, the advertiser may now actively engage children for several minutes and maybe more.

Beyond its power to create brand engagement, however, the Internet also has several additional advantages from a marketer’s perspective. First, it is a cost-effective way to deliver a brand message. While the cost to air a television commercial ranges from approximately Rs. 0.60 per thousand viewers (depending on channel, time slot, frequency, budget, etc), there are no media distribution costs once a website has been created. Once development costs are spread across the number of users interacting with the site, the cost per thousand will be significantly decreased and will continue to do so as the site expands. So there are real economic efficiencies to be gained.

Secondly, the technology of the Internet also provides audience tracking capabilities. While it can be difficult for a marketer to gauge the impact of a television commercial, the Internet allows a much more precise assessment via measures such as the number of visitors, time spent on a site, repeat visits, etc. Traditional marketing tools such as diaries or even people meters may give advertisers a general idea of their audience profile, in terms of age and maybe gender but individual children are anonymous. Internet marketers on the other hand are able to collect data about specific users, through the use of online registration forms, quizzes and surveys.

Thirdly, TV advertisers purchase time slots between TV shows, which they select because they hope their product or service will appeal to the same audience the programs attract. On the Internet, brands create their own programming. They build entire online environments to create associations with their own products, to establish brand loyalty, and to collect information about their present and future customers. Just some of the methods that can be used by advertisers to involve kids with their products include the creation of virtual environments that make kids feel as if they are entering an actual place, friendly cartoon mascots that encourage kids to identify with the brand, interactive games and activities like coloring pages, quizzes featuring brand-name products and their characters, downloadable screensavers or email “postcards” that can be sent to other kids, clubs that kids can join or contests they can enter to win prizes. Even the prizes that are offered can feature product logos, slogans or characters.

One thing is changing for sure however because of which marketers in Pakistan cannot afford to maintain the status quo. Thanks to the online medium, creating a clear profile of your kid’s audience is no longer a straight-forward marketing exercise that falls into simple categories. The only common denominator that exists in this group is the fact that they’re all kids. The similarities stop there. Kids often have one type of image at home and a totally different image online (Please see Aurora Article “Cats Don’t Bark“ published) and marketers will need to learn how to cater to both.  One brand which maybe regarded as totally cool in say a kid’s school maybe regarded as the opposite in a virtual world. This is simply because online dynamics are different, since the audience is behaving under different conditions. Their identities are changed with perhaps totally different friends and thus they have different needs. Thus they may adopt completely different attitudes towards brands that will appear contradictory.

Thus it is essential that the link between the product, brand values, online & offline marketing vehicles and relevance is clear at all times. Relevance itself will have two dimensions. First in relation to the particular personality segment you are addressing, and second, to your core brand values. If you don’t fulfill both aspects, it’s more likely you’ll end up tuned out and turned off.

There have been exercises by many marketers who have tried to enter this medium but without an understanding of its dynamics. They’ve felt the need to break through by creating a really disruptive experience for their target users. This is a world where the audience does not like to be disrupted however and no one hates it more than our kid’s audience. A disruptive advertising experience in their space is equivalent to creating a bad brand experience. They want respect and will only respect those brands that show them that.

For kids more and more “Going on the Internet” is ceasing to be something special and unique simply because now it’s always there and becoming an inherent part of their lives. They are increasingly immersed in the “digital” lifestyle and in the future this will change the world of marketing, technology and communications. The challenge is for marketers to understand that not only their media but their whole world is now fragmenting. Life for today’s kids increasingly resembles one of those ubiquitous blogs that go up every second: random, breathless and intensely personal. To market to this dynamic population, companies will need to tap into platforms well beyond traditional media such as broadband video, immersive environments, mobile marketing and maybe even instant messaging.

Thus marketers should start to engrain themselves in kids’ interactive lives. Youth marketing currently is already flushed with sponsored events, games, contests and ringtone promotions yet today’s teens are more sophisticated, demanding and powerful consumers than their parents ever were. Tomorrow’s teens will be even more so because they’ve been wired from the day they were born and it will take a lot more to appeal to them. That’s why it’s very important to learn to live in their world from now.

