Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

A tale of three cities

Updated Mar 24, 2017 11:00am
If Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad were cars, which ones would they be?

The sounds of rickety rickshaws puttering away on a bridge, the fear of getting mugged on a traffic signal and two mini bus drivers ignoring the pleas of their mothers venturing on a death race. Sigh... I don’t miss these Karachi sights and sounds.

“The deadline was yesterday.” “The big idea is not on brand” and “where is the digital ideation” are the sounds I miss. Believe it or not, this agency person misses the clients the most. The maddening pace, the professionalism of the teams and the feeling of hitting the ground running.

Last year in May, I had to move with my family from Karachi to Islamabad as my husband was transferred. Since he can’t leave his job I decided to leave my position as ECD at Ogilvy Karachi and move to a slower pace of life in Islamabad. Before we moved, everyone around us was saying, “Karachi wale Islamabad mein nahi reh sakte” and in some ways, they are right and in some ways they are wrong.

The joy of seeing pine cones littering the road than litter itself makes one smile every time. The empty roads, the shorter commutes and the hills make your heart soar. Today I can safely say that I have worked in all three cities which stand for KLI. I used to handle the Pepsi account from JWT Karachi (eight years ago) and made frequent trips to Lahore each week. And if I had to draw parallels between KLI and brands what will those brands be?


Hypothetically speaking Islamabad is a Mercedes Benz which comes with instant prestige and a sense of entitlement. When you drive a Mercedes you know that you are successful, you know you have arrived.

But what to do once you have a Mercedes? You can park it in the driveway then only your guests would know of your fame and fortune. Or you can take it out for a drive, but you are scared that you might dent it. I have never owned a Mercedes but I do love the brand’s communication especially the embryo ad is my all time favourite.

Lahore, hmmm, Lahore is the good old brand Suzuki, which is Pakistan’s most popular car. The brand has an old character of hospitality; you can still see 20 merry people in a Suzuki pickup. Everyone is welcome with open arms. The brand also offers premium ranges now, high end and celebrity endorsed. Like Suzuki you need to know your place in Lahore.

Now we carry this one dimensional hypothesis forward and Karachi would become a Foxy. Not VW but the good old Foxy. The engine is where the trunk is supposed to be, it's economical, it's familiar and the only limitation on how you can mould it is your own imagination. No matter how much you despise it at times, you love it with all its flaws.

It is an icon, not only on the road but in advertising itself. Check out the Lemon ad below.

No matter where we live or work, each city is distinctly different. Like a car model coming out every few years, these cities are also going through a lot of changes. All I can say that no matter what car brand you love, we will all drive them on our Pakistani roads and we owe it to our country and ourselves not to be a jerk to others.


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Comments (4)

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DovE Mar 26, 2017 08:24am

Very well written

raH SAHAB Mar 26, 2017 12:45pm

I have never been to Lahore and Islamabad, so I can't comment about the cars of these two cities. But Karachi, the good old Foxy is a perfect. Loved it!!!!!

AMMAR SHAHID Mar 27, 2017 11:18am

I cannot judge the perfect taste of the dwellers of these cities for motor vehicles. Almost everyone is now chasing a comfortable imported car/van which is the reason why famous cars manufacturers in Pakistan have now started launching new brands in theses entities.

Saad Mar 28, 2017 10:44pm

A well-written piece. Good luck on your move to Islamabad! It's funny to see the car parallelism exercise. I work at a branding agency and we always ask clients looking to rebrand about the car equivalent to their brand. It's often a revealing exercise.

I completely agree with the Suzuki and the Foxy likeness. As a native of Islamabad, I feel like Mercedes might be too grand a likeness. Perhaps a Toyota Camry would be a better fit. It's dependable, predictable, safe, comfortable and familiar. It is the automotive representation of the colour beige. It's exciting for people who have never owned one. It is an import for Pakistanis. And while it sometimes does not live up to certain initial expectations, it is pleasant, perfect for families, great for the elderly, and one single Camry can endure for decades and decades. It is a comfortable and resilient beige workhorse.