Yusuf Hassan is Founder, CEO and Principal Designer at Roop, a creative agency based in Dhaka that first opened its doors back in 1989. A brand strategy pioneer in Bangladesh, Hassan is also a founding member of AdClub Dhaka, which aims to shape the up-and-coming creative generation in a domestic market that is home to nearly 170 million souls.
Branding in Asia recently caught up with Hassan at his office in Dhaka to get some of his thoughts on the ad world in Bangladesh.
You founded Roop back in 1989. What was the market landscape like back then in Bangladesh?
The country started evolving with the FMCG industry during the late 90s, thanks to multinationals and global affiliations with local business. Until then, it was reliant on local innovation, widely preached by those who could afford to travel abroad and earn global advertising knowledge. Call it the “golden era” for learning by trial and error. Things started moving beyond just media-based advertising when Roop got started with a vision to explore the creative opportunities of the industry.
Who were some of your early influences in the creative field?
The country was booming with voices speaking against the then autocratic government and the word ‘freedom’ boosted many hearts to follow their passion. Artist like Bangladeshi Quayyum Chowdhury, Afzal Hossain influenced me with meaningful graphic brilliance. Their art and design kept on providing identities from books to brands.
I would suggest that the new generation…explore the local market by being in the rural people’s shoes before joining the industry.
Another inspiration would be Nobel Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus, a visionary who opened the door for me to work for multinationals. I had the opportunity to work closely with him while designing the first GrameenPhone (Telenor) logo.
And, last but not the least, the all time great, Wally Olins, the true visualizer of any story of Brand.
What are some current trends in Bangladesh advertising that you like?
The use of digital media is moving up the ranks over time, whether I like it or not. We’re losing great readers and visionary leaders in the industry, but certainly it’s great to see that the country is earning a great amount of foreign currency through professional services on digital media.
I would like to mention a few popular faces in the Bangladesh industry, such as Syed Gousul Alam Shaon from Gray, whose team earned Bangladesh its first Cannes Lion. Also, there is Nazim Farhan Choudhury, who manages one of the oldest Bangladeshi agencies alongside his mother. And filmmaker, Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, who entertains us through cinematic directions in advertising.
What about some trends you feel are overdone?
The influence of western media and advertising insights being applied to our advertisements is due to high information dependency on the internet for this generation of advertisers. The likes of globally awarded creatives, which has gradually poisoned our need for in-depth local insights and knowledge, affected the fashion industry the most.
Our club has made many friends and enemies over the last decade and we’ve always been with the younger generation through training and enlightening them into a better-informed career in advertising.
The other overdone trend would be having a page of social media and filling it up with non-social, highly commercial posts. Last, would be the opening up of agencies with a half year of experience, later shuts down within the next few years and they can’t ever work under anyone ever again.
You’re one of the founding members of AdClub Dhaka. What do you think about the upcoming generation of advertising professionals?
Quoting Bangladesh industry veteran, Geeteara Safiya Choudhury: “Advertising in any country is the pulse of its economic might”.
Indeed, our club has made many friends and enemies over the last decade and we’ve always been with the younger generation through training and enlightening them into a better-informed career in advertising. Our focus was not to earn millions from summits for the seniors but to operate a knowledge-sharing platform at the most affordable cost, in most cases, heavily subsidized.
I would suggest that the new generation of advertisers analyze the industry potential before becoming an investor, to explore the local market by being in the rural people’s shoes before joining the industry.
And, if you’re a marketer, please do learn more about your consumer before spending millions on beautiful, award-winning campaigns that don’t meet your annual KPI.