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Exclusive Interview with Awais Akhtar, Maxus Global

Awais Akhtar, Senior Digital Marketing & Strategy Professional/Programmatic Specialist – Maxus Global speaks to team Brands Magazine and FHM Pakistan on the changing perspectives and dynamics of the rapidly growing digital media.

BM: Tell us about your educational background and professional experience.
AA: I graduated from University of Central Punjab with Majors in Marketing. Right after graduation, I joined Silk Bank in Sales department and realized in 8 months that I am not enjoying what I do. I then joined a firm called WebSketchers and started their digital marketing chapter as a strategic partner, this is where I got all my hands-on experience from pitching potential clients to winning five in first few months. After a year I decided to pursue my goals with a bigger agency and joined Bramerz, a full service digital agency and one of the best 360 degree digital solution agencies back then. Within 1.5 years, I was managing multiple big accounts and also ended up starting a sister concern for Bramerz called 3’s Crowd. I served 3’s Crowd for 1 and half year, before I was approached by GroupM to join Maxus as a Digital Lead.

BM: Since your entrance in the field of digital media, what major changes have you observed with the passing time?
AA: When I entered this field it was really hard to convince the clients to invest on this medium, given the penetration and understanding of the local market. Today you don’t have to sell digital to clients as they are already sold; now the challenge is to shift bigger spends on this medium. The digital penetration has been spectacular with 41 million broadband connections today and growth rate of 250% over last 1.5 years. With the introduction of 3g/4g and cheap smartphones alongside different social mediums, digital is literally growing with a tremendous speed every day. One other major change I’ve seen over the last few years is enormous growth of video consumption on digital; online videos are now the second biggest reason why people are opting for digital.

BM: What challenges did you face in the initial stages of digital media development at Maxus Pakistan?
AA: Development of digital media wasn’t really a challenge but turn over in the team was, because Maxus digital was in its initial stages. Other challenges include documentation protocols that had to be developed and most of the protocols followed earlier were that of traditional media. To be honest no challenge is big when you have a network like Maxus/GroupM with both local and Global support, and mentors like Sarwar Khan & Amna Khatib Paracha.

BM: What are your major achievements and contribution to the digital industry so far?
AA: I have to say my biggest achievement and contribution so far to the digital industry is bringing and executing Programmatic buying in Pakistan. It was a huge challenge, and the know-how in the local market is still very limited about this buying method. Other achievements include introducing the local market to GroupM view ability standards, and bringing international tools for ad verification; to ensure the exposure of advertisement on digital in brand safe environment, minimizing ad fraud and maximizing view ability.  Last but not the least I also take great pride in winning PAS award for digital execution of Pepsi Smash at Bramerz.

BM: What changes do you want to introduce in the digital advertising and communication sector?
AA: The next big thing on my radar is implementing data/audience management platform to make the best use of big data and right targeting, as well as implementing dynamic creative optimization to show very contextually relevant ads to the audience. This coupled up with programmatic will change the way how we target consumers and how we look at marketing today.

BM: What training programs do you conduct in order to keep your team updated with the digital variations?
AA: There are multiple trainings that we do on quarterly basis with our international partners like Facebook and Google to stay up to date with digital trends. Maxus Global also has a list of online courses for digital teams worldwide to stay ahead of the curve. I ensure that my team attends all of these trainings and stays equipped with digital know-how.

BM: Do you think that digital media has overshadowed electronic and print advertising?
AA: Definitely! The numbers speak louder and totally in favor of digital, if you talk about usage of devices especially in urban Pakistan. Everyone has a cellphone in his pocket and 51% of urban Pakistan is online. The mobile is a primary communication device for more than 90% of the people in Urban Pakistan. However, when it comes to content consumption, digital is on its way to overshadow TV very soon.

BM: What scope does a digital and social medium have in terms of further development in future?
AA: With data driven marketing, digital will be the leader. When you have the power to not only know who exactly your consumer is, but also know what and when to show that consumer, managing at individual level is what holds the key to success for digital in near future. Predictive modelling and big data usage will drive marketers and brands to make better investment decisions and efficiently reach out to the consumers with personalized messages.

“TO BE HONEST NO CHALLENGE IS BIG WHEN YOU HAVE A NETWORK LIKE MAXUS/GROUPM WITH BOTH LOCAL AND GLOBAL SUPPORT,AND MENTORS LIKE  SARWAR KHAN & AMNA KHATIB PARACHA.”

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