AdAsia 2019: Asia's Biggest Advertising Industry Conference in Lahore, Pakistan

On December 2, 3, 4 and 5, 2019,  Pakistan played host to AdAsia 2019 after a gap of 30 years. It is the largest and most prestigious advertising industry conference in Asia – organized bi-annually by the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA). It drew attendees from all over the world to Lahore, Pakistan.  This conference has taken place at a time when Pakistan's 88 billion rupee media industry is in the midst of a major shakeout after a long period of rapid double-digit growth since the turn of the century. The only advertising segment still hot and growing at double digit rates is digital.

Pakistan President Arif Alavi delivered the closing keynote address. Other speakers included Sir Martin Sorrell, Founder, WPP; Philip Thomas, CEO, Cannes Lions; Randi Zuckerberg, CEO, Zuckerberg Media and former Director Market Development, Facebook; Kaveri Khullar, Marketing Director, Mastercard Southeast Asia; Fernando Machado, Global CMO, Burger King; Asad J. Malik, an artist specializing in augmented reality; Piyush Pandey, CCO Worldwide and Executive Chairman India, Ogilvy; Marcus Peffers, Global CEO, M and C Saatchi World Services; Stefan Sagmeister, Co-Founder Sagmeister and Walsh; Richard Quest of CNN Business;  and Yasuharu Sasaki, ECD, the Dentsu Network.

Digital Advertising: 

Sessions on digital advertising were packed at the conference. This segment of advertising is growing rapidly amidst declining total ad spend in Pakistan.

Randi Zuckerberg, former executive at Facebook and sister of Mark Zuckerberg, was a featured speaker to talk about digital marketing. She shared her experience of how digital media became a powerful force for marketers. “15 years ago, my marketing budget for a whole year was one box of t-shirts,” she told the audience as she talked about her years at Facebook. “It’s really amazing to see how far the world can come in time,” she added.

Zuckerberg praised Pakistan as a country that honors women. “Pakistan has given us women such as Malala Yousafzai and Benazir Bhutto,” she said. “This shows that Pakistan is a country that really honors its women.” 

Zuckerberg was followed by Tom Goodwin, head of innovation at Zenith Media.  He focused on how our lives have been transformed by ongoing Digital Revolution.  “Smartphones have become like fireplaces to people. People gather around their devices and their connection to the world becomes what gives them warmth,” Goodwin said.

Growth of broadband access in Pakistan is changing the country's media landscape. Digital advertising revenue is forecast to grow by 32% in 2019 to Rs. 10.8 billion ($103 million), 12% of total national advertising revenue (NAR), according to Magna Advertising. Digital marketing expert Lars Anthonisen believes Pakistan is quickly becoming a "digital first country". Anthonisen sees "new opportunities for brands to reach and engage with consumers who may have previously been overlooked". Overall ad spend in Pakistan is expected to rise by 15% in 2019 to Rs. 88.3 billion ($840 million) following a steep decline (-11%) in 2018, according to a Branding in Asia report. Growing availability of smartphones, tablets and mobile broadband is extending the reach of advertisers to digital media where it is possible to precisely target prospective customers.

Pakistan Media Industry: 

Pakistan's 88 billion rupee media industry is in the midst of a major shakeout after a long period of rapid double-digit growth since the turn of the century. Hundreds of journalists and other staff have lost their jobs. At least one TV channel, Waqt News, has closed while several others are downsizing. While such consolidation was long overdue after nearly two-decade long period of explosive growth, the PTI government's decision to reduce advertising budget, which constitutes nearly a quarter of all ad spending in the country, appears to be the main trigger. Those affected by consolidation are accusing the government of exercising press censorship by cutting its ad spending.

Rapid Media Growth:

Rising buying power of rapidly expanding middle class in Pakistan drove the nation's media advertising revenue up 14% to a record Rs. 76.2 billion 2016 and another 12% to Rs. 88 billion in 2017, making the country's media market among the world's fastest growing media markets.

Industry Shakeout:

Massive commercial media growth in Pakistan has been most apparent in terms of private TV channels growing from just one in Year 2000 to over 100 today after President Musharraf's deregulation of electronic and other media.

Explosive growth with many new entrants is the fundamental business reason for the recent wave of consolidation and shakeout. Shakeout is a business term used to describe the consolidation of an industry or sector after it has experienced a period of rapid growth in demand followed by oversupply.

At least one TV channel, Waqt News owned by Nawai-Waqt Media Group, has closed while several others are downsizing.  “We are trying to compile exact figures of the affected media persons. So far, we can say that around 1,000-1,500 workers have lost their jobs or faced cuts in salaries in the past few weeks,” Muhammad Afzal Butt, president of one the main factions of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) told  The News Sunday (TNS) this week.