From The Archives (2007) – Mobile Marketing

Making The Smart Call
Published Dawn, Aurora Magazine, August 2007

by Umair Mohsin

Companies spend Billions of Rupees every year marketing their products and services to potential customers in order to drive sales and grow brand awareness. Yet in today’s multichannel age, there is a plethora of ways to reach these audiences and though marketers are becoming increasingly inventive with the way they communicate with their customers, media proliferation has become a double-edged sword, and is now one of the biggest challenges they face.

Since the early 1990s there has been more than a 3000% increase in the number of TV channels, more than 1200% increase in commercial radio stations, and there are 40% more magazine titles. Whereas once mass audiences could be reached through a small number of channels, now they are fragmented over a large and increasing number of media, making it more and more difficult to engage with the people you want to reach.

With the recent advent of next-generation phones, however, now we are rapidly getting to the point where the single most important medium that people have is their wireless device. It’s with them every single moment of the day. No longer are they devices merely for phone calls and text messaging but portals that consumers can use to communicate, gather information, be entertained and organise their lives. But despite the fact that mobile phone ownership now considerably outnumbers landline usage (5.18 Million Landlines)[1], it has been overlooked, and particularly undervalued, as an opportunity for interaction between a brand and its customers.

There is no doubt that mobile marketing is coming of age. A casual survey of the advertising trends of major companies reveals that brand marketers are recognizing the increasing importance of the medium and integrating it more into their campaigns.

“The proliferation of telecom providers and easily affordable cellular phone technology in Pakistan has led to extremely high growth in the usage of cell phones by a general cross-section of the population, regardless of socio-economic barriers, gender, age, etc. Particularly amongst the youth and young adults, text SMS usage has grown exponentially. To take advantage of this new and highly popular medium of communication amongst our target market, we have successfully used it in our campaigns. This is not the first time any institution has attempted a marketing activity of this nature, and we fully expect an increasing number of institutions to explore this medium as well”, said a Brand Manager who asked not to be named.

To date however only Text ‘n’ win has been the application embraced enthusiastically by agencies. One reason for that is that not only do you not have to deal with sackloads of postal mail, you also don’t have the post-campaign data entry issues. Customers, just by entering the competition, are giving you some of their data – i.e. their mobile number. It’s up to you to collect any more data from the consumer if you need it.

For the uninitiated, a text ‘n’ win promotion is one which is usually advertised on a pack of a product, and the customer is invited to text in a shortcode for a chance to win a prize. This is a very convenient way to manage a competition or prize draw, and is popular with consumers. The recent underneath the lid promotion by Walls to text to win attractive prizes and can claim to be the biggest ever text ‘n’ win promotion to date. Underneath the lid of every Cornetto cone was a short unique code (printed at the time of production). This code is only visible once someone buys the cone, removes the wrapper, and flips the lid. Wall’s offered its consumers the opportunity to avail attractive prizes by simply texting this code to a pre-defined number using SMS (from any telecom network). Winners were contacted via same channel (i.e. SMS) to communicate the details of their prize and how to redeem it.

However, in terms of taking advantage of the full potential of mobile marketing, Pakistani marketers have barely scratched the surface. Mobile marketing is more than just things like text voting, text ‘n’ win or getting raw content like branded ringtones. What’s in its scope is brand advocacy, loyalty CRM, subscription, the areas where brands have traditionally used other channels and with our current array of mobile data services available, from text and picture messaging to direct response, Mobile IVR, promotion and mobile Internet, and the extent to which these can be applied, the future is simply incredible.

One big advantage which mobile marketing has is that it not only targets the consumer directly [100% targeted] as people never leave home without their mobile phones and rarely switch them off, but also achieves a high level of interaction as it creates a personalised, one to one relationship between a brand and a consumer. But even with all these advantages there is still some way to go before marketers are in a position where they will consider the mobile as a key part of their marketing mix.

So why, with an almost 37.58 Mobile Density Rate (58 Million Connections)[2], without factoring in WOM, a market growing at a projected 150% a year (1.5 million phones per month)[3] and with the mobile phone increasingly being seen as the centre of integrated communication for everyone by 2010 globally, has there not yet been massive take-up?

