Dig-IT 16 – What Happened At The PAS Marketing Conference

Digit '16 - Marketing Conference

Pakistan may have an agriculture based economy but is more of a barren land when it comes to organizing marketing conferences and seminars. So it was nothing short of a miracle when all of a sudden two marketing conferences – Marcon and Dig-it – took place in a span of one week. How did that happen can only be considered a fluke. On top of that, both Marcon and Dig-IT were a tremendous success in terms of the quality of the presentations and the response they got from the corporate world.

Digit '16 - Digital Marketing Conference

Digit ’16 – Digital Marketing Conference

I covered the Marcon conference in-depth a few days ago which you can find here.  And here’s yet another marathon article on what took place at the DigIt 16 digital marketing conference.

Digit 2016 Conference

Digit 2016 Conference

As always my two cents worth would be found in parenthesis.

Welcome Address

aly-circleAly Mustansir,
Chairman PAS and CMO, Bank AlFalah

Once I was sitting with some people watching the television. When the ad break came, I expected someone to pick up the remote and switch the channel. Interestingly, no one bothered to do that. Instead all of them got on their mobile phones browsing the net. I asked one of them what he was watching and he said he was watching dubmash. I asked what and he said just some guy doing funny stuff.

Digit '16 -Aly Mustansir

Digit ’16 -Aly Mustansir

‘Some guy’? Here we marketers spend Rs.30-40 million creating a TVC, and then another Rs.50-100 Million putting it on television, and all that the target market does is watch some guy on dubmash he doesn’t even know!

That’s the paradigm shift which has taken place and this is what we are here to learn today, including myself who has been a traditional marketer all my life. I know most of the audience are themselves digital experts and their line of thinking is, ‘We already know everything about digital, we’re just here to find out whether you know it as well’.


“Marketing to Muslims in the Digital Era”

Gagan Deep Bhalla,
Managing Director, AMRB MENA

“You’re an Indian speaking about marketing to muslims in a country like Pakistan, seriously dude, are you in your senses?”, my wife quipped when she found out about this.
Digit '16 -Gagan Deep Bhalla

Digit ’16 -Gagan Deep Bhalla

The Muslim world is a very interesting segment :
  • Fastest growing mainstream religious denomination (majority in over 50 nations)
  • A highly prescriptive faith, that drives a way of life – leading to similar habits and practices (e.g. over a billion people open their fasts during Ramadan in a similar fashion)
  • A large consumer base with high relevance for marketers

All in all the halal products is a staggering $670 Billion market, and we’re talking about not just the edible and food items but everything under the sun.

Digit '16 -Gagan Deep Bhalla

Digit ’16 -Gagan Deep Bhalla

In order to understand the dynamics of this world better, AMRB teamed up with JWT and conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of this market ever done.  The study was representative of 712 Million people in 10 countries across 5 geographies. The target market was Up-mid market, Urban Muslim population – most relevant to marketers.

DIgit 16 - AMRB research map

DIgit 16 – AMRB research map

It wasn’t a linear research but a multi-dimensional study comprising of desk reserach, opinion leader interviews, focus group discussions, ethnographic diaries and survey research [quantitative].

All in all, a total of 60 focus groups, 40 interviews with opinion leaders and around 7000 face to face interviews.

An intricate methodology was used to glean the insights from the muslim world and the following is just the gist of that methodology:

Digit16 AMRB - Understanding values

Digit16 AMRB – Understanding values

Digit 16- AMRB Research methodology

Digit 16- AMRB Research methodology

Although a mountain of insights was gleaned from this study, common threads amongst the muslim world and the behavioral segmentation of the Islamic society were the biggest takeaways from this study.

The seven common threads of the Muslim world:

  1. Family is paramount
  2. Adaptive change is necessary
  3. Education is everything
  4. Individualism on the rise
  5. A need for being socially active
  6. Western brands are not all bad.
  7. Importance of islamic values
    1. Halal is essential
    2. Islamic banking gaining in popularity
    3. Importance of Hajj
Digit 16 - AMRB Insights

Digit 16 – AMRB Insights

The other big takeaway was the identification of five segments based on values:

  1. Religious Conservative
  2. Societal Conformist
  3. New Age Muslim
  4. Pragmatic Striver
  5. The Liberal
Digit 16 - AMRB Muslim world differences

Digit 16 – AMRB Muslim world differences

And it was really an eye-opener, the size of these five segments in different muslim countries. Indonesia for instance has the highest population of pragmatic strivers in the Muslim World. Even in Iran, which has a strong perception of being a conservative society, conservatives were not in majority.

