The Evolution of Communication | Sara Zaker, Co-chairperson of Asiatic 3sixty

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Sara Zaker, Co-chairperson of Asiatic 3sixty shares her insight into the ever-changing mediums of advertising, and how digitization is opening new avenues of exploration for content generation
Asiatic has pioneered the advertising sector of the country. As one of the market leaders, can you give us an overview of how the advertising realm has evolved over 50 years?

There have been big changes in the advertising sector. When it started prior to my joining, there was a simple way of interacting and communicating with people – we had press and cinema. Television was there too but in the mid-60s it wasn’t the dominant form of media, but slowly it became an integral medium for the industry. Radio was also an important medium for the industry.
In the studio of an advertising agency, everything was done by hand. The layout was made, each word was carefully cut out and pasted – it was a completely manual process that is significantly different from how the industry runs today. So, not only have the mediums changed, but the way in which people work has also undergone a massive shift.

Through the 90s, another round of changes started taking hold in the way communication visual advertising was done. An advertisement meant one entire minute of “promotion of a brand or service” for television, cinema, or radio advert. Of course, there were the cut-down versions of the advert.

In the 90s, advertising and communication started to take on longer forms, especially social communication messaging e.g. if you wanted to tell anybody about health services, family planning, education – these messages would be achieved through protracted campaigns like a drama that would run for 52 weeks to ensure viewers were instilled with a message/s in each episode.
After 2010, another shift began taking shape in the advertising and communication sector when social media came into the forefront, and digital communication became a big player in the market. Till date, this has been the biggest shift and the scenario has changed a lot. For advertising, there have been waves of change, and where we have landed today is a different realm altogether.

What were some of the adverse effects of the pandemic on the advertising sector? How did the sector respond and innovate in view of the challenges that arose? What are the lessons the industry has learned?

In any adverse situation, the first cut the industry makes is on advertising because its relevance diminishes. This pandemic was a little different, in the sense that the sector took a hit, more specifically the creative aspect of the sector took a hit. In person events like fashion shows, talent shows were impacted, reality shows also took a hit. These shows are sponsored by brands and therefore these shows fall within the parameters of communication/ advertisement.

Concurrently, the pandemic also drew people to the screens. It became a point of engagement. Therefore, media buying was not affected which is also a part of advertising.
Content on the OTT platform is a major player in the communication world now. From what we observe, the OTT platforms have started to flourish. Nowadays, people are saying that the next big platform for advertising will be the OTT platforms, e.g. a brand may be placed in a popular platform, the platform has amassed a big fan following, that brand subsequently gets the relevant visibility.

What is a trend in the advertising sector caused by the pandemic that is bound to become a permanent fixture going forward? Also how has consumer behavior changed?

Peoples’ behavior has undergone change. With prolonged necessity to stay homebound, regular things like parties and “in-person” get-togethers have been minimized. The digital medium is getting people together through FB, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok engagements. After the pandemic is contained, people will continue relying on digital media.

In your opinion will the rise of dependency on technology and digitization, will traditional modes of advertising become obsolete?

Traditional modes include television, wall paintings, billboards, leaflets, etc. In Bangladesh, traditional modes of advertising will not change too much. Of course, it will be impacted. In a conversation with some of the core members of the advertising and communication sector, we are already thinking of whatever way we can move so that we remain relevant to the consumer. As I have mentioned, at the onset of 2010 and the digital disruption brought on by it has certainly made an impact causing traditional modes to take a hit. We were concerned about film-making, but OTT platforms have offered the space for filmmakers, actors, sound specialists et al.

Can you give us an understanding of the kind of messaging and content clients are requesting for?

The brand is up for sale. Advertising offers the chance to hype up the sale. Now, during the pandemic, when it comes to messaging, clients have moved towards socially responsible messaging such alongside. Another thing brands are trying to do is they are trying to be interactive on social media or digital media. There is a chase for influencers now and these influencers are now becoming the vehicle for brands to further their cause. Earlier they were the big screen or small screen stars, now the new avenue for brands are the social media influencers.

Can you share some of the most notable campaigns Asiatic has undertaken during the pandemic?

At the beginning of the pandemic, we did a campaign with BRAC where Kuddus Boyatis rendition “Jaina Cholen, Maiyna Cholen “ created adequate awareness about the “dos and don’t s” during a pandemic. Then we did another campaign with popular actor Chanchal Chowdhury, Dilara Zaman, and other Super Stars gave out messages to educate people about social distancing, hand washing and follow other relevant health guidelines. This campaign was done by Asiatic for UNICEF.

Does Asiatic use big data in its advertising operations? Do you think such targeted ads will become the norm?

Since we do work with notable clients, we do have big data specialists. Big data allows for very niche customer targeting, e.g. say you’re 25 years of age, you are interested in fashion, and you like the songs of Arnob – these metrics can be used to send a personalized gift. With big data management, you can translate the information and do targeted outreach. Technology-driven, focused advertising is being generated through the usage of big data.

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