Government Spending:

About a quarter of Rs. 80 billion ad revenue comes from federal and provincial government ads in the media. Some of the TV channels receive as much as 50% of their revenue from the government.

"The government has cut its media spend by more than 70% and companies by almost 50%", according to a leading advertising agency owner who spoke to Dawn.

"The (federal) government used to spend some Rs. 10 billion on advertisements annually, which was increased up to Rs35 billion in the last years of the (Nawaz Sharif's PMLN) government," Fawad Chaudhry,  federal minister of information,  told The News Sunday (TNS).  This tax-payers’ money, says the minister, was used by the previous government to bribe the media for favorable coverage.


Pakistan has recently hosted AdAsia after a gap of 30 years. It is the largest and most prestigious advertising industry conference in Asia – organized bi-annually by the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA). It drew attendees from all over the world to Lahore, Pakistan.  This conference has taken place at a time when Pakistan's 88 billion rupee media industry is in the midst of a major shakeout after a long period of rapid double-digit growth since the turn of the century.  One bright spot is digital advertising which is growing rapidly amidst the declining total ad spend in Pakistan.  Significant reduction in government spending on advertising has triggered a long-overdue shakeout after almost two decades of rapid media growth in Pakistan. About a quarter of Rs. 80 billion ad revenue comes from federal and provincial government ads in the media. Some of the TV channels receive as much as 50% of their revenue from the government.  Hundreds of journalists and other staff have lost their jobs. At least one TV channel, Waqt, has closed while several others are downsizing. Those affected by consolidation are accusing the government of exercising press censorship by cutting its ad spending.

Here's a video discussion on Pakistani media business with Misbah Azam, Sabahat Ashraf and Riaz Haq.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on June 14, 2021 at 4:40pm

APAC ad markets to be buoyed by China in 2021, India in 2022 Latest Magna global advertising forecast predicts 12.8% APAC growth in 2021 led by China, with India predicted to outpace all global markets next year.

Read more at:

China, the world's second largest ad market behind the US, is leading the way with a phenomenal 16.1% growth rate that Magna says will result in ~$13 billion of incremental spending in 2021. This can't even be considered a 'rebound' as China was one of the few markets to grow in 2020 thanks to a strong digital performance. Other APAC markets, meanwhile are set to enjoy similar levels of rapid advertising growth, namely the Philippines (+16%), Hong Kong (+15%), and Malaysia (+15%), while the slowest growth rates are recorded in Pakistan (+5%), Singapore (+7%), New Zealand (+8%), and Vietnam (+8%), Magna predicts.

Pakistan Linear advertising revenues are anticipated to merely stabilize this year following the erosion of -6% in 2020. Digital growth slowed in 2020, +19%, but will re-accelerate in 2021, rising +24% to reach 19.3 billion rupees ($120 million) by the end of the year. Pakistan is a mobile-first digital ad market, with over 70% of digital dollars going to mobile formats.

India Ad market recovery will be delayed in India compared to other large market, due to the late and protracted COVID crisis. Indian net ad sales revenue will grow +11% in 2021 to reach $8.4 billion (below global and regional averages). However ad spend growth is expected to accelerate in 2022, fuelling advertising revenues increase of +13% (way above APAC average of 6%). But India’s second COVID wave, which has persisted through the spring of 2021, is likely to have scarring effects in the medium term and could weigh on long-term growth. Net ad revenues across digital formats will rise +11% to reach $2.4 billion in 2021, while linear ad sales will grow by +11% from a very low comp following the decline of -30% in 2020. Despite the 11% growth this year, linear ad sales will remain 23% lower than pre-COVID levels, while digital ad sales will be 15% above 2019 levels.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 14, 2021 at 4:44pm

The economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a record 14 percent gain in global advertising spending this year to a record $657 billion, according to the latest forecast from media investment and intelligence company Magna.

That would be above the 12.5 percent gain recorded in 2000, and a significant increase from Magna’s previous forecast for an 8 percent increase.

“In the U.S., media companies’ net advertising revenues will reach a new all-time high of $259 billion in 2021,” growing 15 percent, the strongest growth rate in 40 years, the firm said in a summary of its projections.

The predicted global ad gain of $78 billion in 2021 follows a decline of 2.5 percent in 2020. “The marketplace will continue to grow in 2022,” Magna said, estimating a 7 percent gain. “Advertising activity is fueled by economic recovery (global GDP +6.4 percent) benefitting key ad-spending verticals severely hit by COVID-19 last year (automotive, travel, entertainment, restaurants), stronger-than-ever organic drivers to digital marketing and international sports events (Tokyo Olympics, UEFA Euro).”