What all this means for the marketers is to think of muslim consumers as a mosaic instead of a monolith.

The following are just some of tactics that marketers can come up with based on these insights:

AMRB Islamic world insights

AMRB Islamic world insights

[For me this was the second best presentation of the conference. It was so inspiring, I felt like running away from there to start my own business of halal products and start selling to this market. Well done Mr. Bhalla for bringing to light a much neglected segment. At the very least it got Digit 16 off to a flying start which was looking highly unlikely]. 

“Creativity has a new Muse: It’s called Data”

Oussama Gholmieh,
Managing Director, Impact Proximity
Throughout history, the most successful artists,musicians and painters had a muse to whom they owed their success to. Times have changed. While a muse is still in vogue, the nature of muse has changed. In the past it was mostly in human form, usually a woman. No more. Data has taken over the reigns from all the other Muse.
Digit '16 -Oussama Gholmieh

Digit ’16 -Oussama Gholmieh

Data is not only helping us get insights, it is fueling revolutions in different facets of life. Here are just five ways as how data is changing the world around us and the way we look at it:
1. Data fuelling creativity through insights
2. Data fueling creativity in brand experiences
3. Data fueling creativity in product design
Digit '16 -Oussama Gholmieh

Digit ’16 -Oussama Gholmieh


Asma Shabab,
Territory Marketing Leader, Enterprise & MidMarket, IBM, Middle East and Member of the Advisory Board at CMO council, MENA.
Our attention spans are shrinking exponentially. Right now we have an attention span of 8 seconds, which is less than that of a goldfish.
Digit '16 -Asma Shabab

Digit ’16 -Asma Shabab

Data and its interpretation is becoming the next best thing. I remember when I was a student, your parents expected you to become a doctor or engineer. My grandmother was always on my case to become a doctor. All my cousins were trying to become doctors and they had to study like anything. I didn’t have the stomach for that, and wanted to become a marketer and do cool things. But today’s marketer has to study analytics and this data and that data in order to make sense of his or her market. So today’s marketer doesn’t has it easy.
Digit '16 -Asma Shabab

Digit ’16 -Asma Shabab

[Asma didn’t really present anything. She was in fact the moderator for the panel discussion that followed the next three presentations].
Joseph Cummiskey,
Global Marketing Solutions – Head of Sales, MEA, Facebook,

Mobile and the Consumer Journey

Digit '16 -Joseph Cummiskey

Digit ’16 -Joseph Cummiskey

  • It is predicted that the smartphone penetration in Pakistan will reach 40% by the year 2020. I believe that estimate is wrong. I believe you guys will hit that number much sooner than that.
  • Increased fragmentation makes reach a big challenge. For instance in 1980, the hit TV show Dynasty had an audience of 28 Million. By 2015, that number has dropped down to 12 Million for the most popular program in US today which is American Football.
  • 65% of people access mobile while shopping.
  • 50% while watching TV.
  • Search is not a normal mode of entry to websites on mobile. Instead people rely on apps.
  • 74% of millennials are inspired to buy something after reading an article about it.
  • 33% read reviews of a product before buying it.
  • There would be more than 3 internet-enabled devices per person by 2018.
  • Cookies don’t work on mobiles like they do on desktops.
  • Last click is an outdated method to measure efficiency.
  • More than 20% of the time is spent on mobiles.
  • What all this means is that it is much more effective to engage your audience on the mobile platform by intelligently embedding your ads on a popular app.
  • Three popular apps that give you this opportunity are Canvas app, Instagram and Audience network.
  • Data powers people-based marketing.
Digit '16 -Joseph Cummiskey

Digit ’16 -Joseph Cummiskey

[ An interesting presentation. Although he didn’t say it aloud, but he subtly hinted at buying ads from Facebook because all the app-based networks he exhorted the audience to use belong to Facebook. Very cunning.]

