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M&C Saatchi formally launches in Pakistan with industry veteran Imran Irshad as CEO

M&C Saatchi has formally launched operations in Pakistan. The agency’s principals are CEO Imran Irshad, chief creative officer Shakeel Hasan and chief strategy officer and general manager Afzal Hussain.

M&C Saatchi first began operations in the country as far back as 2008 via an informal relationship with Pirana – Irshad’s former agency which he had co-founded in 2006. Speaking to Mumbrella, Irshad said: “Back then, M&C Saatchi was the global agency for Royal Bank of Scotland and Pirana handled the account in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.” The relationship developed over the years, turning into a joint venture between M&C Saatchi and Pirana.

Irshad decided to leave Pirana to devote all of his energies to building M&C Saatchi in Pakistan. It was a decision spurred by the fact that he had a long association with the Saatchi brand. 

He said: “I have been associated with Saatchi  right from 1991 when the agency joined hands with Pakistani agency IAL. I was one of the key team leaders of the P&G launch in Pakistan. After that, I joined the Saatchi network in the Middle East, based out of Saudi Arabia. They are the only global brand that I have been associated with.”

Asked about whether the association with Pirana continued, Irshad said: “Pirana remains an independent agency – I have no role to play there any more. My focus, time and effort is to build M&C Saatchi Pakistan.”

M&C Saatchi is building on a base of clients like Audi and Pakistan Telecommunications (PTCL). Asked about the opportunity for an agency like M&C Saatchi in the Pakistan market, Irshad said: “M&C Saatchi expanding its scope will help tap into all potential business components like digital, sports marketing and sponsorships. Pakistan represents a very big opportunity for international brands, especially the ones already in the country who have a foothold. 

“The market is hungry for global agency brands. Competition is tough, but clients are increasingly receptive to work with creative agencies of good repute. BBDO operates here as do Ogilvy and JWT; M&C Saatchi becomes a fourth or fifth global agency brand, rather than an affiliate.”

Apart from MNCs, Irshad saw a great opportunity for M&C Saatchi working with indigenous brands or even government organisations: “What we need to do is not wait for what comes from elsewhere, but to build a local client base. There are many clients here who in terms of spend and the kind of brands they’ve built, can compete with the big MNCs. 

“Where we would like to focus along with internationally aligned businesses is a mix of clients from the development sector, commercial firms and even the public sector. We look forward to analysing those opportunities as we move forward.” . 

Media for the time being at least is being handled in house. Irshad will be leveraging his years in the Pakistan market and his strong relations with most leading media groups in the country. 

Asked about his vision for M&C Saatchi, he said: “We thrive on simplicity of thought. I strongly believe in what M&C Saatchi has been doing around the world –  if we start bringing those innovations and solutions into this market, we will accelerate faster than other agencies. Most clients give you a chance when you go and pitch something innovative and new.” 

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