SANNA MALIK: PAS acts as a representative of the common interests of advertisers of Pakistan. It also has a mandate of bringing together marketing, advertising and media professionals to enhance industry practices. What kind of advocacy does PAS offer?
QAMAR ABBAS: We aspire that advertising is efficient and effective for the advertiser; rewarding for the media, agencies and associate suppliers, and true, honest and equitable to the consumer. This belief is at the core of our working and our existence and therefore we believe in inclusivity, as working in silos will never have that much of an impact than working together with all the stakeholders. To this end, we try developing working committees and relationships with industry associations that represent agencies, broadcasters, publishers, govt. regulators, etc. It is a time-consuming effort, but has to be two-sided and everyone has to believe that this has maximum impact in the long run. PAS is always forthcoming in this regard, however, if we do not succeed in engaging any of the stakeholders, we continue to do our bit, and in my experience, it eventually results in partners joining in for the greater good of the industry.
On advocacy, we have quite a wide area of expertise ranging from taxation, content regulation, establishing best practices with media, promoting ethical and responsible advertising within the advertisers etc.
SANNA MALIK: Advertising agencies and media buying houses are a major part of the industry, specializing in creative and media buying services. How does PAS see itself working alongside PAA?
QAMAR ABBAS: PAA is one of the most major stakeholders of the industry. If we need to raise the bar of marketing communications and focus on creativity and media innovation that leads to effectiveness, it is important that the two societies work closely together. We need to firmly believe in partnerships rather than having a client-vendor relationship. Building on this belief, we need to work on areas like standardizing the pitch process, developing skillful resources and making the business equitable for all the partners. To achieve all this, we need to organize ourselves and craft a vision that will benefit all stakeholders and will help grow the industry.
Up until now, PAS has been working alone; be it organizing specialized trainings, running global competitions, developing a knowledge hub for the industry, instituting a world recognized award program etc., yet now, we need to synergize our efforts and believe in the spirit of ‘mutual-support-for-mutual-benefit’.
SANNA MALIK: What role does the organization play in terms of advising on client-agency relations? Does that include arbitration between clients and agencies also?
QAMAR ABBAS: We fully recognize that to build a great brand and to achieve marketing communication that is efficient and effective; we need to work with our ad agencies as partners and therefore, we are particularly focused on client-agency relationship that is healthy and equitable. In this area, we have partnered with a UK-based world-renowned company called Aprais. However, our efforts and the advertisers’ point-of-view needs to be understood and agencies need to go an extra mile to ensure that the relationship is healthy, as it is equally beneficial for them as well. It would be great to work with PAA in this area, so they can synergize our efforts as our objective is the same.
Answering the second part of the question, PAS in the past has played a role of arbitrator between member companies and agencies on need basis. However, yes, agencies can approach PAS with any kind of complaint, and if it relates to one of our member companies, we will intervene in resolving the conflict.
SANNA MALIK: How is PAS leveraging its position to uplift the expertise of the marketing, advertising and media industry?
QAMAR ABBAS: In this area, our major thrust has been on trainings, workshops and conferences. Another interesting area that we have developed is having ad agencies participate in global competitions. We run these in Pakistan and the winners are sent to compete internationally at Cannes and Spikes. This serves as a great motivator and provides an amazing learning experience. We see these awards as another strong and well-established initiative that will help raise the standard of marketing communications and its practitioners. We have been successful in showcasing our work internationally and also aide in getting people from Pakistan to enter international jury’s, which in itself is a great learning experience.
However, these are the areas where PAS is working alone and PAA’s collaboration will synergize our efforts as this benefits both, the clients and the agencies. Agencies need to understand that they need to step up the game and change the way they have been operating and see trainings and learning initiatives as investments. We can encourage advertisers to play their part, but they also need to see that agencies collectively are willing to make this investment. These efforts cannot be single sided, and agencies need to show their commitment as well. I strongly feel that PAA can partner with PAS and play a crucial role in this area.
SANNA MALIK: What kind of consultancy does PAS offer to brands in terms of advertising specifically?
QAMAR ABBAS: In the area of consultancy, PAS has a very well-developed arm where it provides consultancy to member companies by connecting them with the most appropriate local or international advertising experts matching their specific requirements, through our extensive network of local and international affiliations. These include customized in-house skill set training, client-agency evaluation, hiring and recommending agencies, building brand identities etc.
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SANNA MALIK: What kind of arbitration does PAS provide its members?
QAMAR ABBAS: The most significant arbitration service that PAS provides is between member companies on ethical and responsible marketing communications under our Code of Advertising Practices. Over a period of time, the Society has adjudicated more than a thousand cases and there has never been an instance that a member company has not abided by the decisions made by their peers. PAS has also adjudicated disputes between member and non-member companies and has been praised for its neutrality, as we strongly believe that we need to self-regulate ourselves before someone else does. With an impeccable reputation in this area, our arbitration services is the first line of defense our member companies opt for rather than pursuing other legal alternatives. In addition, the Society has also worked with Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) in raising awareness on deceptive marketing and how it harms the industry and the organization; and under this initiative, we have carried out a number of public and customized in-house sessions for the industry.
Besides this, PAS also acts as an intermediary body to resolve disputes between member advertisers and other partners like advertising agencies, media and government regulators. We have a 100% success rate in this area as well.
SANNA MALIK: What is ad fraud resolution that PAS carries out?
QAMAR ABBAS: For ad fraud, our position is aligned with all the global advertisers and it is very clear, “zero tolerance to ad fraud with compensation for any breach”.
Ad fraud is a considerable threat and one of the fastest growing cybercrime and this is not acceptable by advertisers as it drains millions and millions of their ad-spend. To this end, first the publishers, platforms and all intermediaries (including ad agencies, ad tech, data partners, etc.) should give confidence to advertisers that they are buying authentic and relevant inventory against which advertisers have committed their spend; and second, any media investment found to be associated with invalid traffic should be refunded within a reasonable time frame under a streamlined process that should be as simple as possible. Working in this direction, PAS has teamed up with an international company Spider AF to help Pakistani marketers battle ad fraud by automating the identification and reporting of invalid digital traffic that not only would save them millions, but will also increase the effectiveness of their digital ad campaigns. This is one major solution from the marketers’ toolkit that PAS offers to its member companies.
SANNA MALIK: What role does PAS play in terms of advising on developing legislative policy?
QAMAR ABBAS: In this area, one of the major roles that PAS has played is helping the broadcast regulator PEMRA, put together a regulatory framework for managing the TV ratings system. Here, PAS alongside PEMRA plays a leading role in resolving disputes between companies and the rating service provider/s.
In addition, PAS also works closely with regulators in ad content regulation. Another area that we deal with is taxation issues and it is here that we feel that all the stakeholders can work together as it is a collective industry issue that impacts us all.