One of the reasons cited for this has been the technology (or lack of) & infrastructure. MNOs are only properly covering the big cities right now. The bigger population is still in small areas, where coverage is spotty. The networks have to grow and the boosters will have to work at that level where you’ll be able to cover the entire market before the uptake. Screen size and the bandwidth availability have also been cited as potential limiters.

The major problem however lies with pre-existing notions that advertising professionals (both clients and agency) bring to the medium. This is by far the biggest issue most marketers face with mobile – just trying to understand what it can do.

“We are at an absolute infancy with this medium and that too because we’re scared of it. It takes a lot of convincing & guts at senior levels to make this work”, said Faraz Khan, VP, HBL.

“Trying to innovate amongst people in ad agencies is always difficult, because they are always sceptical of new channels mostly because they do not know how to create and conceive into that channel. Up until now, mobile has still been spooky for them, but that is starting to change”, said Zakaullah Khan, Creative Manager, Prestige Communications.

“We have seen so many people who want to treat mobile the same as other medium, thereby missing the great opportunities mobile has by virtue of being different. The mobile medium has a personality of its own, but the first mistake people are making with mobile is to say: “Lets do the same thing, ‘in mobile’. In truth, to make the most out of mobile as a channel for marketing, we need to take advantage of the things that mobile does differently, and we need to embrace the fact that mobile has its own personality that brings the most value when it is understood and respected. Forcing mobile to perform under the same rules that all the other channels operate under limits the value and capabilities of this highly personal form of communication”, said Ehmer Kirmani, CEO Media IDeé.

Thus, starting your mobile campaign with the idea of replicating mass direct mail is all wrong. Yet even a relatively cursory look with a point of innovating on the existing marketing tools out there can soon reveal the real opportunities. Every day, marketers are running direct response fulfilment campaigns (Call for brochures, Call backs), content (through alerts), discounting/ couponing programmes that deliver customer advantages or even sales promotion programmes, all of which can benefit using the mobile medium. All of these play to the ‘always with you and always on’ strength of the medium.

Marketing Case Studies

There are two criteria for measuring the efficacy of any channel. Reach & Affordability – the efficacy and the quantification of the impact. As compared to other mediums, mobile communication is a very cost effective way of marketing and is fast becoming a very strong Sales Activation Channel.  Moreso when its tied in to CRM centres. This was demonstrated clearly by a recent HBL Car Financing campaigns. Instead of mass SMSs, the campaign targeted specific demographics, with a simple Y/ N question / response. They got a response rate from the campaign of 25% and the net additional sales translated into a total Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) of only 30-40 Paisas each. As compared to other mediums, this clearly highlighted this medium’s biggest selling point. The marginal revenues were immediately identifiable.

“With intelligent application and targeting, such SMS messaging can enhance a brand, and produce great results. Furthermore, it is cost-effective, measurable and intuitive: lifestyle data in particular has a wealth of additional variables, because the way in which the information has been volunteered allows for the fine-tuning of campaign targeting like no other data can.”, said Faraz Khan, VP, HBL.

Another interesting case has been presented by The Muzik. They have successfully used the mobile phone as a Credibility Enhancement tool. The prime prospects of the channels are the youth, looking for freedom of expression, entertainment value, subtle and wild experiences. They want a dialogue with the world.  The Muzik used the medium to connect into the lives of their youth. Not only that but this tool has also developed into a penetration check and a measurement tool for all their content, which give a much better analysis than the current dairy measurement services.

According to Faisal Tamanna, GM-Business Development; The Musik, HBO, Nick and the person instrumental in bringing about this shift in paradigm, as far as best practices go simple formulas works.

“We’re entering into an unbelievable era because of the mobile phone. One day it’s not unimaginable to hold programs like Live Earth or Mega Events that span countries through the power of this medium”, said Tamanna. “The same practices that work with our existing mediums however, won’t work with this. This is why we have had to totally re-think how to develop our mobile medium. We’re looking at it to become the portal of the youth with customized content, personalized programming and even video on demand. These will be the applications of the future which will drive the growth of media consumption”.

