An Exclusive Interview with Asim Naqvi, CEO – Ogilvy & Mather

Known as an industry veteran, offering an experience for over a decade in the advertising industry, Asim Naqvi, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather has proved to have all qualities of great leadership across multiple agencies on regional levels. At Ogilvy & Mather, he is seen to manage all operations and manage some of the key businesses directly – looking after strategic planning, business development and account management. His passion for creativity is demonstrated by a track record of developing successful strategies and campaigns as well as winning many industry awards and accolades.

He joined Ogilvy in august 2009 and since then he has contributed significantly to business dynamics facilitating exceptional teamwork and business development. Prior to joining Ogilvy, he worked with prestigious organizations like JWT and LOWE, where he lead accounts of famous brands including wall’s Ice cream, Surf, Lifebuoy, Pepsodent, Dalda, Fair & Lovely, Rexona, Lux, Lipton, Shell, Olpers, Klm, Philips, Anz Grindlays, Pepsi, Suzuki, Dawlance and KFC.

With impeccable leadership skills and a reputation of a great leader, he is known to create a high performing team environment.

BM: When did you start your career in advertising?
AN: I started about 18 years ago, with RLintas. I was one of the fortunate people who were given the chance to work with Rauf sahib, who was truly inspiring. I began my career as a management trainee and later became head of account management. I then opened Brandcom with Mr. Khalid Rauf; taking a risk and giving me a chance to step into a world of opportunities. Taher Anwar Khan is, therefore, undoubtedly the only person who you can claim to be a living legend. He has a vision for this industry and has proven to be an exceptional leader. In this journey of growth, I have learnt a lot from such people and am still learning, alongside learning from my juniors and other colleagues. It’s phenomenal the way they are built, with so much ambition and passion.

BM: Who is your inspiration in this journey of advertising and creativity?
AN: Mr. Taher A. Khan has been the biggest inspiration for me throughout this journey. Moreover, I am also greatly inspired with the brands I work with. It’s wonderful having clients that are so supportive, and their demand for great work has been my biggest learning. I am fortunate to have clients who always demand the best and help me and my company to deliver just that. Advertising is all about being crazy, passionate and creative – and being good at Math – as it’s all in the numbers! Sometimes people ask me whether there is anything which people don’t know about me, and my answer is very simple… as a leader I am passionate, aggressive and a go-getter, but after all that I am as normal as you and all out there.

BM: With the growing industry, how do you tackle challenges and motivate your team
AN: At Ogilvy & Mather, the team works on a twin peaks model; maintaining consistency between both creativity and effectiveness. Developing a campaign which may seem great but does not bring in results for the client is basically useless; as David Ogilvy said: “We sell or else”. Hence, as far as motivating the team and keeping their passion alive, our clients must be given the larger share of the credit. They are ones who give us the opportunity to do what we do today, and this is the number one motivator for our people. Ogilvy helps them with the knowledge, tools & training, which provides them with an environment that allows them to innovate, experiment and take risks. We push and stand for our ideas and appreciate that the clients work along with us in equilibrium. We are an agency which can convince clients about our ideas, and there is nothing better for a creative person than seeing that his agency believes in his ideas, fights for them and has them executed.

BM: How do you see the growing advertising industry and upcoming competition in the market?
AN: This is a challenge that will seem to grow, but it is actually helpful and keeps the mind awake in doing better with every step we take ahead. These companies are definitely challenging us, but we are here to show them our worth as a creative agency. In fact, the risk is greater for them; since this is our core business and we excel at it. So far, I have not seen a single example of a non-creative agency taking over the role of a creative agency. A creative agency’s job is not only to come up with an idea; it goes from the communication strategy to brand building to 360. Moreover, with the growing digital medium, we are inputting into our clients’ digital agencies; the same goes for the activation and PR agencies. It is all about how well we plan for change, invention and innovation. If we don’t realize that these changes are happening then it will become a much bigger issue.

BM: Some companies have chosen to give their business to advertising agencies based outside of Pakistan. What do you have to say about that?
AN: There is no right or wrong to this approach. We should look at the world as one country; a piece of creativity wherever it is conceived, and if it fits the bill, nobody can stop anyone from reaching it. The problem lies in understanding the ground realities. If you choose a piece of creative in isolation, without context about what is happening on the ground, there will be problems. My view is very simple. There is no harm in going to an international creative agency for work, whether in India or America, but working with an international network agency based in Pakistan is the best approach in terms of reaching out to the creative teams of any country around the world. Success is rooted in keen local insights and real cultural sensitivity that only an agency on the ground can bring to the table. Working with an agency in isolation is risky. However, it is for the clients to decide which way they want to go.

BM: Looking towards the end of 2017, what new ventures do you have planned for Ogilvy & Mather Pakistan?
AN: One is to focus on local clients; times are changing and local clients are becoming bigger, not because they have started to do great business, but because they have been doing so for a long time. What has changed is that they have realized the importance of branding and communication, and how big this can be in terms of investment and its return. A second generation is coming to the fore and they are more focused on branding, so that today many local brands are into communications. Whether they are doing it right or wrong is another debate, but at least they have realized that communication is the way ahead. Companies such as Ogilvy & Mather, with their network, knowledge, contacts, experience of big brands and brand building, can really help local clients, and this is the growth I aim to reach and excel at by the end of 2017.