The industry is rapidly growing and as technology advances so do the method of how startups and businesses tend to accelerate themselves in order to ensure sustainability and profit. This is where a company called Dial Zero comes into play which aims to help startups and businesses to upscale themselves by connecting the respective business to advertisers and numerous agencies.
Dial Zero is the Facebook Authorized Sales Partner for Pakistan. It educates and implements best Facebook practices to native clients mainly advertisers who are looking for better promotion or a learner in search of knowledge.
Moreover, Dial Zero provides expertise and technical supports to regional businesses with the objective of driving their growth and delivering results. Also, it facilitates everything from efficient content and pioneering media solutions to providing a credit line and the convenience to pay in local currency.
In regards to the impact that Dial Zero is generating, we talked to Samra Siddiqui, who is the Client Partner of Facebook at Dial Zero.
Q: How long have you been working with Dial Zero?
I have been a part of the Dial Zero team since its inception in July 2020.
Q: How did you land here and what has your previous experience been?
I started my career off at one of the leading media houses in Pakistan, Starcom, and Mediavest Group. My experience was primarily on the Procter & Gamble account, where I led media investments for my own portfolio. I was there for four years before I made the switch to Dial Zero. I heard about the opening through one of my seniors at Starcom and I was encouraged to apply for the position of Client Solutions Manager at the time.
The idea appealed to me as I was always intrigued by the rapid growth of the digital landscape in Pakistan. The opportunity to be a part of one of the largest consumer-driven platforms was exciting to me. I went through a 2-step interview process with the team at Dial Zero and that is how my journey here began.
Q: Working with the ASP for FB, what has been the exposure for you in the field of digital advertising space?
In my previous experience, my work revolved around both the conventional and digital sides of one advertiser. However, my move to Dial Zero allowed for me to zoom out of one advertiser and look at the industry holistically. From working on one of the largest CPG clients, I have now gained exposure on multiple accounts from different verticals such as retail, CPG, and e-commerce.
For me, individual growth is attributed to equipping yourself with relevant knowledge across different verticals. Often, we tend to deep dive into one area and specialize accordingly, but we forget that a holistic view allows you to better understand the big picture and take strategic next steps. I believe being a part of the ASP for Facebook has expanded my horizons professionally and allowed me to understand the value of the business from a broader perspective. It has allowed me to work with a wide array of clients from various categories, from a shoe retailer (JOMO) to a grocery delivery app (Airlift). For example, previously I had a very media-driven angle to advertising. Regardless of the platform, for me reach was the most important metric to look at. However, my exposure, let’s say to Airlift, allowed me to get a deeper understanding of the supply chain and the role it may have in successful advertising.
Q: Do you feel there is more to be done in Pakistan, within that industry?
There is a lot more to be done in Pakistan. For starters, as a market that is heavily reliant on television media and with the increasing reliance on digital, we are yet to achieve a single source of data. There is a lot of overlap that happens when advertisers are not able to extrapolate a unique cross-media reach percentage for their campaigns. There needs to be better convergence in recording data for both mediums. A single source of data could be largely beneficial for our economy and in the realm of advertising as it would allow advertisers to expand on their holistic reach. For example, currently, we would be showing the same ad to the same person across different platforms. A TVC during a mid-break between a show, or an ad on YouTube right before their favorite song, or while they are scrolling through their newsfeed on Facebook. The same message to the same person just through different media touchpoints, can you imagine the wastage? A single source of data would allow me to reach one person on any given platform without duplicating across many.
In the past five years, there is a lot that we have accomplished in the digital realm; smaller advertisers are now realizing the importance of incorporating platforms like Facebook and YouTube in their media investment plans. However, there is still a lack of education in the market. The initiative that Facebook has taken to get closer to the market is a step in the right direction, but there is a significant chunk of the market that is yet to be educated and it is going to be a long, ongoing journey that would require consistent support from Facebook to the ASP. Not only does having an ASP make billing easier (in PKR instead of USD), bringing transactional value to the market but also provides in-region technical and strategic support to businesses looking to ramp up online advertising.
Q: Could you elaborate on a normal day at your work?
The first thing I do when I come to work, I log on to the workplace to see the latest updates on the global ASP multi-company group. This is my go-to place to keep myself updated with the latest trends in the Facebook world. The group gives me insight as to what are some of the key updates on the platform, what other ASPs are up to, and what are some of the latest developments in the digital landscape.