Anthony Cross,
Principle Consultant, Oracle, Australia

“The Marketer’s Opportunity: Deliver on the Promise of a Modern Customer Experience


  • Brands won’t plan our predict journeys. Instead, marketing will create a system that adapts rapidly.
  • 50X data growth by 2020.
  • 70% of consumer internet traffic will be due to data streaming by 2017.
  • 90% of mobile usage is spent in apps.
  • Apps are the future of digital marketing.
Digit '16 -Anthony Cross

Digit ’16 -Anthony Cross

[An interesting character, he began his presentation by showing a slide of ICC Test rankings with Australia on top, and expressed his desire that one day Australian team will once again play on Pakistani soil instead of UAE. That got the audience going. Very shrewd.
George Skaff,
Regional Commercial Head, Connect Ads

How to Unite Advertising with Multi-Channel Marketing

  • The first newspaper ad was sold 100 years after the invention of the printing press.
  • The first television ad was sold five years after the start of the broadcast.
  • Pakistan’s internet penetration is 14.6% whereas that of smartphones is 31%.
Digit '16 George Skaff

Digit ’16 George Skaff

Digit '16 -Oussama Gholmieh

Digit ’16 -Oussama Gholmieh

Digit '16 -Internet users in middle east

Digit ’16 -Internet users in middle east

Digit '16 -Internet users in middle east

Digit ’16 -Internet users in middle east

Digit '16 - Ad Networks

Digit ’16 – Ad Networks

Saad Siddiqee,
CEO, Advertyze Network

“Programmatic Buying- A change Agent”

Everyone say they know what progammatic advertising is, and yet they don’t know. It is basically using technology to automate the buying and selling of digital data. Here’s a video to explain it in layman terms:
Ad Clarity: 78% of programmatic ads are served with generic ads.
Digit '16 - Saad Siddiqui

Digit ’16 – Saad Siddiqui

Digit '16 -Programmatic Advertising

Digit ’16 -Programmatic Advertising

Digit '16 -Programmatic Advertising

Digit ’16 -Programmatic Advertising

[Saad delivered a good speech. Problem was, he over-estimated the importance of programmatic advertising in the eyes of his audience. And he didn’t know how to sex it up, especially considering the fact that he was presenting a potentially dry subject an hour after lunch, the perfect snoozing time.]
The Digital Stand-up Comedy:
[I don’t know who those two guys were but they provided the perfect start to the post-lunch session, posing as the digital media agency and the blogger in a multitude of scenes, and extracting quite a few laughs from the audience. I haven’t come across this strategy in any of the conferences I’ve attended. Very innovative.]
Digit '16 -Stand-up Comedy

Digit ’16 -Stand-up Comedy

Digit '16 -Stand-up Comedy

Digit ’16 -Stand-up Comedy

Topic: The Power of #NOW

Badar Khushnood,
Country Consultant, Twitter
Twitter is a whole lot different from Facebook and other social media platforms, and you need presence of mind to be able to leverage it.
Twitter is at its best when there’s a big event taking place or a cultural moment such as the Oscars which is evident from the spike in tweet traffic centered around a particular hashtag.
Digit '16 -Badar Khushnood

Digit ’16 -Badar Khushnood

Digit '16 -Badar Khushnood

Digit ’16 -Badar Khushnood

Ramadan is a perfect example of how people start talking about Ramadan even before the beginning and the conversation goes on even after it has ended. The last year when we deciphered tweets revolving around the ramadan hashtag, we found out people were not only talking about praying and stuff, but about diet, health, lifestyle and even shopping.
Twitter has also been an effective tool when it comes to making a campaign successful on a national level, for instance in the case of potholes in Panama.

Every day people unlock their phones 110 times.
Periscope has got about 10 years of live broadcast in a single day.
Vine has the ability to record 6 second videos.
All these tools can be leveraged purposefully by a brand.
There are about 3 Mn Twitter users in Pakistan.
Yousef Tuqan,
Vice President, Marketing & Analytics at Careem, MENA

Arabic StartUprising – The Next Arab Revolution

Digit '16 -The Next Arab Revolution

Digit ’16 -The Next Arab Revolution

Middle East is and has always been a trouble region in general. Apart from a few countries, most of the countries have rampant corruption, failing economy and widespread unemployment. There’s hardly any hope for the youth. And yet they are using the internet in all sorts of ways to create businesses and rekindle that hope.
Digit '16 -Yousef Tuqan

Digit ’16 -Yousef Tuqan

In 2006, a high school kid named  Mohammed Al-Shaker in Jordan warned the government agencies that flash floods were going to occur and that they issue a warning asking all tourists to stay put. There was no such weather forecast and they didn’t take him seriously. But he was right and as a result of flash floods about 12 tourists died. He rose to popularity from that point on, first creating a website Jordanweather.jo to report local weather and that turning into a weather portal for the entire region called arabiaweather.com.  At just 26, he employs a 100 people now with a $7.1 Mn investment in the pipeline and was recently named Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year in Jordan.
The mechanism of how social media in general and ecommerce in particular works in the West is not true for the Middle East. That does not mean it doesn’t work. It just has its own set of rules and nuances.
Digit '16 -Arab Entrepreneurship

