AdAsia 2019: Asia's Biggest Advertising Industry Conference in Lahore, Pakistan
Pakistan President Arif Alavi delivered the closing keynote address. Other speakers included Sir Martin Sorrell, Founder, WPP; Philip Thomas, CEO, Cannes Lions; Randi Zuckerberg, CEO, Zuckerberg Media and former Director Market Development, Facebook; Kaveri Khullar, Marketing Director, Mastercard Southeast Asia; Fernando Machado, Global CMO, Burger King; Asad J. Malik, an artist specializing in augmented reality; Piyush Pandey, CCO Worldwide and Executive Chairman India, Ogilvy; Marcus Peffers, Global CEO, M and C Saatchi World Services; Stefan Sagmeister, Co-Founder Sagmeister and Walsh; Richard Quest of CNN Business; and Yasuharu Sasaki, ECD, the Dentsu Network.
Sessions on digital advertising were packed at the conference. This segment of advertising is growing rapidly amidst declining total ad spend in Pakistan.
Randi Zuckerberg, former executive at Facebook and sister of Mark Zuckerberg, was a featured speaker to talk about digital marketing. She shared her experience of how digital media became a powerful force for marketers. “15 years ago, my marketing budget for a whole year was one box of t-shirts,” she told the audience as she talked about her years at Facebook. “It’s really amazing to see how far the world can come in time,” she added.
Zuckerberg praised Pakistan as a country that honors women. “Pakistan has given us women such as Malala Yousafzai and Benazir Bhutto,” she said. “This shows that Pakistan is a country that really honors its women.”
Zuckerberg was followed by Tom Goodwin, head of innovation at Zenith Media. He focused on how our lives have been transformed by ongoing Digital Revolution. “Smartphones have become like fireplaces to people. People gather around their devices and their connection to the world becomes what gives them warmth,” Goodwin said.
Growth of broadband access in Pakistan is changing the country's media landscape. Digital advertising revenue is forecast to grow by 32% in 2019 to Rs. 10.8 billion ($103 million), 12% of total national advertising revenue (NAR), according to Magna Advertising. Digital marketing expert Lars Anthonisen believes Pakistan is quickly becoming a "digital first country". Anthonisen sees "new opportunities for brands to reach and engage with consumers who may have previously been overlooked". Overall ad spend in Pakistan is expected to rise by 15% in 2019 to Rs. 88.3 billion ($840 million) following a steep decline (-11%) in 2018, according to a Branding in Asia report. Growing availability of smartphones, tablets and mobile broadband is extending the reach of advertisers to digital media where it is possible to precisely target prospective customers.
Pakistan Media Industry:
Pakistan's 88 billion rupee media industry is in the midst of a major shakeout after a long period of rapid double-digit growth since the turn of the century. Hundreds of journalists and other staff have lost their jobs. At least one TV channel, Waqt News, has closed while several others are downsizing. While such consolidation was long overdue after nearly two-decade long period of explosive growth, the PTI government's decision to reduce advertising budget, which constitutes nearly a quarter of all ad spending in the country, appears to be the main trigger. Those affected by consolidation are accusing the government of exercising press censorship by cutting its ad spending.
Rapid Media Growth:
Rising buying power of rapidly expanding middle class in Pakistan drove the nation's media advertising revenue up 14% to a record Rs. 76.2 billion 2016 and another 12% to Rs. 88 billion in 2017, making the country's media market among the world's fastest growing media markets.
Massive commercial media growth in Pakistan has been most apparent in terms of private TV channels growing from just one in Year 2000 to over 100 today after President Musharraf's deregulation of electronic and other media.
Explosive growth with many new entrants is the fundamental business reason for the recent wave of consolidation and shakeout. Shakeout is a business term used to describe the consolidation of an industry or sector after it has experienced a period of rapid growth in demand followed by oversupply.
At least one TV channel, Waqt News owned by Nawai-Waqt Media Group, has closed while several others are downsizing. “We are trying to compile exact figures of the affected media persons. So far, we can say that around 1,000-1,500 workers have lost their jobs or faced cuts in salaries in the past few weeks,” Muhammad Afzal Butt, president of one the main factions of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) told The News Sunday (TNS) this week.
About a quarter of Rs. 80 billion ad revenue comes from federal and provincial government ads in the media. Some of the TV channels receive as much as 50% of their revenue from the government.
"The government has cut its media spend by more than 70% and companies by almost 50%", according to a leading advertising agency owner who spoke to Dawn.
"The (federal) government used to spend some Rs. 10 billion on advertisements annually, which was increased up to Rs35 billion in the last years of the (Nawaz Sharif's PMLN) government," Fawad Chaudhry, federal minister of information, told The News Sunday (TNS). This tax-payers’ money, says the minister, was used by the previous government to bribe the media for favorable coverage.
Pakistan has recently hosted AdAsia after a gap of 30 years. It is the largest and most prestigious advertising industry conference in Asia – organized bi-annually by the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA). It drew attendees from all over the world to Lahore, Pakistan. This conference has taken place at a time when Pakistan's 88 billion rupee media industry is in the midst of a major shakeout after a long period of rapid double-digit growth since the turn of the century. One bright spot is digital advertising which is growing rapidly amidst the declining total ad spend in Pakistan. Significant reduction in government spending on advertising has triggered a long-overdue shakeout after almost two decades of rapid media growth in Pakistan. About a quarter of Rs. 80 billion ad revenue comes from federal and provincial government ads in the media. Some of the TV channels receive as much as 50% of their revenue from the government. Hundreds of journalists and other staff have lost their jobs. At least one TV channel, Waqt, has closed while several others are downsizing. Those affected by consolidation are accusing the government of exercising press censorship by cutting its ad spending.
Here's a video discussion on Pakistani media business with Misbah Azam, Sabahat Ashraf and Riaz Haq.
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