I move on to reviewing the clients in my book of business. I try to stay in touch with my clients on a weekly basis, so each day of the week I make sure I touch base with at least 5 of my clients. While I do this, I try to understand more and more what their business objectives are and how I can help them achieve their goals while keeping the platform in mind. For example, if my client wants to drive up sales, we’ll place more emphasis on conversions and make sure their campaigns are optimized, guiding them accordingly.
I would take one day out of the week and focus on educating my clients, this means I identify areas where we could educate them better on the platform and try to schedule co-learning sessions with them accordingly.
As part of educating them, we also work towards driving the adoption of new products and solutions that Facebook has to offer. For example, we recently conducted a test & learn campaign on Automated App Ads with one of our largest banking and finance clients. Their objective was to minimize the manual effort of setting up their app installs with their large inventory of creatives. with this solution, they were able to do that and reach their customers efficiently and effectively.
Lastly, as a Client Partner, it is my job to grow my book of business so I ensure that I am reaching out to new businesses who are not onboarded with the ASP yet and helping them with the onboarding process. In our first couple of months, we had to focus a lot on the value that Dial Zero was bringing to the table. A lot of clients had the comfort level of working directly with Facebook so now with a third-party company coming in the middle was an idea that many large clients were not receptive to. Our solution for that was our closeness to the market – this by far is our biggest selling point. Historically, a small team from Singapore was serving the entire market and it was only natural that only the largest clients got face time. With the launch of Dial Zero, we have a team of over 6 client partners and growing, who service a much larger client base with more depth. We provide services in terms of strategic planning, hosting trainings, educating the industry at large, and resolving any and all technical roadblocks that are caused day in and day out.
Q: How long do you think it will take for Pakistan to be counted as one of the top markets in digital advertising for the MENA region?
One of the key differences between MENA and Pakistan is internet penetration. In January 2021, Pakistan’s internet penetration stood at 27.5%. A population of 223 million and only 61.3 million internet users (while 11 million have been added just from last year) reflects that there is a long way to go. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that COVID also played a major role in this increase. But it is safe to say that it has put us on a much faster route. Increasing usage of social media networking websites, delivery, and ride-hailing apps, and its receptiveness in the market should ideally put us on the MENA map in the next 5 years.
A large factor common in other markets, contributing to the significant digital share in MENA, is their usage and consumer’s receptiveness to e-commerce and cashless banking in a virtual environment. Those markets are brimming with consumers ordering all their small and big items from online vendors. This naturally results in those same businesses going above and beyond to reach their customers.
When you think about Pakistan, the landscape is very different here. There is still an underlying resistance when it comes to ordering or making payments online. Inevitably this limits the potential advertisers have in terms of their digital spending. We can say that the picture has drastically improved from a year ago (due to the pandemic) and that more and more people have shifted their purchases to the online environment, and it is because of this very shift in behavior that platforms like Panda Mart are now gaining scale both in terms of business and their digital spends.
There are many initiatives that are constantly being taken to improve receptivity towards digital banking and payments that could inevitably result in increasing digital spending. For example, there is a waiver of 11% tax in Punjab to payments made through cards in restaurants. Moreover, telco giants have been on the bandwagon to increase cashless banking. Banking apps like Easy Paisa and Jazz Cash have stimulated an increase in business transactions which allow for growth and eventually an influx in digital spending from the market.
Q: How much space do you think there is in digital advertising for new companies/agencies to enter?
I believe because of the pandemic we have seen a massive shift to digital for many companies. This has resulted in businesses cropping up from all different nooks and corners in Pakistan. Naturally, this has paved the way for agencies to build and expand in the world of performance marketing.
Those businesses may be small right now, but with the way our market has been pushed forward 5 years due to the pandemic, the need for well-equipped performance marketing agencies has significantly increased.
Q: Have you thought about the next step in your career? If yes, what is the progression working within the industry you are currently in?
I have a passion for growing brands and hence up until now, the shifts in my career have complemented that. Being on the other side of the table I have realized that each brand goes through its own journey and what works for one will surely not work for another. The exposure that I have gained here has added great value in learning how various verticals operate.
There is a lot of potential in this industry, but it honestly depends on which road you want to take, and which opportunity calls out to you. There are people I know who have shifted to the brand side or to e-commerce businesses or have started their own businesses. For me, I remain focused on growing in this company and specializing in the vertical on a national scale. However, I have realized that this industry has various flavors to offer, and you must pick the one that you like the most. Luckily, it allows for everyone to have their own journey and I’m now leaning towards expanding my knowledge of the e-commerce vertical. The industry is rapidly changing and although there are a lot of new players out there, there’s still a lot of potentials to be unlocked and that’s exciting to me.
