As a youngster, Faryal Ali describes herself as the kind of kid who always had an answer to the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. In true childlike fashion her answers changed frequently from fashion designer, to economist, to filmmaker, and journalist – but never any mention of advertising. But, the drive was there subconsciously: “I was inherently inquisitive and observant, always inclined towards creating stuff, or questioning it – and perhaps that’s why it makes perfect sense that I landed in a creative role.”
The first inkling that she would end up in a role within the advertising industry came when, as a child, she would spend “hours on end” watching spots “and then come up with stories and packaging ideas for different products around the house.” But her desire to want to “inspire and influence people” came from inspiration closer to home. Faryal explains: “I grew up in a fairly atypical Pakistani household, where my mother had a full-time teaching job, while simultaneously battling societal norms as a working woman, and my father navigated his way around getting his business up and running, while taking care of household chores!
“Together, they defied every possible gender role and always set great store in education. Despite the cutbacks, they taught me the true worth of being strong and independent. Hence, from an early age, I wanted to see myself in a position where I am able to inspire and influence people and always be brave in the face of adversity.”
Faryal took this belief with her and despite nearly swaying off her chosen path when being “almost convinced” to study Economics at university, a reality check from a friend shifted her towards Marketing and Media at the Lahore School of Economics. While her course provided plenty of experience with creating low budget ads for projects, Faryal wasn’t shown the true side of what she was letting herself in for. “I was still completely unaware of the scale of the Pakistani ad industry out there, and always saw myself working at a nine-to-five corporate job.”
After a brief stint as the only woman in a textile company’s client services department Faryal stumbled upon an opening for a copywriter at BBDO Pakistan through LinkedIn. Looking back over that experience she says: “The hiring process took a couple of weeks and there I was in the world of puns and pitches and well, more pitches! All it took was a leap of faith, some cues from Mad Men and here I was with my accidental career pivot to the mad ad-world!”
Those early days at BBDO Pakistan showed Faryal the importance of empathy and compassion but also that many outside of the industry view working within it as “simple and rudimentary” when compared to science, accounting and medicine. “Here lies the basic problem; many fail to see marketing as a science itself, but from incorporating data in advertisements to uncovering consumer insights, I firmly believe marketing is nothing short of a science.”
This frustration isn’t the only that Faryal has had first-hand experience with during her time in advertising. She often grapples with the work-life balance due to her dedication to her role and fulfilling a brief to the best of her ability. “In my personal experience I have mostly always been able to manage my time and client expectations but there have been days where I don’t sleep until the sun comes up or where I live to see a project revised to ‘version 25’. It is imposter syndrome reminding you that you need to keep pushing harder.”
In the four years since graduating from Lahore School of Economics, Faryal found herself as associate creative director at BBDO Pakistan – even with a gap to study for a MSC at Northwestern University in Integrated Marketing Communications. Achieving this is no mean feat, but for Faryal the debate between age equating more knowledge has always been the forefront of her mind. “While fresh creativity and new perspectives are sought after and should naturally be nurtured, there are inherent biases in the industry that brush off ideas and viewpoints coming from younger people, where number of years are used as a yardstick of creativity, instead of competence.”
However, this hasn’t got in the way of Faryal’s hopes that with her work she will be able to impact society for the better. “To be able to change the mindset of even one person, through a positive narrative is tantamount to making the world a better place, this is the reason I am able to wake up every day in an attempt to find that right idea at the right time and at the place.”
As a proud woman in the industry Faryal is a member of the Tech Ladies community, a platform for networking, seeking advice and building skills between members. Perhaps for the creative, joining groups such as this stemmed from her belief that the industry in Pakistan can do better to voice female narratives. “The industry could do a better job to further the female narrative and highlight issues that mean more to the masses, allowing us to prioritise what matters and to harness the ability to see the opportunity at the heart of every problem. Perhaps one way to get this done is by getting more women in the industry for starters to help build that narrative from the get-go.”
Other than networking with the creatives in the industry and keeping abreast of what’s happening with the Young Creative Council’s Badass Gal movement, Faryal is a keen traveller and is currently working on a travel app called Solo. The aim of Solo is to connect lone travellers to share and experience trips together. Faryal explains where the inspiration came from: “This stemmed from my personal experience when I was granted the FULBRIGHT award to study Integrated Marketing at Northwestern University, where interestingly, I managed to travel every third weekend. At the conclusion of my program, I unlocked a new degree, had trave;led to three new countries, 17+ states and 30 cities in 18 months.”
Faryal is also a huge fan of those who represent South-Asian voices and in particular references Riz Ahmed and Mindy Kaling as trailblazers in this endeavour. “They are all such remarkable creators in their own way, and it’s always inspiring to see their work.” Being a fan of remarkable creators is something that Faryal strives to be in her own everyday work, but her drive and motivation comes from the belief that at the end of every day we have the ability to push an “invisible reset button”.
“It blows my mind that every single day is a guarantee for our growth, we either get closer to creating something epic, or discovering a little more about ourselves through some epic failure. It’s a win-win!”