After starting off his career with Phillips and Reckitt Benckiser in Pakistan, Omar moved to the Middle East in 1996, working with companies like RB and J&J. He then moved to Johnson & Johnson in Canada as Product Director Women’s Health and later joined Novartis Consumer Health Canada Inc. as Regional Brand Manager, managing brands in the US & Canada till 2006. He then moved back to the UAE as Marketing Director for the largest ice cream company in the Middle East till 2010, when he started his own venture ‘Brand Hotline’. Lately, he spent the last 3 years working with the Federal Government in the UAE, helping to launch the new Credit Bureau and it’s services to the UAE.
Abedin has come through a journey of diverse experience, which has raised our expectations with his new role as the CEO of Starcom Mediavest Group Pakistan.
Optimistic, Confident, Visionary, Bold, Undaunted, Idealistic, Committed, Steadfast and Always on the Go –
Omar Abedin, CEO – Starcom Mediavest Pakistan.
BM: You have a career which spans over 25 years. You have seen the rise and fall of Sales, Marketing and Business in Pakistan, what major difference do you see in the industry and its work ethics?
OA: The amount of change has been ridiculous; we live on a completely new planet today. We have entirely different expectations from clients, the way brands engage with consumers and especially the way we interact with brands. So, now it’s all incomparable. It’s only been 25 years, but the amount of change is more than we have witnessed in the past century. We have witnessed change in every sector; societal, technological, financial, and economics. One of the main drivers of change is the media, which has driven to a great extent this change in our needs. However, apart from all these differences, one should not forget the similarities in the field of marketing from a brand perspective, and its emphasis on the needs of consumers.
BM: With a career in brand management, how do you plan to ensure the stability of your brands and clients, maintaining the standing of your organization?
OA: (Laughs) I love plans that have Big Hairy Audacious Goals – so my plan here is to create the “Agency of the Future.” The future is ambiguous so I’m looking at this as a Greenfield exercise while working for a well-established agency with standardized expectations of clients. It’s all in the numbers.
So, the question comes to ‘how will you innovate?’ What will bring change and raise expectations in the market? Innovation is a very generic concept, so we are setting out to provide such things that have been never proposed to the client. My only purpose is to deliver the right content with the right message for the right audience, and this will be our new approach as ‘The Agency of the Future’.
“OUR ONLY PURPOSE IS TO DELIVER THE RIGHT CONTENT WITH THE RIGHT MESSAGE FOR THE RIGHT AUDIENCE, AND THIS WILL BE OUR NEW APPROACH AS ‘THE AGENCY OF THE FUTURE’”
BM: What would you say about Mr Raihan Merchant and how do you see him as a leader?
OA: Raihan was my senior at IBA, so we have been in touch since the late eighties. The fact that he has brought a marketing and client-side person into a media buying agency as a CEO means that he wants to break norms and change the way the agency has been doing business. He knows that a person belonging to client side will (hopefully!) better understand the needs & expectations of the clients. His thought process has always been counter to traditional wisdom from the very first day he began his own media buying agency in Pakistan. Raihan speaks little, measures his conversation, but always has weight to every word he says. Whoever has worked under the leadership of Raihan, is seen leading world-class organizations.
BM: Do you believe you have the right team for the initiatives you have decided to take for the “Agency of the Future”?
OA: One of my key tasks is defining the competencies that we need in our organization and then conducting a skills review to see whether we have it in us or not. Fortunately, more than 90% of the competencies I feel we need are present, but I’m aggressively recruiting for the rest. In a market where there is a lot of turnover, especially among millennials, I feel I have a great team to achieve the planned strategies for our ‘Agency of the Future.’ So, my main focus is on my people, making sure that the right people are in the right role and building the right competencies, and this will remain my main priority.
BM: What in your opinion is the significance of an international affiliation?
OA: Foreign affiliation always plays a very important role in the business market. It provides you with the transfer of technology, knowledge and access to foreign tools that are more developed than local ones. They empower you and give you the decision to choose what you need as opposed to developing everything yourself.
“NO MEDIUM CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT THE EXISTENCE OF QUALITY CONTENT, BE IT ELECTRONIC, PRINT OR DIGITAL AS ‘CONTENT IS KING’”
BM: Keeping in view the rapid growth of digital & electronic media, where do you see the future of print media?
OA: People have been predicting the demise of print media for more than two decades, but nothing like that has happened. Print has and will always have its place – but only if it meets certain criteria. 90% of the urban population is living on digital technology with a mega trend taking place in the world where printed material is becoming scarce for this reason. However, the experience of sitting and reading a printed newspaper or magazine cannot be replicated by digital screens, as long as the readers are provided with quality content. So, to survive in the long term, you have to provide content that cannot be availed elsewhere as ‘Content is King’ regardless of the medium.
BM: What growth potential do you see in the advertising pie for TV, Radio, Print, Outdoor and Digital Media for this year?
OA: The digital percentage will increase this year in the advertising spend. The challenge is that the properties are not there on the digital side. Having limited platforms, I’ll restate that ‘Content is King’. So, agencies and brands investing to generate new ideas and leverage that aggressively on digital media will definitely win. TV will remain important in Pakistan but digital will increase as a supplementary medium to it. On the other hand, print will continue to face challenges to stay relevant with the need to provide quality content to readers. Print has to drive something creative between the brands and consumers to engage them.
“RAIHAN MERCHANT SPEAKS LITTLE, MEASURES HIS CONVERSATION, BUT ALWAYS HAS WEIGHT TO EVERY WORD HE SAYS. WHOEVER HAS WORKED UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF RAIHAN, IS SEEN LEADING WORLD-CLASS ORGANIZATIONS”