Talking to Mr. Amin A. Rehman, Vice President, Cards Division at ARY, highlighted another area where the medium is being used successfully – As a form of Product Augmentation For The Sahulat Card. The Sahulat Card is a debit card, which consumers use on outlets like Ary Cash and Carry, Jewellery stores and third parties like merchants / brand partners.

“We’re linking into the technologies that can enhance ‘Sahulat’s’ offering to our consumers. E.g. we’re launching a 24 hour shopping channel with which Sahulat card members can call into or just send an SMS with a code to a number and their purchases will be delivered home. Sahulat card members can also purchase talking hours and their groceries through their mobile phones. But the biggest selling point is our ‘Value Back’ to customers. Our customers get free line rents, free talk time with our ‘ARY Connect’ mobile connection, entertainment through events like the recent Bhambore or Waahdi festivals and the chance for mega draws (1 KG gold everyday) & sales promotions. Mobile marketing has tremendously increased in the number of connections we make with our consumers, our awareness levels are higher, and we’ve found that people are receptive through the mobile concept more & more. That is why we have plans on furthering the multimedia side of mobiles and perhaps even more facilities on it for the customers. This is the future now.”

Mobile offers a new way to cut through in today’s cluttered media environment, combining the potential for precise targeting and the ability to extend a physical, tangible brand encounter into a digital and interactive one.  The key to unlocking the real potential for customer recruitment lies in understanding more about them and having the ability to interact with them directly. Personal is a key concept in all things mobile. Analysis and careful selection can be carried out before broadcast, and afterwards, with detailed responder profiling. Over time, companies can build profiles of their customers, and subsequently target them for highly specific campaigns, generating real and significant lifetime value.

However, marketers need to weigh the benefits carefully against the potential to seriously harm people’s relationship with a brand. Unless contact is made in an acceptable fashion, the mobile advertiser runs the risk of significant consumer backlash.

First of all consent is a very important thing. It’s simply no good talking to customers who do not want to engage with you. In order for a marketing campaign to be effective, the people on the receiving end of it have to be open to the messages, and only permission-based marketing allows that to happen.

“One of the barriers to the emergence of the market is education, but though brand managers are fond of talking about consumer education, but I would shine a light on brand marketer education, around the personal nature of the medium, the need for opt-ins, the relevance of the message. It might sound high-minded, but as a practical matter, it requires marketers to change their behaviour, and this is not easy.  They acknowledge, intellectually, the point, but struggle with executing it. I think those who live in fear of opt-outs are those who are not going about things in the right way.” said Sabeen Mahmud, COO, BITS.

“In comparison to how people manage mobile / SMS campaigns in our country, we’ve had far more success with our email lists, practicing what we preach. People have been signing up for our lists without any Push Marketing being involved and since all our subscribers have come through word of mouth and PR, their trust is higher. Secondly, when they share information about themselves, we give them an Enhanced Offering in return rather than the traditional trade promotion lines where they might feel they’re being sold too and put us on their blocked lists. The results so far have been incredible. Thus I’d say the impression you make with the medium counts and small things like the power to opt out anytime is empowering to the consumer.” said Sabeen.

The Future Role of MNOs

The mobile phone is about to go places. From Mobile TV and video to branded content downloads, the handset has become the focus for potential advertising revenue from the latest applications to hit the mobile market. This is nothing new. Such Value-Added-Services to mobile phones have been the great white hope of many mobile phone operators looking to offset the pressures of declining business from voice and text.

Incidentally one is sorely tempted to blame the mobile network operators for failing to embrace the change and working with agencies to take this medium forward. The operators have only ever been focused on their subscriber base and have seen third parties as a threat to their existing businesses. Much of the investment undertaken by the carriers has been in trying to build upon their ‘cool’ brand status, while retaining and growing their customer base.

Yet that ‘cool’ has become ‘boring’. The mobile phone is now just an essential part of our lives, and when you throw in the perceptions of the customer, the picture begins to look a little scary from the point of view of the MNO.

Customer service satisfaction levels across the network operators are low. That coupled with the news that Pakistan wants to setup its own Wi-Max networks (allowing low-cost VoIP calls and data access), and with churn (the average number of customers that leave a subscription service during a year) running at a guesstimate of 20% per year, even the most myopic telco is realizing that things are changing.

