It’s been 20 years and I have been asked to write on the milestone moment and share the underpinning reasons for the success of Bulls Eye; what’s in my mind, heart, and soul today, and what it was like when I first began. As I start to write, I want this article to be different from the one I had written some time back, titled the Bulls Eye Bibliography – The 15-year story, which can still be retrieved online and read by those who want to find more inspiration and learnings.
This insider story article will give you a peep into me as a person, my beliefs, values, principles, and thinking as it’s very important to understand me if you want to understand Bulls Eye. It is the human touch that shapes any company, especially an entrepreneurial one.
People who know me well, like my IBA friends, my family, my team, and my clients know that I have always been the brave one. Not at all fearful and afraid of any situation, which will freeze most others. Brave in thought, brave in speech, brave in action, and brave in work. Always ready to take the plunge into any challenge and try my best to do bold and brave work that can ruffle a few feathers and make an impact.
Entrepreneurship needs bravery. I know many people who still talk about starting their own business at age 40 or 50 but do not have the guts to do it. Most people talk, only some do it. I left a great Procter and Gamble job at age 26 to move to the advertising business as I believed and knew it was the right type of work for me where I will find more happiness and success.
So how could Bulls Eye not be a brave agency?
Our bravery has been on display in the fresh and bold work we have done consistently over these past 20 years. Also, we have braved a lot of tough competition from the long-standing, 50-year-old Goliaths of the Pakistan advertising industry to rise above and stand alongside them as the youngest challenger agency that continues to make its mark on the advertising scene and make its presence felt.
In a country whereby all the agencies were generally advertising agencies, we started different as the ‘non-advertising’ agency – an agency that was willing to take on any and all other marketing briefs that found little attention at advertising agencies, who just loved the TV and Print ad briefs… and this really has made all the difference in our success.
Again, here it’s important to understand me as a person. I have always been the different one in terms of what I liked, believed, wore, ate, said, and did. I never followed the crowd or the trend. I did what I wanted to do and it was always different. Entrepreneurship and business need a point of difference.
I brought the word strategy as a function into the advertising industry here. I put strategy at the heart of this business and I made strategy the most important function at my own agency in an industry that always and still puts client service or creative first. This again has been a key difference versus other agencies which just pay lip service to strategy.
Be honest and hard-working
When I started getting more interested in marketing and advertising during the late 1990s, the advertising industry here had little reputation and respect for its talent, quality of work, business principles, and ethics. This was a time when advertising was one of the least trusted professions. These issues are still around us and overall, a lot still needs to be done to rise above on honesty of purpose, ethics, and genuine scientific and artistic marketing and advertising hard work, as we in Pakistan, are still sub-standard compared to the region and the world.
As I began to pay more attention to the ads I saw on TV, I realized most of them were bad. They lacked creativity, missed the point or the target audience, and were sloppily executed or downright confusing. But every once in a while, a really interesting TV spot did pop up. I knew it was simply either because of the lack of good talent or hard work that required guidance and application.
So when I started my advertising career, I was told by many that you are the wrong man for this business. It’s not for you. It needs the other kind of people as you see mostly around you. And I always smiled and questioned how honesty, ethics, and hard work as a personal philosophy and principle could be bad for any business, even if it was an agency. So I started with a sense of purpose and mission as I always believed that we need to be honest with our profession and work hard to make a mark. Also, we need to do these with the highest ethical standards. For me, there were no other substitutes for success, regardless of how bad the world around me was.
Be An All-Rounder
I love sports and have been a great sportsman in my younger days at both college and university level. All-rounder is a term that is often used in cricket and it is someone who can both bat and ball. I was always an all-rounder in cricket and liked to single-handedly win matches for my team. All-rounders are almost always more valued than specialists. Wasim Akram and Shahid Afridi will always be bigger stars than Waqar Younis or Shoaib Akhtar.
Same applies to business as well, especially, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. If you don’t know and cannot do the entire job and everything yourself, you will struggle or can be taken for a ride by others.
So, when it came to my agency, I always put the seeds of it being an all-rounder agency and not a specialist in any one type of marketing. This was at a time when the clients were forcing agencies and slicing and dicing them into specialist units/companies as they wanted to work with specialists in every field. But I still chose to be an all-rounder with one agency that could take on any brand challenge and brief, as it genuinely had the capability to do so at the heart of it.
Some clients thought we were a marketing consultant or branding agency, some said we are an activation agency, some said we are an advertising agency and some said we are a content agency or a digital agency. It was just what we wanted, as we only looked at ourselves as an all-rounder marketing agency that took a ‘solution neutral’ stance and we really had genuine marketing talents and skills to do different types of work, unlike other agencies around us.
Everyone will give you the advice to be current or futuristic. But I have always believed in being classic. Classic is timeless. It always is relevant, whether today or in the future.
In my personal life, I get a daily dose of classic, as I always have, and find time for classic cars. It’s my passion and my hobby and I actively indulge in it despite my full-time professional advertising business. I am a classic car collector, I restore and keep them running, I also run a ‘car guys lunch community’ and I recently founded Pakistan’s First Online Antique Cars Museum as well. I only have classic cars and no modern-day cars despite the rat race I see around me to buy the latest new car or SV or jeep. It’s simply because my love for all things is classic.
So what does being classic have to do with marketing and advertising? Well, I believe in classic marketing principles and thinking as these have stood the test of time and they still deliver results. I don’t chase fancy new marketing fads and gimmicks. I have always practised classic old school textbook marketing as that’s what I believe in and this has really made all the difference. As genuinely true marketing icons, role models and thought leaders are no more like they once used to be, I really value their thinking and ideologies and have held them as my agency’s guiding light.
Ever since I became interested in marketing and advertising and started to read about all the great global advertising practitioners, I started to become a fan of Bill Bernbach, the founder of the DDB advertising agency. I really liked and could relate to his humility and competence who just let his work do all the talking for him, unlike other big names of advertising at that time who were flashy, loud mouths, and pompous. His two sayings made a lasting impression on me at a very early stage and shaped my marketing thinking.
- 1. Nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature, what compulsions drive a man, what instincts dominate his action, even though his language so often camouflages what really motivates him.”
- 2. “Merely to let your imagination run riot, to dream unrelated dreams, to indulge in graphic acrobatics and verbal gymnastics in not being creative. The creative person has harnessed his imagination. He has disciplined it so that every thought, every idea, every word he puts down, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes, makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.”
I never knew that one day I would get a chance to represent DDB in my country and be a part of their global network. This was like a dream come true for me and when DDB approached me in 2011 to be their local partner as they wanted to change for the better here, and they found in me and my agency the right fit in thinking and principles as DDB had. Little did they know that I was already DDB in my mind, soul, and heart for all my professional life; this was just a formal stamp of it.
I have always been a slim guy. I eat just to give me the energy to keep me going, not to fill me up and then be lazy and not feel like doing anything. I like to stay a little hungry all the time and prefer to have 6 to 7 snacks or short meals throughout the day rather than having 3 lavish meals like most I see around me.
Hunger is a great thing for business and professional life too. It’s this hunger that keeps you going always, even after 20 years. I still love my work and I still love the brand challenges that come our way as an agency. As I look ahead to the next decade, it’s this hunger that keeps you motivated and committed to your profession and keeps you moving ahead. So, look out for more from us as we enter a new decade of our organisation’s life.