Digit ’16 -Arab Entrepreneurship

Digit '16 -Social media arab world

Digit ’16 -Social media arab world

Online transactions is a perfectly workable model in the West and in fact the preferred model. But that is a failure here in the Middle East. People just don’t trust the net to part with their financial information. So the Cash-on-delivery model reigns supreme. Its a cumbersome and very inefficient model for doing business in the internet age, but that’s just the way it is, and millions of dollars are being made using this model alone.
The perception about MENA is that it’s a backward region with little education, and yet as the following slide shows, MENA has got some of the most astonishing growth online. Saudi Arabia for instance has got the highest global penetration for Twitter.
Digit '16 -Al Arafe on Twitter

Digit ’16 -Al Arafe on Twitter

Souk.com is a classic internet riches story. Starting back in 2005 with 5 employees alone, it has grown to a 1000 employees with a billion dollar in sales last year.
Maktoob was an internet service company that was acquired by Yahoo for $109 Million.
Vinelab is an innovative company that makes use of digital media and local celebrities in the Arab world.
Tarjaam is a website that offers translation jobs to women working from their homes.
Digit '16 -Arabic Marriage bureau instagram

Digit ’16 -Arabic Marriage bureau instagram

Digit '16 -Yousef Tuqan

Digit ’16 -Yousef Tuqan

Haraaj is an arabic ecommerce portal that sells everything under the sun, from the amazon -esque items to chicken, camel and goat. People have put pictures of their camels to be sold, and its amazing how people respond to that post. Even those who are not interested in buying the camel are lavishing praise on beautiful the animal is in the comments section.
Lat year haraaj had a sales of 20 Million dollars.
Then you’ve got jamalon.com which is the amazon equivalent in the Arabic world offering free delivery worldwide and aiming to sell 10 million arabic books.
Then you have the marriage bureaus online. In fact they are not limited to just websites but there’s one particular matchmaker who’s doing it successfully using instagram alone. Dating is still frowned upon so the girls and guys do it the traditional way. Either you have your Blackberry BBN return on the back of your car. Or you leave chits with your social media details on a bench and the prospect picks it up after you’ve left. Just try activating your bluetooth in a mall in MENA and you’ll be bombarded with all sorts of weird requests.
Digit '16 -Yousef Tuqan

Digit ’16 -Yousef Tuqan

Here’s a video of a guy doing Tawaaf on the segway board. Now this alone sparked a huge debate online whether its haraam, halal and all sorts of comments were flying around in the social media.
The concept of celebrities is a bit twisted in this part of the world. Wayne Rooney, the England captain for instance is a genuine celebrity with fan following all over the world and pretty much everyone knows about him. He has got about 12.7Mn fans on Twitter. A big number no doubt.
But here in the Middle East you’ve got Muhammad Bin Abdul Rehman Al-Arafe who has got a whopping 14.4Mn fans on twitter. He’s a big shot cleric, the guy famous for saying that its ok to beat your wife from time to time to keep her on the right path.
There’s this guy who does Arabic translation of Harry Porter and distributes it online. When The Deathly Hallows was going to be released, he and 30 of his friends got hold of the pre-release copy and they distributed the translation of the book amongst themselves so that it could be translated swiftly. The result: they were able to release the Arabic version simultaneously with the English version. This prompted the Rowling people to send a legal desist notice to the translators.
Digit '16 - Arabic Harry Potter

Digit ’16 – Arabic Harry Potter

In the end Pakistan and Middle East maybe poles apart from the West in terms of doing transactions and cultural sensibilities, but that doesn’t mean that the internet and social media is not working for them.
[Undoubtedly THE presentation of the day. Right from the word go, Yousuf had you mesmerized. He was going through his presentation at breakneck speed and yet you didn’t find it difficult to match his pace. The energy he poured into his speech was so infectious you felt like jumping into the fray right then and there. No wonder the guy got a standing ovation from the audience.]
Digit '16 -PAS Digital Conference

Digit ’16 -PAS Digital Conference

Digit '16 -PAS Digital Conference

Digit ’16 -PAS Digital Conference

Michael Leander,
International Marketing Speaker, Trainer & consultant – Denmark

Is it about Mad Men or Mad Data: How can brands benefit from data management platforms?