The single biggest driver for the churn is price, so people churn because they are tempted by a better deal, which means that if they MNO wants them to come back, they will do so at a lower ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) than when they left.

The way to arrest this process is by offering compelling services, and the most obvious one is partnering with third parties especially agencies to make compelling content – the new source of differentiation. For the marketers, they must take steps to understand this portal if they are going to incorporate it into their marketing campaigns. Indeed they can’t afford not to, as the small portable device that demands and gets so much attention from its users is a space that is not yet being effectively utilised by the advertising industry. Serving as a part of a balanced marketing plan, mobile advertising offers a medium whereby brands can achieve constant communication with consumers as and when they want to.


While all other marketing media seem to be feeling the squeeze through greater fragmentation of networks mobile marketing’s future looks rosy. There is an extraordinary and unprecedented opportunity for mobile marketing in the next few years, both in terms of the way consumers will receive commercial messages and in the way they will respond to them. This is going to be a pipeline for immediate, measurable and targeted communication and it’s bursting with potential and waiting to be exploited to the full.  They say there is no idea as powerful as one whose time has come. Well Ring Ring! Wake up marketers, the mobile’s tone is sounding.

[1] Source: Economic Survey, 2007

[2] Source: PTA, April 2007 Figures.

[3] Source: Dawn, June 27th, 2007 ‘Investment Trends Shifts From Banks To Telecom’.

From The Archives (2008) – Marketing 2.0

Marketing 2.0
Published Dawn, Aurora, Jul 2008

by Umair Mohsin

What is the future of advertising? Simply there isn’t any. At least not as we know it. Trever Edwards, the vice president of Nike in October, 2007, sounded the death knell for the traditional ways of how we advertise, when he said “We’re not in the business of keeping the media companies alive, we’re in the business of connecting with consumers”.

Worldwide, the trends are the same. In the US, the country’s third-largest advertiser (General Motors) is getting ready to shift fully half of its $3 billion budget into digital and one-to-one marketing within the next 3 years. P&G Canada, has vowed to boost online spending from 3% of its media budget to as much as 20% for the company’s fiscal year that starts July 1. How soon before P&G Pakistan will follow suit? Research shows that 65% of all marketing spend in Asia in 2007 had no effect on the consumer. Yet still 70% of all Asian marketers are not tracking the effectiveness of their spending, many simply because they don’t know how to.

Yet as more and more consumers integrate digital technology into their daily lives, they are also increasingly exercising control of how they view, interact with and filter advertising in a multichannel world.  Already the integration of technology (multi-screen media consumption) is changing how we look at consumers. No longer are marketers describing consumption of content as being off-line and online or traditional and new but where and how the media is being consumed. The demarcation lines between old and new media have officially been eliminated. TV is increasingly being described as “lean back” interaction, as users are typically relaxing in the living room environment with a remote control in one hand. This is in contrast to the similarly slick marketing devised descriptor of the more active, personal computer-oriented “lean forward” experience of a keyboard, mouse and monitor especially used with gaming & consoles. The third form of media consumption is ‘On-The-Go’ with services such as Mobile TV provided by Telenor, digital outdoor & POS (such as 3M Vikuiti in Pakistan) or gaming gadgets like Sony PSP leading the way. It doesn’t end here however. Technology does not change any form of content or its inherent linearity but it is shifting how we control the viewing of that content. DVRs are allowing users to time shift content. iTV such as PTCL Smart already allows on-demand media and interaction directly. Thus even in Pakistan, we have the hyper-fragmentation of the audience and more and more advertising will now have to become integrated across multiple platforms of the ‘Digital Lifestyle’ if it is to work. This is the underpinning of the rise of Marketing 2.0.

Simply put if the web 2.0 is the network as a platform, spanning across all connected devices like PCs, mobiles, gaming consoles, etc, than Marketing 2.0 is about those platforms that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of these platforms. This is very different from the old school forms of marketing, especially since the old schools were not of an interactive nature.

The oldest marketing model was Transactional (communicate what it is and what it does) in its nature. The value was created by what the company was offering and consumers were passive buyers waiting to be targeted with offers. The role of the marketer was ‘to define & create value for firms’, whilst interaction with customers then meant researches or surveys of consumer’s habits.

