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Published on September 27th, 2010 | by Arsalan Mir


Digital Media Misunderstood in Pakistan – Adil Ahmed

Technology advancement brings Internet and Mobile in everyone’s reach and this open doors for digital marketing where it becomes easy for the marketeers to target the right audience and measure the response. As the digital media use and awareness increases with time, Adil Ahmed, the COO at Symmetry Digital, feels that it is misunderstood in Pakistan. He shares some interesting facts in this report from the Tribune.

In a country where the literacy rate is estimated at only slightly above half of the entire population and the lowest 40 per cent have less than one-fourth share in total household income, many question the efficacy of digital media as part of the marketing mix.

But that is the exact perception Symmetry Digital is determined to change with the launch of Digital Minds – a competition initiated by the company to inculcate the ‘digital mindset’ at grassroots level.

The competition, an industry initiative spanning over the next two months, targets the youth of Karachi in a bid that once the students involved in the contest graduate from universities and join the workforce, they will be able to act as catalysts for the promotion of digital marketing – a ‘smarter, cheaper and more measurable’ choice for advertisers, according to one expert.

To ‘internet’ and beyond

“The concept of digital media has been completely misunderstood in Pakistan,” said Adil Ahmed, the Chief Operating Officer of Symmetry Digital. He explained that people assume that the digital medium is restricted to the internet and fail to take into account other platforms – mobile phones, for example.

Cellular subscriptions have crossed the 99 million mark during the last financial year. “People do not realise this but the number of Facebook users in Pakistan has also increased to 2.5 million from the mere 0.25 million recorded in December 2008,” highlighted Ahmed.

However, according to the man behind one of the largest digital media agencies in the country, the mindset in Pakistan has not been able to evolve beyond the traditionally accepted mediums of marketing. “Since digital marketing is not being properly taught at local universities, the market cannot move beyond a certain penetration point,” contended Ahmed.

He may have a point as even the handful of courses that are taught on the subject focus on e-commerce and the internet. ‘Out-of-home’ digital platforms, for instance, are unheard of in Pakistan. These include interactive LED screens and augmented digital kiosks among other innovative mechanisms to communicate with the target market.

Hence, Digital Minds aims to fill the void by offering participants the opportunity to design innovative marketing plans that are either solely based on digital media or rely on it heavily.


“The most important aspect of digital media is the ability to target a specific market,” declared the head of online strategy at a local media group.

Meanwhile, Ahmed termed the digital medium much more ‘measurable’ than, for example, television. “While we are not pushing for a complete digitisation of advertising, it must be realised that a suitable marketing mix is essential to achieve the desired results,” he maintained.

With companies constantly seeking to cut costs, reassessing the feasibility of above-the-line advertising tools deserves merit as not only are these techniques more expensive, their results are very difficult to measure since potential customers are targeted across the board, in a blanket attempt to capture attention.

Although there exists tremendous potential to capitalise on demographic data collected through digital interfaces, Ahmed pointed out that many companies in Pakistan have not made the effort to boost sales by tracking behavioural characteristics or psychographics.

“It is estimated by many that less than two per cent of the entire advertising expenditure is incurred on online campaigns – although there is no empirical research to back this figure,” he concluded.

via The Express Tribune

Marketeers and others reading this here, do you agree with the notion set above? What are your views about Digital Media in Pakistan? Do you see it growing?

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About the Author

is a Telecom enthusiast with engineering background based in Lahore. On professional front, he is the Director Operations at the Target Group. He can be reached at arsalan (at) telecompk (dot) net

10 Responses to Digital Media Misunderstood in Pakistan – Adil Ahmed

  1. Pingback: Digital Media Misunderstood in Pakistan – Adil Ahmed -

  2. imran says:

    @Ejaz – Very true!