On average, buyers engage with 11 pieces of content before making a purchase decision.
The conventional AIDA is outdated, so we now have the new AIDEA.
By 2020, customers will manage 80% of their relationships talking to a human.
The biggest reason a business loses its customer because of company’s indifferent attitude to the customer.
Digit '16 -Michael Leander

Digit ’16 -Michael Leander

Digit '16 -Customer Retention

Digit ’16 -Customer Retention

‘When the customer comes first, the customer will last.’
[A very interesting guy, who couldn’t help but crack jokes with sexual innuendos. In the middle of his speech, he suddenly stops and asks everyone to take selfies with their partners, while coming down and taking one with a random guy from the audience. ]
Ali Rez,
Cannes Winning Creative Director and Brand Consultant, UAE

The Science and Investment Behind “Viral” Campaigns?

Once a marketing manager approached me and said that he wanted me to create two videos, one was going to be a normal video, the other a viral one. My response was why not just make video good enough to go viral?
Digit '16 - Science behind viral campaigns

Digit ’16 – Science behind viral campaigns

Digit '16 - Ali Rez

Digit ’16 – Ali Rez

You never make viral content. You make content hoping it would go viral. I’ve been making viral videos for quite sometime and I still don’t know which one will go viral. Out of the hundreds you make, only a few go viral. There’s no exact science to it. If there was, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?
The same rules apply to viral videos as they do to any video content. It needs to have a novelty factor, inspire, evoke emotions, induce fear or be hilarious, not just funny.
All the viral videos I’m showing here became viral because first of all, it was something that had never been done before. For example the ice bucket challenge, it was so bizarre and yet the first of its kind. Even presidents of countries ended up doing it.
MasterCard Priceless Surprises Campaign -Neymar:
In this ad they didn’t have to show the brand, only the slogan is shown at the end. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but because this is something which has never been seen before, it strikes a chord.
My own two campaigns that went viral:
1.Shahid Afridi ping pong skills:
2. #Notabugsplat Campaign
We earned $2Mn worth of free media courtesy this campaign going viral.
Fahad Ashraf,
Director Marketing, Reckitt Benckiser

Topic: Content is King: Then & Now’

Content used to be the driving force of any good campaign or TVC and the rules haven’t changed. It all boils down to BASIC: Branding, Awesome Execution, Striking power, Insight, Clear Benefit.
Digit '16 -Fahad Ashraf - Director Marketing, Reckitt Benckiser

Digit ’16 -Fahad Ashraf – Director Marketing, Reckitt Benckiser

Digit '16 -Fahad Ashraf - Director Marketing, Reckitt Benckiser

Digit ’16 -Fahad Ashraf – Director Marketing, Reckitt Benckiser

And RB Mortein’s very own campaign:
[Fahad was a wee bit disappointing. Not exactly his fault though. Every IBA and LUMS graduate aspires to work for one of the Big Four – Unilever, Nestle, RB or P&G. Not everyone gets in though. So whenever you see one of the brand managers from these four giving a presentation, you have very high expectations from him since he or she made it and you didn’t, which means the person must be really good. And Fahad was not a brand manager but a director of marketing, a species on top of the food chain, a demigod. So how dare he deliver a presentation less than stellar? And oh, by the way, RB’s supposed-to-be great corporate song for dengue eradication is just that, a corporate song. Making a song and getting it sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan maybe the safest trick in the book, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to trend or go viral. If it were that easy, wouldn’t then all of us be a bunch of viruses going viral?]  
Digit '16

Digit ’16

FINAL WORDS About Digit’16:

It’s a sacrilegious act to keep a seminar or conference on Friday in Pakistan, not for the religious connotations but for the simple reason that there’s a long break for Jumma and that shortens your day drastically. On top of that you’ve planned a tight schedule and then you’re starting at 10 am in the morning instead of 9.

And I believe the organizers got a taste of how that can backfire when during the last panel discussion which started somewhere around 6 pm in the evening, the speakers were debating it in front of an empty hall. The concluding keynote couldn’t even take place.

But by and large it was a well-managed conference. The speakers were good, at least most of them. The only real downside was that there were no case studies from the Pakistani digital sphere. Almost all the examples given were from the Western world, and from the Middle East in one presentation.

The Dig-it 16 conference took place in the wake of the giant Marcon conference which had taken place just a couple of days back. In that context, it is commendable that Dig-it was able to hold its own.

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