In the second chapter of marketing, we were bombarded with the ‘Relationship marketing’ model whereby ‘maximizing the lifetime value of the consumer’ was the end goal of marketing. Firms focused to attract, develop and retain the most profitable consumer segments over the maximum number of years.

The new marketing 2.0 model is very different. With the rise of technology and gadgets, consumers have now became Pro-sumers, active participants in the marketing’s value creation. The 2.0 version is about creating ‘Tribes’ or Identification (Who you are) through experiences. This has been brought about through a confluence of a number of trends like participation (from consumer to creator), personalization & collaboration (from pushing content to pulling content), democratization of market access (from a few big advertisers to a lot of little ones) and richer online apps (from desktop apps to the internet cloud & rich media). The role of marketing 2.0 is ‘to engage customers in defining and co-creating value’ through Active Dialogue. Value is ‘maximizing the co-created experiences’.

What it means for marketers is that consumers are no longer at the end of the marketing process. They now refuse to just consume what the marketers throw at them and want to be an inherently part of the marketing process – being part of the conversation. Infact many consumers are becoming vendors themselves of products and even of media in some cases – the role of the traditional agency. Even in Pakistan, opinion formers are popping up in the most unexpected of places with blogs especially becoming very powerful in shaping consumer responses (google ‘PTCL Broadband’ or ‘Link Dot Net Problems’ for an idea). Borders between advertising and PR is blurring.

New marketing buzzwords like Engagement & Excitement are already following on the heels of this revolution, becoming the new mantra, whilst traditional metrics such as Reach & Frequency can no longer cater to measuring the quality of engagement and excitement that is now needed for marketing to these attention deficient consumers. With the beginning of the end of mass media, Advertisers already are starting to demand more individual-specific and involvement based measurements, putting increasing pressure on the traditional mass-market model. Already in Pakistan, the Marcom Mix is shifting from Exposure To Engagement through new formats such as branded entertainment featuring reality based shows (Princess of Pantene, Lux Style Awards, etc), branded adver-games (, branded portals (Tapal’s, branded talk shows (Nido Taare Humaray), branded game shows, On-ground activations and more. In light of this trend, I predict that the majority of advertising revenue will shift from impression-based formats to impact-based formats within the next five years.

With hyper-fragmentation, the PPC (Price Per Contact) Cost is also rising over time, so more and more marketers are demanding optimized media and sales based results. Expect the 2.0 terms like ROI, Cost Per Lead, Cost Per Conversion, Sales Funnel Consideration and Stickiness to enter our marketers jargon soon.

One of the keys to successful marketing in the 2.0 age is hooking into the Zeitgeist e.g. in Pakistan, over the last 12 months, Facebook has been the fastest growing search term on Google, a testament to the numbers of users from Pakistan joining the ‘Social Networking’ revolution, whilst the 2nd & 3rd Top most searched terms this year have been Urdu (showing how much people would value content in their language online) & Yahoo! respectively. The 6th most searched term is ‘games’ and 8th is wall-papers. is the 97th most popular site in Pakistan, lending credence to the revival of soccer in Pakistan. I don’t know how many marketers have noticed these insights. With the way things are going however, in the near future it’s not difficult to imagine, the marketer managing the impact of his campaign through a “dashboard” that delivers real-time metrics and analysis across all of their advertising platforms. Gone are the days of “hoping” advertising works. Marketing 2.0 is and will be a world where the marketer has full control of the effectiveness of their marketing spends.

The next 5 years will hold more change for the advertising industry than the previous 50 did. Increasingly empowered consumers, more self-reliant advertisers and ever-evolving technologies will redefine how advertising is sold, created, consumed and tracked. There is no question that the future of advertising & marketing will look radically different from its past. As advertising budgets shift to new formats and shape the future advertising market, control of marketing revenues and power will hinge on four key market drivers: attention, creativity, measures and advertising inventories. Whether agencies in Pakistan will be able to cope, I do not know.

