Teacher’s pet, ameer baap ka bigra hua beta, boss kee chamchi – as Pakistanis we would much rather attribute the success of our peers to some other underlying cause instead of acknowledging that just perhaps, it was a result of their own dedication and hard work. Let’s face it, as a nation we are a pretty bitchy, judgmental and envious of a lot of people. Ariel’s new 'Wash the Label' commercial does a great job of highlighting our tendency of assigning quick and often unfair labels to people based on their stature and position in life.
Coming from Ariel, which for a decade has dwelt in the domain of comparing the product with the competition, this is a huge breath of fresh air. We have watched everyone from Sahir Lodhi to Wasim Akram go on about Ariel’s amazing stain removal properties, yet finally here is a low budget (taking a wild guess here) commercial with the elusive ‘big idea’ that the Pakistani advertising industry loves to expound on, but seldom delivers. It is a very watchable ad and the end leaves you with that warm, tingly feeling; and if I am right about it being low budget, then it goes to show that you don’t necessarily need a lot of money when you have a good idea.
If I can take the liberty of over-thinking the idea a little, I would say it goes beyond the obvious ‘let’s not be eager to label people so quickly’ to saying, ‘a surface stain is easier to wash out than a perception, so let’s go deeper than that’. I am not sure whether this was part of the big idea but that is what I got out of it and I like an ad that makes me think a little – or at all.
Labelling a manager as a ‘boss kee chamchee’ is not fair but why does the manager’s progression in her role have to be linked to taking care of an elderly mother? Why resort to this super clichéd eighties Indian film storyline? Why can’t the manager simply be an ambitious woman who wants to get ahead in life?
I do, however, have a few issues with the execution. The ad starts off well… a disgruntled young woman who has been asked to collect papers from her boss’s home is complaining to a friend. A lot of us have been in that situation and we have been equally ungracious and rude in the process. It feels real and relatable. The problems occur when said young woman walks in to the manager’s plush house, discovers a mother in a wheelchair and her manager doing the laundry. Now first, let me be clear that there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. But I want to make two points:
Labelling a manager as a ‘boss kee chamchee’ is not fair but why does the manager’s progression in her role have to be linked to taking care of an elderly mother? Why resort to this super clichéd 80s Indian film storyline? Why can’t the manager simply be an ambitious woman who wants to get ahead in life? Secondly, the manager doing her own laundry seems a bit forced and unreal. There is nothing wrong with washing clothes but most (if not all) women in upper class households – and many in the middle class – employ a maid for this. This is the only point in the ad where I felt that Ariel was trying too hard. But I give them full marks for resisting the temptation to show the woman carrying a bag of Ariel! I am sure it could have happened, thank goodness it didn’t!
Much as I hate to compare us to India, I think it is fair to do it in the case of this ad because the idea is as good as any that have come from across the border. So I would say that agency (Adcom Leo Burnett) and brand team should take a page from BBDO India’s book and its execution of Ariel’s 'Share the Load' campaign and work on making the execution more tethered in Pakistani reality.
However, I want to end by saying that this is one of the best Pakistani ads I have watched in a long time and a real win for Ariel. Brand and agency team, can we have more of this please?!
Marylou Andrew is a freelance writer.