  3. Raheel says:

    @Umair, i agree that social media cannot be “One all solution” and this is true for every medium. to increase the brand re-call, different mediums needs to be intact a.k.a “Integrated communications” however social media is the strongest among them all given the power of conversations, which is lacked by other mediums. Also i again re emphasize on the concept of social media which is now mixed up with online social media networking sites.
    Facebook, twitter, youtube, blogs, discussion platforms, these are all tools whereas social media is to do with socializing. Having a group chatt on sms with your buddies also comes in social media if we see it in a broader perspective :).
    Given the fact that digital media is measurable and targeted, concept of social media has evolved very strongly over here.

    Also coming to the point that to kick off a company stand alone social media is capable or not depends more on thet target market. If the company is targeting a niche of techy people ranging in SEC A+, A,B mostly lying between 18 – 35 , i believe social media can do wonders.

  4. Ejaz Asi says:

    bit condescending in some parts like “OOH media is unheard of in Pakistan” but I know at least two companies in Karachi alone who provide solutions and have decent clientèle so while 2 agencies is not great no. either but I am sure Symmetry/Adil wouldn’t want to be ignored altogether in similar statement about digital media agencies in Pakistan.

    Having said that, the title “digital media MISUNDERSTOOD in Pakistan” could have been avoided even if the patronizing tone were to be used throughout. While mostly Telcos and few banks and SMEs have utilized and benefited from Digital/Social Media in last 2 years, it shouldn’t be taken as just because they only used one form of certain media, they misunderstand the entirety of it. Not using or underusing something does not correlate with misunderstanding. Did I see banners of Digital Minds at LEDs on Metropole or Submarine chowrangi or may be an SMS campaign through SMSes? No, I don’t recall any such thing so one way of stating this would be that Symmetry/Digital Minds did not use, for whatever reasons, these mediums even if they could have or would have.

    Regardless of that, Digital Minds is a good Crowd-Sourcing effort and I hope we see the results and fruit soon. Best of luck to DM team and of course the contestants.

  5. Umair says:

    @Raheel: Social media can never be the one all solution. Read the latest reports. It doesn’t work for new product launches.

    @Article. Been saying the same thing for years now. Finally the market’s waking up. Here’s something else to add. We’ll need brand strategies to tackle Digital Media just like we do in Traditional media. Digital is not a panacea to marketing ills. It’s just another screen.

  6. Pingback: Digital Media Misunderstood in Pakistan – Adil Ahmed | Tea Break

  7. Raheel says:

    Misuse of social media is quite easier than other mediums and this is where the responsibilty of the social networking site owners come in.
    I strongly believe that available social media platforms needs to re check their policies.

    There should be more rights in hand for a company to protect its trademark and logo on social media……

  8. Arsalan Mir says:

    Good input Raheel. Indeed recommendations on digital media does effect the buying behaviour and this effect is increasing more and more. I just had an experience of the same.

    In general this form of media is misunderstood to some extent but is gradually penetrating among the mases as evident from the number of facebook users.

    But the darker side is the fact that like traditional media it can also be mis-used.

  9. Ammar Faheem says:

    A nice read, and a very knowledgeable comment up here from Raheel as well.

  10. Raheel says:

    I second Adil’s comment on being digital media not specific only to internet, we have much more coming in : sms, mobile internet, USSD ( telecom people will recognize this word :)) IVRs, even i believe the desktop screen savers can do magic for companies to gain un interrupted advertising.

    But lets make a full stop here :) advertising whether interactive or conventional is an old concept now. We are moving now towards social media. A medium where brands moves as individuals, they act as your neighbor hood friend, as your mentor, as an Influencer.

    The power of conversations that you get from social media is way above than all the other mediums and thats evident from the sucess of Star Bucks, dell even Obama :P and now Musharraf :).

    Its a fact that penetration of social media is way too less in Pakistan currently but if we see the growth rate, it will be a next big thing in near future and companies who are adopting this medium now in a right way will be the leaders of digital media in few months to come.

    Remember 78% of consumer products are sold on peer recommendations than advertising :). Therefore we can say that advertising is good for brand awareness but if you want more than that ( brand resonance/recommenders) through digital media you surely needs to adop social media in a social media way :)

    There is a lot more to talk on this subject :) but lets the debate begin will jump in again than :)

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