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Organizational Behavior

Ms. Mahreen Pasha, Creative Director at Ogilvy, Lahore, delivered an online session on Culture at an Advertising Agency to the MBA cohort in their course on Organizational Behavior on May 11, 2020.




Mahreen reminisced that her career in advertising began almost accidentally. She had been interested in writing creative stories, and during her pursuit of a degree in mass communications in the US she happened to choose a course on advertising. On coming back to Pakistan she worked for JWT, not for the monetary benefit it would entail but because it would allow her to learn the art of copywriting. Later, she worked at both Ogilvy and Mullen Lowe in Karachi, took a break to raise family, and joined Ogilvy Lahore where she was working now.


An advertising agency might contain many departments, such as finance and HR, but at a minimum it would have three “pillar departments”. The Strategy department would do research, the Client Services department would take care of the client and the Creative department would make the ad. It was not that simple as to show a mother in a Dalda ad: What kind of mothers was the company thinking of aiming the ad at? What kind of message should be given? If the mother was watching a TV drama on YouTube it was important to note she was in entertainment mode. Many other similar decisions had to be made.

While the responsibilities of these three departments were clearly laid out, there was some overlap as well. A good idea might occur to someone in the Strategy department. A client might insist on talking directly to the Creative department. Clients Services might feel a little territorial at times and the feeling would be understandable. However, within a culture of respect and tolerance, originally initiated by the founder, David Ogilvy, these overlaps could be accommodated.


Referring to the Charlotte Beers case which the class had done, Mahreen noted that it was true of any global advertising agency that there would be tensions between the international headquarters (global) and the office, say in Lahore (local). Many times in the past global campaigns in Pakistan had not done well. She cited examples of such campaigns and narrated that tests had shown the local audience exhibited reservations in the way the mother was talking to the child in a global ad, noting that “we do not do it this way.” Cost was one factor behind Global’s drive at standardization (this cost related not only to making the ad but also to cover the time spent by the local’s strategy and creative departments.

Mahreen also spoke about change management. She remembered that once, when she had moved to a different company, she had initiated a cultural change project but had faced resistance in the beginning. Eventually, when more people knew what she was trying to achieve, and when she requested and analyzed feedback, she achieved success. Changing a set culture was never easy and one had to be very careful when launching a reform program.



Like almost any other manager she also had to deal with bosses. She was lucky that mostly she met good bosses. Generally, credit was never taken from her and if a boss had to present her work that was only because of some special circumstances such as the presence of serious competitors, and the boss kept her in the loop. It could happen that one went to the boss and the boss would not listen to one’s idea. One had to be tactful about it. One had to think about the difference between a major and a minor issue when going to the boss.

She advised the MBA candidates to manage their expectations, especially in these times of epidemic during which businesses had taken a hit. “Grab what you can find and focus on learning.” Mahreen also advised them about giving and receiving feedback, speaking with confidence, competing or allying with the boss, managing conflicts within reports, managing work-life balance, and many other business-related problems that the MBAs would generally face in any industry.


The MBA cohort thanked Mahreen for her valuable advice and hoped she would become a permanent part of our program.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 5/12/2020 12:22:00 PM,

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