Advertising Shift – An Adman’s Perspective

Advertising Shift – An Adman’s Perspective

August 9, 2017
In conversation with Taslim Ahmed, CEO, Unitrend Ltd.

A young, energetic ABAC Business Graduate, boards on the then bandwagon of research field, hoping for a prosperous career. Serving at the Canadian University as a Research Assistant and as lecturer at few other universities, the graduate realizes something was not right. The innate passion for creative communication, submerged under those pile of papers, was crawling for attention.

Years later, on a regular work day, the graduate is found crazy busy leading a renowned advertising agency of Bangladesh. Piles of research papers have been replaced with layouts of advertisements. In the meantime things have changed drastically. From helping build new brands to corporate communication, he has served in a number of capacities, in multiple organizations.

So goes Taslim Ahmed, CEO of Unitrend Ltd. – McCann Group, a concern of Impress Group. Although, he has been serving as the CEO for just a couple months, he spent almost 5 years with the advertisement agency in the early 2000s.

After a successful progression in his Advertising and Marketing Communications career, he moved to Nestle Bangladesh Limited in the Corporate Communication section. While he had a short career in FMCG, he moved to Telecom Industry, where he continued for more than a decade. He worked with Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited for the duration of his involvement in the industry, where he explored and experienced many different functions in the company. He served in the disciplines of Brand Management, Marketing Communications, Sales & Trade Marketing, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Communications and Public Relations.

Taslim Ahmed, CEO, Unitrend Ltd.

“Nothing much to talk about me, to be honest; I am not someone noteworthy” says Taslim when asked to talk about his career. “My whole career is a mix of advertisement and communication.” In a conversation with Bangladesh Brand Forum, Taslim shares about his thoughts on Bangladeshi marketing practices, his experience and future plans.

“Quite a change has taken place in the communication industry in Bangladesh. I have seen those days when one telecom operator put two full page ads at a time in a top newspaper. We do not often see those extensive press ads these days. Things changed radically and the catalyst behind this is, without doubt, digitalization. Like it or not, the Digital Bangladesh agenda is a wonderful initiative and I believe it is executed with nationwide enthusiasm.” The timing of the initiative and the perception of people towards it worked so magically that it impacted all the sectors so positively, believes Taslim.

“Everything used to work in an orthodox manner previously, which is not the practice anymore. In my early advertisement career, I remember, TVC was the first choice. There was a famous TVC of Horlicks that had this slogan ‘Aaj ja khai, kal tar fol pai’ (What we eat today, gives results the next day). Our advertisement practice was also like that. Put a TVC today, you will get the result tomorrow, from your sales numbers. However, these days, our clients often ask us to go with digital media first, to pre-test the hype. Moreover, there are brands that will go for digital only, because they know that digital is the most effective way to reach their target market.

However, the media might have changed, but not the importance of creativity; it increased without a doubt. Now you have to be more creative than ever. Too many media platforms have made you bound to be creative – to be distinct. In certain instances, brands did try to avoid creativity by frequency – but failed miserably. I personally thought it was a fad and it eventually became one. You cannot survive only with frequency; you cannot spend your money relentlessly as far as communication is concerned. Frequency cannot beat creativity!

This is also true that you have to go in orthodox directions sometimes as well. That’s because the base is built on that. You can never say Philip Cotler has become outdated. He has established the principles of marketing and you have to believe in that. So you have to know the basics first and make adjustments as needed.” Taslim believes choosing the contemporary way is not a choice anymore – rather a must.

Another change Taslim finds is that the examples we hear from our faculties now are not those of foreign brands’ success or failure stories all the time. “Faculties now realize that Molla Salt is a brand – Pocha Shaban is a brand. Pran and Walton are global brands. So, now we learn from our success and failure stories. One request I would make to the concerned authorities that they archive these cases and advertisements. Our students should be able to learn from our own resources.”

“Students should be encouraged to learn from real-life situations. I remember one of my teachers asking us to go to Mouluvibazar and Khatunganj to learn marketing. Business communication at those places are done by eye-to-eye contact – they have no time to talk.”

“I am involved with an initiative called Young Leaders Program which airs on Channel I. I am one of the judges and in charge of executing the program. Participants there work on real projects of different organizations and we send the best ten participants abroad for their masters with scholarships. What I want to say is that I often feel afraid while working with those young graduates. They are extremely fast and talented. For example, just after seven days of getting the brief from the client, the propositions they present in front of the board members – I do not think I could do that in one month! I have tremendous amount of hope and belief in Bangladeshi youth. In fact it is them who are changing the industry with their work attitude and efficiency. I would request my fellow industry colleagues to let these youngsters grow.”

“In early 90s, we never thought people would buy water packaged in a plastic bottle. Now we can see the number of national and multinational mineral water brands in Bangladesh. For now, it may be just water – you never know, one day we might find more value addition with that. There will also be changes in the form of advertisement we use for the product.”

Very optimistic about the country and its people, Taslim urges the communication professionals to focus more on differentiation and innovation. He believes there is very small chance for this country to fail. When asked whether the rapid innovation of marketing tools will make the ad agencies obsolete, Taslim replies, “There will be an abrupt disruption and it has already started.” 4G and LTE will change the ad consumption pattern drastically. What was peak hour few years back, is not the same any more. Taslim stresses that with changes in ad consumption, our marketers are changing as well. They are coming up with new innovations every day. If marketers keep innovating, there will always be the demand for advertisement agencies, not only for ad-making but for much more.

On the topic of Unitrend’s future plans, Taslim seemed excitingly optimistic. “Along with handling big global brands like Nestle, Berger, Marico we also focus highly on our local brands. We have launched an initiative jointly with Bangladesh Brand Forum for the youth named Future Mind. We are working for the physically challenged people through our initiative called ‘Aware’. We are working on more unique initiatives, in collaboration with our clients. We are trying to contribute to the entire ecosystem of this industry. We do not believe in internship only after graduation anymore. I have a number of colleagues who are studying in schools and colleges.”

“At Unitrend, we do and we will continue to do more than advertising and play a meaningful role in people’s lives”, Taslim concludes the conversation, preparing for his next meeting. 

Interviewed by
Raiyan Rumman
Managing Editor, Bangladesh Brand Forum

1 Comment so far

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  1. Sohel Rana
    #1 Sohel Rana 11 August, 2017, 18:08

    Very effective interview of Taslim Sir, we are really growing up with brand marketin not only in the local market but we are contributing our creativity with global brand.

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