First published in the November-December 2011 issue of Aurora.
I have a dilemma. I am supposed to write about five ads aired over the last two months. I was also given a few pieces by previous writers as a reference for the format of the article. The interesting thing is that the more I read about advertising by local advertising practitioners, the more I think that we (disclaimer: as in the advertising profession, a metaphor, not myself necessarily) really don’t like ourselves too much. Massive self-esteem issue.
Why is it that we think it’s really clever to trash the work around us? For every Maaza Mango there is a Djuice Khamoshi Ka Boycott. For every truly awful Surf Excel bullying ad (truly awful) there is a heart warming Surf Excel Daadi Aik Minute ad. If there is bad work out there it’s because some clever clogs in an agency has no clue about the person they are supposed to be selling the product to. I read a piece where this gentleman proudly proclaimed he doesn’t watch TV (so he really has no clue about what is out there), that nobody watches TV anymore and ‘millions’ cruise the net. Wake up call. Yes there are millions of Pakistanis on the net (mostly young people living in the top three metros in SECs A and B). But there are millions more who, believe it or not, still watch TV. And still take note of TV advertising.
So please stop cruising YouTube and Ads of the World sighing at the work you see. The best of Ad Age, etc, is not the only thing on air in the
. Sit through a day of TV there and you will see a lot of crap. Seriously. And Indian ads? Many of them are chhapa (Myntra online shopping and Lacoste – did anyone even stop to think why would a bunch of Indian kids be running around with surfboards. It’s Colaba not US ). Some even chhapofy our work – Kotak finance is somewhat inspired by Engro Rupiya, na? (to be said with a bobble head movement). California
What is really worrying is that the new ‘talent’ coming into the profession speaks with great confidence about all the ‘rubbish’ that is produced and how not a single campaign is noteworthy. Recently, a friend of mine told me about a gentleman who came for an interview and went on about the new Garnier shampoo for hijabis. And what a great idea that was. When corrected and told the brand was Sunsilk, he insisted saying, Garnier products were green. Let’s hope for Unilever’s sake that the consumer didn’t think so as well. Has it become the thing to do? Self-flagellation for being stuck in a profession churning out mediocre work?
So here’s the good news. There’s a lot of fine work out there. Ideas that speak to the consumer; ads that are well executed; narrative that is beautifully worded. Many of these ads even build businesses. Which is what ads are meant to do.
Advertisements are not there to change society or to be great art. They are there to make money for the manufacturers of the product in focus. And to make money for the people who make the advertisement. That’s it. If the money comes rolling in, the ad works; whether you like it or not. So here are my five. Some good. Others that could have been better. And just to make it interesting, there’s not a single Ufone ad among them.
Brand: Abbott Zinc
Campaign: Introducing Abbott Zinc
Message: Zinc se zindagi.
Effectiveness: Here we have the lovely Mahnoor Baloch at her Dorian Gray best, endorsing Abbott Zinc.
A good product and a much needed one at that. Unfortunately Ms Baloch floats through the ad talking about how Zinc helps her ‘maintain looks and freshness’, ‘prevents hair fall’ and ‘keeps skin healthy and youthful’. All very well. That is exactly what Zinc can do for you. The problem is that the product benefits don’t really come through. The languid pace at which the commercial is shot is devoid of the energy and vitality that are the cornerstone of the product benefit. Why, oh why, do advertising people think that celebrities are the panacea to all their ills? Lesson one. If you get a celebrity, she or he needs to embody the brand character and must be used as a conduit to bring the product benefit to life. Baloch, beautiful as she may be, sleepwalking her way through a TVC was a pretty stupid idea. If it had to be a celebrity then it should have been someone more lively and with enviable vitality. Not someone who looks like they have just smoked up.
Verdict: Completely forgettable. Criminal waste of a fat budget.
Brand: Tapal Tezdum
Campaign: Rs 20 sachet launch
Message: Ab bees rupay kay sachet may lagay tha kar kay.
Effectiveness: Hai hai. Kithay Mustafa Qureshi? A classic example of a brand throwing the baby out with the bath water. A brand with a consumer base in rural
Punjab. A tea that claims to be so strong it hits you in the gut. And Mustafa Qureshi. Pure genius. Granted this was a consumer promotion and the budget must have been tiny but casting Chucky, the killer doll’s desi animated cousin was a really stupid idea. They would have been better off doing a product based animation with Mustafa Qureshi’s iconic and very distinctive voice-over.
Verdict: Bring back Mustafa Qureshi.
Brand: Fair & Lovely
Campaign: Max Fairness for men
Message: Max confidence.
Effectiveness: There are two ways of looking at this. Fairness creams are evil. Or three cheers for women’s rights and men being bombarded with the same gora rang is the right rang message… It was a good idea to get Shahid Afridi who is the beloved of all young Pakistanis. As a sportsman it is believable; he is out in the sun all day. And as a celebrity with other business interests it is understandable that he would want to look good. But why on earth turn a rough and tough guy into a papoo bacha? And why wasn’t his own distinctive voice used instead of using a (well) papoo voice? When you use a celebrity as famous as Afridi, he needs to look and sound like Shahid Afridi. Like Head & Shoulders.
Verdict: It will do the job.
Brand: Shaukat Khanum
Campaign: Zakat donation drive
Message: Ta kay kho na jaye koi.
Effectiveness: Tear inducing, irrespective of whether you have seen a loved one go through the agony of cancer or not. A hard hitting, gut punching approach to zakat donations unlike the upbeat testimonials of some zakat driven advertising or the sermonising approach of others. Then again a certain Mr Khan is hardly known for his subtlety. However, what works is the fear of losing a loved one, which every human being can relate to. Nicely done.
Verdict: Should have opened many Birkin tucked wallets.
Brand: Anne French
Campaign: Lemon variant launch
Message: Go soft.
Effectiveness: Have reached the word count limit, so will keep this short and sweet. Great idea. Well executed. And as effective (if not more) than the Veet Katrina commercial. Probably cost less as well. An absolute travesty that Anne French lost out to Sunsilk at the PAS Awards.
Verdict: Folks at Pfizer should be very happy.
S. Hyder is a creative working in a Pakistani advertising agency.
First published in the November-December 2011 issue of Aurora.