Q: What benefits have there been to the country since the ASP’s establishment?
Having an in-market team has added great value to the advertisers present in Pakistan. First and foremost, the closeness we have to the market has allowed many advertisers to explore the platform and do deep dives like never before. This structure has also allowed advertisers to partner up and brainstorm their ideas with a local platform expert. The opportunity to brainstorm with Facebook has cleared out many roadblocks that companies faced before. For example, what works on the platform, what creatives should they be using, and how can they optimize their campaigns better based on their own KPIs. This was a need to elevate the market to its potential.
Secondly, the ASP model also facilitates the payment process in Pakistan. Up until now, many advertisers were using credit cards. In recent times, the development of regulations around online payments was also a roadblock for large advertisers. But with Dial Zero in the mix, this is already taken care of. For smaller advertisers, many did not even have a credit card which restricted them from advertising online – the ASP model solved for this too.
Dial Zero also has a creative wing present in-market. This allows for advertisers to get creative consultation on Facebook best practices and to explore different ways in which their creativity can be thumb stopping.
All in all, having a team that is present in the market has allowed advertisers from different scales to grow and expand their businesses.
Q: How many clients do you deal with and from which industries?
At any given point, I have about 20-30 advertisers in my book of business. At Dial Zero, we believe every client partner should get a taste of industries. For me, I am servicing the CPG and E-commerce vertical.
The CPG vertical focuses primarily on upper-funnel targeting, so their strategic direction is based on brand awareness or maximizing reach. Whereas the e-commerce vertical is highly focused on lower-funnel marketing, so their objectives focus a lot more on driving conversions for their business.
Q: What certain skill set is required for this line of work?
I believe it is very important to have a deep level of understanding of the digital landscape. Basic knowledge about the platform, how it functions, what buying methodologies are being offered, and how you can optimize better based on the client’s business objectives are the basic things a client partner must know.
But in addition to having your fundamental knowledge in place, it is also very important to understand that as a client partner you are primarily a harvester. This skill set is rare as we have seen. A partner’s role requires you to create an environment of trust with your clients. Nobody knows their business better than the advertisers themselves and similarly, nobody understands the platform and consumer behavior on the platform better than the Client Partner. So, it is of great essence that the client partner creates the space for the advertiser where there is a free flow of communication and ideas. It is important for the client partner to have a nurturing nature where they can pre-empt the advertisers’ needs from the platform and be solution-oriented towards their goals. In addition, you must be a people person. it is important for you to be more social and welcoming in dealing with new people.
Q: Do you think with time, the ease of access/exposure created through having an ASP will help push businesses further into the international market?
We believe the ASP can help expose local advertisers to cross-border opportunities, given that the ASP has enhanced visibility over advertiser goals. Additionally, the ASP is currently in pole position to provide valuable insights that were previously absent to hone advertiser capabilities.
In the past year, we have seen many retail clients taking cross-border initiatives with even more seriousness. Many medium-sized retail brands have started exploring markets and have successfully managed to expand their businesses.
Q: Has there been a growth in opportunities for individuals due to having an ASP? What direct and/or indirect impact has to have an ASP made on job creations for our country?
SS: I believe creating employment and opportunities is a long-term macroeconomic result that the ASP program will cause a ripple effect on. Our vision as Dial Zero is largely focused on helping small and medium-sized businesses or brick and mortar stores to go above and beyond. Facebook has the power to grow these businesses from home-run initiatives to medium-sized businesses and so forth. One year into our existence, we have seen many businesses become bigger and better and hence creating opportunities and employment. If we are able to scale our clients at the same rate that we have been doing so in the past year, we are certain that this growth could prove fruitful on a macro-economic level in the long run.
Q: Last but not the least; what do you feel you would say to the newcomers into this industry? What words of advice would you give to an executive starting with your team?
It is one rollercoaster ride; the world of digital is constantly changing. You barely get a second to breathe because there is so much that is constantly evolving. There is still a ton of what you will want to catch up on, so it is best to just keep your head in the game and remain focused. Be eager to learn more and most importantly learn how to be agile.
I would say newcomers are lucky because advertisers are much more open to experimentation now than they were 4 or 5 years ago. Everybody wants to try something new. So, this is the best time to bring something new to the table while staying afloat with everything that is already happening. It is most certainly challenging and demanding but it is worth it every step of the way.