An interview with Ahmed Kapadia of Synergy Advertising – By Syed M. Aslam
Ahmed Kapadia disdains the rise of mediocrity and compromise on quality, particularly in the industry to which he belongs—advertising. As the Managing Director of APNS Award winning. Synergy advertising he blames mediocrity on one single factor—the acute absence of leadership. “Talent alone is not enough, it needs mentorship which we lack here in Pakistan.”
It is this dearth of leadership, he says, that has hindered the growth of advertising as an institution despite availability of immense talents. He feels that most advertising agencies, almost all of them inherited, are incapable of seeing beyond their noses to realize that they have to return something to the system they immensely benefited from. “There has been no attempt to make an investment in people. To develop, nurture and groom the raw talent that we have in abundance.”
These betes noires and concerns need to be taken seriously by the advertising industry, or what passes for it, as Ahmed has worked his way up since he started his career 17 years ago “by an accident” even before he did MBA. That also explains why he feels that it gives his “un-inherited” agency a “professional edge.”
Besides the lack of leadership another major deterrent to groom the talents is the economic reality itself, adds Ahmed Kapadia. “It is not that there is a dearth of talents. This is obvious from one simple fact: Despite jobs being in short supply everybody seems to be looking out for quality employees. And yet the search remain futile as while advertising is all about common sense, I myself did not know anything about it when I started my career with MNJ in 1986, there are no venues to find, develop and groom the inherent talents. There are no schools specialising in advertising to groom the natural-born talent for advertising.
“Merit did not matter for much in the 1980s. What mattered more were the connections. Thing have definitely changed for better due to wider penetration of airwaves by the satellite channels changing the way the consumers think. They have become more educated and informed to become more demanding in turn. The exposure has made advertising companies, and for that matter their clients, more sensitive to the needs of consumers realizing that old formulae would not work anymore.”
Ok, so the merit has started to make inroads into the advertising agency but what about the creativity?
“Advertising in Pakistan still keeps reeling from the creative flair and the execution that it requires. It takes, as they say, two to tango. An advertising agency good as its client. If a client is good agency would also be good and vice versa. However, don’t expect an advertising company to turn a concept into an affective commercial if the client is not willing to provide the environment, the people, the frame-work and the last but not the least the appropriate funds? Demanding quality output without providing quality input can hardly be expected to work. Quality has a price.”
“Having said that it is also important to understand that unlike many other countries, including India, lack of professionalism and creativity in the Pakistani advertising industry can also be attributed to dearth of technical skills. It is an established fact that advertising industry draws its strength from the film industry. We are all aware of the lack of professionalism and technical know-how in our film industry and thus our ad industry is unable to draw the needed technical backup.”
Another restricted growth of the ad industry can also be attributed to the ground realities of the Pakistani market. Like all other businesses advertising too should not be expected to perform in isolation. It performance depends heavily on the performance of the other sectors of the economy. And that explains the reason for the changing role of the advertising agencies from that of mere providers of traditional services as print and audio-visuals. In the digital world of today, they have to provide a range of services like marketing, event manager and brand builder all wrapped up in one.
While the expansion has helped many advertising agencies to diversify their business to find alternative sources of revenue to achieve economies of scale it has also put an enormous burden on work on them. Many clients try to take an advantage of this situation by pressing the advertising agencies to do the consumer research as of it is part of the job. Is consumer research a part and parcel of an advertising campaign?
“Consumer research is a specialized job which requires money. Asking the ad companies to carryout consumer research is unfair indeed. We at synergy have done such researches but it’s just not fair for a client to expect an advertising agency to do it without paying for it.”
So what is the future of advertising In Pakistan? Ahmed Kapadia strongly feels that it belongs to ‘brand development.’ We must realize that advertising is just a part of brand building and not the other way around. Look around; even war is brand development today. ‘Shock and Awe’ and ‘Operation Liberation Iraq’ are brand building advertising campaigns. However, it must also be realized that advertising can-not sell a bad product. In fact, advertising would do increased damage to a bad product.”
Can the government do anything more to promote the ad industry? “Yes it can—by giving it ads purely on the basis on merit.’’