Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The 'wondrous' world of Ramzan campaigns

Published in Jul-Aug 2015

Although Ramzan brings with it a treasure trove of behavioural insights, very few ad agencies effectively mine them.

Those smiling faces glowing with pious pride, the streets decked out in Chinese lanterns, boys and girls performing violent acts of kindness, women in the kitchen without a strand of hair out of place, men walking about in crisp shalwar kameez randomly greeting each other and of course dada jaan and chotu on the same prayer mat. And to see all those fried foods on the dining table!

It almost makes me never want to switch off the TV.

Yet, sadly this is the world that exists only in the minds of advertisers and adpersons. Despite the fact that Ramzan brings with it a treasure trove of behavioural insights, we don’t really bother to mine them and instead go for the same old tripe and treatments year on year.

Where are the “aaj bohat roza lag raha hai” ads? The office wali, khala wali and the doston wali iftars? Where are the “night matches” until sehri? I didn’t see an ad that was about my daughter’s pehla roza or about my son’s aadha roza. Chaand raat pe choorian anyone?

What we have instead is Pepsi.

While I’m glad that we are not being subjected to another price off, the last time I saw so many stars in one place was when I walked into a pole while texting. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the initiative and I admire the sentiment.

I am all for cloaking corporate gain in multiple layers of CSR, but why on earth must we have those high speed shots of quizzical and then instantly joyous expressions! How is that mosque so well lit? Whose mother/grandmother is that?

I would have loved to have seen another iteration of the wonderful documentary about ‘Litre of Light’ that did the rounds on social media recently, instead of this slickly produced ad. Show me how you have continued to ‘light up the lives’ (their words, not mine) of those IDPs and you are more than welcome to take my money. And if ‘ad’ you must, let them young uns’ be the agents of change. If I want to see celebrities playing Santa, all I need to do is watch any channel’s Ramzan transmission.

And then there is Coke/Olper’s/Kashmir/(Insert brand name here).

We get it. Do good deeds. Share food. We are all Muslims. We must be nice people in Ramzan. Please notice the very careful avoidance of the phrase ‘kun fayakun’ in the Coke ad soundtrack, the celebratory fist pump from the boy in the wheelchair (why? WHY?), the free Cokes distributed to the over privileged young, the synchronised swigging of the cola and the underage cola chugging by the kids (who are magically transported to their exact same positions on the stairs post their city wide bike ride). Why you do this Naveed?

Then Shan happened.

Oh what a joy. Apart from the fact that I want to slap that whiny boy, I loved the simplicity of the idea. We have all either been there, have packed those masalas in the suitcase for someone, or have heard this story before. Using that sense of the familiar and turning it into a piece of messaging that does not preach or offend? Wow. It is ads like these that show me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. More often than not though, it’s an oncoming train.

Someone needs to find those cookie cutters that have been issued to all the ad agencies and use them as tinder for a bonfire of all those storyboards that are lying around the agency to be whipped out every Ramzan. Not only will that be an Aamir Liaquat level act of kindness, it will certainly light up my life.

Ali Hayat Rizvi is Resident Director, Lahore, Interflow Communications.