One Under 30: Young Marketer Spotlight – Muhammad Ali Khan

Highlighting young talent in the ad world – one person at a time.

As part of an ongoing series highlighting young talent in the industry, Branding in Asia presents “One Under 30” – a special feature that focuses on up-and-coming talent in the ad world, one person at a time.

This time we talk to Muhammad Ali Khan, a 29-year-old native of Pakistan who currently resides in Dubai where he works as AVP/Manager of Communications at JS Bank Limited. Prior to his current gig, he held positions at VMLY&R and Dentsu.

Over the course of our conversation, he talks about how he got his first break in the industry, what he loves about the work, what he’s not so crazy about, some of his favorite campaign work, and more.


 

The Basics

Name: Muhammad Ali Khan
Age: 25
Company: JS Bank Limited
Position: AVP/Manager Communications
Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan
Current Location:
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Education: M.A. in Advertising & Public Relations, University of Karachi (Mass Communications), 2017


Seven Questions

How did you get your first break in the industry?

While I was able to secure various achievements during my career, my first and biggest break in the industry came when I was selected to represent Pakistan as well as VMLY&R Asia in the Young Spikes Integrated Competition at Spikes Asia International Festival of Creativity, Singapore in 2018.

This was the first time I was exposed to the international advertising landscape, where I competed against brilliant advertising professionals from top agencies. The amount of learning and level of networking I experienced was beyond what I had ever imagined, and I am forever grateful to my colleagues at Spectrum VMLY&R for putting their trust in me.

What is your personal mantra?

If you can’t substantiate it, don’t say it.


 

There are two applications of this mantra that I live by. First, with the saturation of creative messages in the market in almost every industry, it is very easy to get carried away with advertising claims – and it’s important to always refer back to the facts to make sure that any interpretation of your message can be backed by logic, even when taking an emotional approach.

Second, we are in the business of selling ideas and that requires being good orators; while it’s easy to sound professional by using big words and marketing jargon, it’s important to be conscious about what we’re saying and why.

From what person, place or thing have you drawn your greatest creative inspiration?

My greatest inspirations come from the little things – saying hello to a stranger on a trip somewhere; having a conversation with family over a cup of tea in the evening; the feeling you get after a satisfying meal; mindlessly looking at people wandering in a mall while you wait for your wife to complete her shopping; setting out on a road trip with friends; and countless more.

These seemingly ordinary experiences are the threads that weave into my creative thought process – they inspire me to think beyond the ordinary to create extraordinary work. These little experiences are always teeming with deep-rooted insights just waiting to be discovered – as long as you know where to look.

What do you love about the job?

The liberty to think bold and execute fearlessly. Managing marketing and communications for a bank, especially after spending several years in the world of mainstream advertising, often leads professionals to anticipate a marketing landscape marked by stringent regulations and a cautious approach to novel, uncharted ideas and concepts, as well as the red tape that typically surrounds such a highly regulated industry.

However, my experience at JS Bank – a youthful, agile, and rapidly evolving organization – has been quite the opposite. The team at JS Bank has consistently encouraged me to defy conventional banking norms, such as my ventures into the world of podcasts, PhotoWalks, and even the creation of an American Idol-style singing competition for the bank.

What about your job are you not so crazy about?

While the bank’s agility is one of its defining qualities, there are times when our enthusiasm for pushing boundaries can lead to overly ambitious project timelines – especially for ideas that we decide to execute on impulse. While this drive to achieve things timely is admirable, we occasionally find ourselves racing against the clock to meet these aggressive, sometimes unrealistic deadlines.

What is some work you’ve done that you’re most proud of?

The launch campaign for SkyElectric – Pakistan’s Top Solar Energy Company – for which I was tasked with developing the brand from scratch.

This was especially challenging as the Pakistani solar energy market was still in its infancy, with independent integrators offering cheap solutions, while SkyElectric was the first AI-Powered, fully integrated solar solutions provider meant for high-end audiences. The problem was that at the time AI was an alien concept, and its application was unknown especially in solar energy. Through this campaign, we were able to make SkyElectric the market leader within the first year of its launch – an achievement that makes me very proud.

Another one of my works includes the 2022 Polio Campaign for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, addressing the low immunization rate in high-risk areas of Northern Pakistan. The advocacy campaign contained extensive video content building on strong insights regarding refusals of the vaccine, including a docudrama and strong influencer engagement. A few months after the campaign was run, zero samples from high-risk areas were seen for the first time in over a year – indicating that the polio vaccine was being accepted. It makes me proud that this communication effort actively played a role towards the vision of a Polio-Free Pakistan.

If you had to choose another career what would it be?

Biology held a special place in my heart during my school years, and I had always wanted to become a doctor. The universe within us fascinated me, and I sometimes think I would have made a kickass doctor if my path hadn’t led me to advertising.

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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