Expert calls brand managers ‘intellectual thieves’

By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune

KARACHI: The last thing you expect at a high-profile conference on brand management being sponsored by leading consumer brands of the country is the keynote speaker belittling and insulting the very role of a brand manager in a harsh, disrespectful manner.

That is exactly what happened at Transform Conference 2012 on Saturday when veteran advertiser and filmmaker Shahzad Nawaz took the stage to speak about “the power of saying no” in a corporate setup.

“Brand managers are plagiarists. They’re liars. They act like Mr Know-it-all, yet they copy ads and indulge in intellectual theft,” Nawaz said, adding the entire profession was led by insecurities.

Saying that brand managers in Pakistan refuse to entertain new ideas fearing an unsuccessful strategy will lead to poor annual performance appraisals, he said they were “pushed and shoved by the corporate kings” without regard to work ethics.

“You all know that you’re a small fry to large multinationals. It’s a rat race. So even if you win, you’ll still be a rat,” he said, urging the audience, which included brand managers from a number of multinational companies, to stand up, stand tall and nurture the brand called ‘self.’

Agreeing with Nawaz’s observation about brand managers’ reluctance to embrace new ideas, Taher A Khan, Chairman of Interflow Communications, a leading ad agency, recounted how the ad campaign of a new tea brand revolved around people dancing together.

He said he tried to convince the brand manager that the ad premise could work well in India, but not in Pakistan, because of cultural sensitivities. “He told me if he didn’t change the premise, and the campaign failed, he might still keep his job. But in case he changed the premise, and the campaign failed, he’d certainly be fired for running the campaign on an untested premise.”

Social media age

Khan said the advertising landscape had entirely changed in the age of social media. “This is the age of conversation. The mass media of today is the social media.”

Referring to the recent ad campaigns of Ufone, Mobilink, Cadbury Milk, Pepsi and Coca Cola, Khan said they gave the message of hope and optimism.

He said the largest English language newspaper of Pakistan did not sell more than 60,000 copies a day. “Multiply that to four, and you’ll reach a maximum of 250,000 people through a newspaper advertisement. Through Facebook, however, you can reach 6.2 million Pakistanis at once.”

Talking about Coke Studio, a music programme featuring live studio recordings, Noaman Asar, who is head of planning at JWT, a prominent ad agency, said its phenomenal success represented the shift of young audience from TV to the digital media, which was more conversational. “TV is losing its relevance, as attention spans of the young audience are shrinking.” Asar said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19, 2012.



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