Digital ad formats will capture most of the growth with ad sales here expected to rise 20 percent to $419 billion, 64 percent of total ad sales, according to Magna’s report. “Linear ad sales are slower to recover but will stabilize full-year (+3 percent to $238 billion).”

All 70 ad markets it monitors will grow this year, with expected increases in China (16 percent) and the UK (17 percent) being among the largest, Magna said.

The U.S. ad gain of $34 billion this year will come as digital ad sales will grow 20 percent and non-political linear ad sales will rise 4 percent, Magna said. In 2022, it expects further U.S. growth of 8 percent to $280 billion,” thanks to continued economic growth (GDP growth between 3.5 and 4.3 percent) and more cyclical drivers (Winter Olympics in the first quarter, mid-term elections in the fourth quarter 2022).”

“As economic recovery is stronger and faster than anticipated in several of the world’s largest ad markets – U.S., U.K. and China, in particular – and consumption accelerates, brands need to reconnect with consumers,” explained Vincent Létang, executive vp, global market research at Magna. “At the same time, the acceleration in e-commerce and digital marketing adoption that started during COVID, continues full speed into 2021, fueling digital advertising spending from consumer brands as well as small and direct-to-consumer businesses. This unique combination of cyclical, organic and structural drivers will lead to the strongest advertising annual growth ever monitored by Magna.”

The firm also addressed recent media mega-mergers. “Linear ad sales still represent the bulk of ad revenues for traditional media owners and their continued stagnation will trigger a wave of consolidation in the media industry, aimed at competing with digital media players,” it said. “Traditional media companies have no choice but to grow in scale in order to compete with digital media giants and invest in cross-platform advertising solutions. Traditional media owners are moving now as they believe antitrust authorities are ready to consider market shares in the broader media market and thus approve horizontal consolidations that would have been unthinkable just five years ago.:

Comment by Riaz Haq on Wednesday

Pakistan: Newspapers fight for survival as sales plunge
Jamila Achakzai Islamabad
11/22/2022November 22, 2022
Print journalism subscriptions and readership have been plummeting as people increasingly get their information from digital sources.

Mujahid Hussain, a news hawker in Islamabad, says he is afraid of losing his job amid a downturn in newspaper sales in Pakistan, where people are increasingly getting their information from digital and social media platforms.

"My employer often talks about a slump in newspaper sales and a possible business shutdown. So even if he doesn't close shop, my job is definitely on the line," the 42-year-old father of three told DW.

Hussain pointed out he has already experienced massive pay cuts over the past three years and that his family is struggling to make ends meet.

Many other news vendors in the South Asian country share similar woes.

It was not always like this, however.

Even until a decade ago, the newspaper industry thrived in the country. Daily newspapers, weeklies and magazines used to be a must in offices, living rooms and cafes.

But print publications were first eclipsed by the dozens of private TV news channels that were launched during the presidency of General Pervez Musharraf between 2001 and 2008.

Then came affordable smartphones, social media networks and widespread internet connectivity, which further dented newspaper sales as more and more people began to consume news on online platforms.

Hawkers' lives hit hard
Since the downturn in the newspaper industry has particularly affected hawkers, who mostly work part-time for meager wages, these low-paid workers are taking on other informal jobs to make ends meet.

"Successive governments haven't taken interest in the welfare of newspaper hawkers, so they are generally disheartened, insecure and always on the lookout for better options to make money," said Aqeel Abbasi, the general-secretary of the Newspaper Hawkers Union.

He explained that before Musharraf's government liberalized the broadcast media and telecom sector, Rawalpindi had around 1,600 newspaper vendors and Islamabad 700.

But with the plunge in sales, the number of vendors has dropped to 900 and 480 respectively, he said, stressing that the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic crisis had accelerated the trend.

Another problem compounding the woes of newspapers is their reliance on government advertizing for economic survival.Outlets that are critical of government and military policies have had a tough time generating enough advertizing revenue in recent years.

Will they survive?
News hawker Hussain warned that if the fall in sales did not stop, the print media would have no other option but to get rid of most of its workforce.

Some senior journalists share a similar view.

Salim Bokhari, who once edited the leading English-language newspapers The News and The Nation and currently heads the digital media team at the City News broadcast network, said that "no one wanted to spend time reading through newspaper columns" given "the ocean of information available on mobile phones."

He said newspapers might disappear if the trend continued, although he did not believe that this would happen that soon.

"The electronic media era will ultimately make newspapers' doom. The advertizers have diverted their money to TV channels and even the government prefers electronic media for advertisements," he pointed out.

Hassan Gillani, a media development professional, was more optimistic.

"Newspaper readership might have declined after the emergence and development of electronic media but it's unfair to suggest that print media could soon become a thing of the past," he said.


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