Traditional advertising players – broadcasters, distributors and advertising agencies – will get squeezed unless they can successfully implement consumer, business model and business design innovation to incorporate these new realities of life – the trends toward creative populism, personalized measurements, interactivity, open inventory platforms and greater consumer control. This means that many of the skills and capabilities that were the mainstay of success in the past will need refinement, transformation or even outright replacement.

The printing press did for communication what the Internet is doing for marketing. Both changed the medium of mass communication and both revolutionized the way things get done. Digital technology is slowly but surely reaching critical mass in Pakistan and already we are beginning to see a merging of the “old” and the “new” ways. The push for control of attention, creativity, measurements and inventory will reshape the advertising value chain and shift the balance of power. For both incumbents and new players, it is imperative to plan for multiple consumer futures, craft agile strategies and build new capabilities before advertising as we know it disappears. Here’s some food for thought for those who still want to cling to the old ways of advertising. Our kids are already growing up with the ability to watch pretty much what they want when they want. As they get older, do you think they’re going to accept anything less than that?

What To Expect In Pakistan’s Technology Sector in 2010

Published Dawn, Sci-Tech, January 3rd, 2010

With growth expected to return to the global IT industry in 2010 with 3.2% expected increase for the year, returning the industry to 2008 spending levels of about $1.5 trillion (Source: Gartner), BRIC countries growing 8–13% and Pakistan’s GDP crossing the US $160 Billion mark, technology industry will do well for 2010.

The upcoming year appears poised to build on the strength of trends already in place: greater mobility, greener technologies, mobile technologies, more powerful hardware and web-enabled products and applications that focus on collaboration and interoperability. Here’s what we think is in store.

Hardware Gets Smaller, More Powerful and Greener

This is a no brainer. Intel Pakistan has announced that its new 32nm architecture codenamed Sandy Bridge will arrive in 2010. It will succeed the 45nm Nehalem architecture and will have up to eight cores on the same die, 512KB L2 cache and 16MB L3 cache. Also new will be the addition of Instruction AVX (Advanced Vector Extensions) which might be as significant as the introduction of SSE in 1999. To complement this Intel will also introduce the new Clarkdale family across the mid-range segment. With clock frequencies from 3.2GHz up to 3.46GHz, It will be Intel’s first 32nm processor and will grab the baton from the Core 2 Duo/Core 2 Quad series. This will bring a revolution in gaming, applications, HD & multimedia and at a price that is really sweet.

Online Reaches Critical Mass

Pakistan is among the five dynamic economies of developing Asia in terms of increased penetration of mobile phones, internet and broadband says the Information Economy Report, 2009 published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In the area of internet penetration, Pakistan is placed at the third position and for broadband penetration the country is at the fourth position in Asia. With Wimax taking off and providers such as Wateen already boasting of 100,000 connections, we can safely predict that internet in Pakistan will reach critical mass this year (up from its current 11.6% penetration) and move from being a niche channel to figure more prominently in our lives.

The Year Of The Mobile: m-Commerce, Mobile Web and Micro-lending

Expect the mobile phone to further its hold over our lives. 2010 will see it being used for micro-lending, micro-payments, reporting violence and human rights abuses and crowd-sourcing crisis information.

It will also become the default charity tool. For a while now, we’ve been able to leverage the immediacy of being able to donate instantly to a cause through SMS text to give campaigns. Expect NGOs to further improve these platforms in 2010, allowing you to donate instantly.

The mobile Web is also starting to emerge in Pakistan as a low-cost way to deliver simple mobile applications to a range of devices. Expect more financial institutions to take initiatives in this field and more consumer oriented ventures such as music platforms to be announced this year.

The next big thing in mobile however will be location based social networks (marriage of mobile and social networks) and real time web – also known as cloud computing. We’re expecting some company to announce a venture in this field this year.

Enterprise Computing: Green IT & Sustainable Computing

Rising energy costs, the rise of the carbon credits market and pressure from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference will make sustainability a source of opportunity for the Pakistani IT industry in 2010 locally and globally. We predict that new IT companies dealing with Carbon Management Software will be setup and existing enterprise software vendors will announce forays into the field. This market stands to become bigger than the global financial software market, so it’s impossible to think firms will not take advantage of this.