Bilal Chughtai, Head of Digital – Spark Pakistan 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.
BC: I did my Masters in 2009 from University of Newcastle, United Kingdom. Before this, I did my Bachelors in Commerce from University of Central Punjab. Currently I am heading the Digital department at Spark (Blitz Advertising), which is one of the leading media communications organizations in Pakistan.
BM: You have been dealing with the digital medium since the beginning of your career. What major changes have you observed with the passing time?
BC: I have no shame in saying that I started my career, as a sweeper in a fast food restaurant (KFC) in UK though it was a short stint. Being in the industry for almost 7 years now, it was a tough call to come and work in Pakistan five years ago. The journey from an Account Executive to Head of Digital has been really exciting and challenging. The positive minded teams and clients I have worked with gave me the exposure and strength to grow myself, though there is still a lot to learn in this industry and it will never end.
Within the last few years, the change in digital has been significant. Brands are getting familiar with the online tools that are available to target the right audience and now with the e-commerce stepping into the market, has really gathered the interest. There is saying by Mireille Guiliano (French Author) “My friends say everything I touch turns to Gold”. I would rather say everything would turn to digital (incl. electronic & print).
Most importantly not to forget that to work for a reputed organization such as Spark is the biggest challenge in itself keeping in mind to deliver the best of the best.
BM: What challenges did you face during the initial stages of digital media development?
BC: When I joined Spark, one of the major challenges I faced was to convince our clients to see digital as one of the future platforms of advertising. Blitz was already known to the industry, but undoubtedly introducing Spark as a separate section for Digital was another challenge we faced. To overcome that challenge Ahsen Idris – CEO (Spark & Blitz), Umair Saeed – COO (Blitz) and Shaukat Mehmood – COO (Spark) had the confidence in digital and will to produce results. They not only empowered and supported us but also gave us freedom to explore new opportunities. I really believe in teamwork that brings the best out of you.
BM: What are your major achievements and contribution to the digital industry so far?
BC: We at Spark have always tried to bring innovations and new technologies to our industry. We launched cricketgateway.pk for the first time in Pakistan that live telecasted all cricket matches online. This not only includes Pakistan cricket matches but also cricket from all over the globe (authorized by all cricket boards). Cricket lovers in Pakistan are now just a click away from watching any cricket match live on their mobile or desktop. We launched this portal with live telecasts of Pakistan Super League’s all 24 matches and it was definitely a complete success.
One of the major achievements for us at Spark was to sign Mobilink for third consecutive time in almost 2 years, to be their media agency. To score for the third consecutive time is always difficult for an agency when you have so many competitors.
BM: What training programmes you conduct in order to keep your team updated with the digital variations.
BC: The best thing being at Spark is that they not only provide trainings to their employees but also organizes different sessions for their clients too. Spark was like a newborn baby and it was not that easy to start with, so our global team had to organize training sessions for all in order for us to catch up with international standards. The sessions are not limited to agency and clients but include other publishers as well like Facebook and Google. Involving these publishers are very important for an agency to keep up to date with the digital variations in the industry. Currently, digital team is fully equipped with all skills they need and every month sessions are held for each section.
BM: What scope does digital and social media has in terms of further development in future?
BC: I feel the best is yet to come to Pakistan, as this is just a beginning to a new digital era. In years to come, we will see many changes in the way a brand thinks and the way a simple campaign goes live. We may see a couple of more social platforms jumping into the industry with new ideas. As we say “Content is always the King”, it will always be the crowd puller. One-liner or few words to simple image can make it talk.
“THE BEST IS YET TO COME TO PAKISTAN, AS THIS A BEGINNING TO A NEW DIGITAL ERA.”