Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Memorable encounters

Published in Nov-Dec 2015

The innovations and opportunities brands deployed to stand out in 2015.

Two brothers clinging to one another, bawling their eyes out… not particularly the image I would like to remember this year by, but it was the most spontaneously recalled ad of 2015 according to the poll I did. Sure there were some well-executed TVCs this year, but they were all more-of-the-same, except perhaps the Homage TVC with the woman crying over her phone...(what is it with people crying?)

My polling technique may be flawed and leave much to be desired (this is neither the time nor the place to debate it), but like it or hate it (“I’m lovin’ it” doesn’t even come into the picture) the Shan TVC did evoke strong reactions, the most notable being in the form of online spoofs, memes, and what-have-yous that popped up like mushrooms after rain.

In years gone by an ad’s popularity could be gauged by its spoofiness and by how quickly it was parodied in Fifty Fifty (more recently Hum Sab Umeed Say Hain). These days it is virality on social media that is the gauge of an ad’s popularity and not just the number of downloads or shares.

This growth of the digital world as the preferred medium of engagement is nothing new and much has been said about it in these pages, but what is interesting to note is that this year the change has manifested in the advertising scene in significant ways.

Online video content, for example, has shown a significant upsurge from web-only brand videos (Telenor’s 14th August, goosebump-inducing, tearjerker of the national anthem revolving around Pakistan’s Special Olympics’ heroes) to Garnier’s online videos, starring Ainy Jaffri, demonstrating in hilarious mode that it is better to “lose the pimples and not your mind.”

Garnier’s online video demonstrated how it is better to “lose the pimples and not your mind”
Garnier’s online video demonstrated how it is better to “lose the pimples and not your mind”

In between there has been a wealth of user generated content (including those spoofs of the Shan TVC) that indicates the growing power in the hands (literally in the shape of ever-cheaper-3G-enabled-smartphones) of the average consumer. Note for instance, this online video, produced by someone from Multan, in response to a Facebook campaign by Samsung ( Ironically, it is better than many brand videos.

Telenor’s digital only campaign “Tweet a Meal” attracted over a million views on Facebook.
Telenor’s digital only campaign “Tweet a Meal” attracted over a million views on Facebook.

With so much talent out there (Taimur aka Mooroo, LOL Waalay, Danish Ali, to name a few) it is only a matter of time before we are bombarded with thousands of brand sponsored home-grown ZaidAliT’s (who was tapped by Sprite earlier this year to produce a series of online videos). This audience demands a high level of engagement and entertainment and so far brands don’t seem to be meeting their expectations very well.

A new, but not unexpected, development was the appearance on TV of online brands for the first time: and popped up on the TV screen and on the roads in a big way, no doubt as a result of the much publicised infusion of capital in their ventures. How successful is this foray into ‘mainstream media’ remains to be seen, but for the time being I’m enjoying the crazy antics of the characters on the screen (the billboards, less so!).

This year, brand communications seems to be breaking free from the shackles of TV and embracing multiple mediums in an effort to create integrated campaigns. Lifebouy tried to harness multiple mediums during Ramazan to showcase and illustrate their core idea (ironically the TVC was the least exciting execution). It doesn’t matter that everyone didn’t get to see the cute branded samosa bags or the portable hand washing stations... it was still a refreshing attempt to break from the usual clutter.

Another example of this ‘new-integrated-wind-that’s-blowing’ was the launch of Easypay. Although TV was notably absent from the media mix, the campaign message was seamlessly woven both online and on-ground with an extensive list of campaign elements designed and executed purely for online consumption... and very successful consumption it was.

Unlike other telecoms, Telenor seems to be the one aggressively pushing the boundaries of integrated communications and a number of their communication initiatives focused on new media. Telenor’s Ramazan initiative took on a very contemporary (and occasionally painful) urge to photograph every meal and then gave it a ‘saving grace’ for that month: The #TweetAMeal campaign donated a plate of food for every Iftar-food-picture that was tweeted. A digital only campaign, it garnered over a million views on Facebook and on the web and more importantly, generated substantial donations to charity.

This was also the year of the rebirth of Pakistani cinema, as everyone has been proclaiming ad nauseam. However, this rebirth has also spawned a monster. If you thought branding on TV game and talk shows was intrusive and irritating, imagine the agony of sitting captive in front of a gigantic screen with nowhere to run to, no channel to change! Yet as painful as it may be, this has probably been the most significant development of the year; brands have discovered a new medium to explore and harness, some more successfully than others.

Karachi Say Lahore Tak and Dekh Magar Pyar Say were notable for going completely overboard with product placement. Brands have obviously spent huge budgets on these sponsorships, but other than the brand logo popping up everywhere, there was little success in intelligently integrating the brand with the film.

Although the Lux Style Awards have always been a regular feature of the entertainment scene, this year the Magnum Party attracted far more visibility and buzz.
Although the Lux Style Awards have always been a regular feature of the entertainment scene, this year the Magnum Party attracted far more visibility and buzz.

‘Item numbers’ were highly sought after: Sprite, Tarang, Fair & Lovely, Coke (so far!). All were entertaining in their own way, but other than that, Tarang’s communication in the film Jawani Phir Nahin Aani, was probably most in sync with its brand world, whereas the others were pretty bland. If the Coke-branded song for the forthcoming Asim Raza film Ho Mann Jahaan is anything to go by, the film promises to have a more intelligently planned approach to product placement. Let’s hope the film also lives up to the hype.

If films are the new content opportunity, events are another genre to have become increasingly popular with brands. The Lux Style Awards have been a regular feature of the entertainment scene for many years but this year the soap itself seemed to vanish in the publicity blitz around the event, while the Magnum Party fuelled a lot of online and traditional media content. Although both events were attended by a select few, the visibility, through traditional and social media reached far and wide.

Cricket sponsorships, always the monopoly of brands with deep pockets, seemed to undergo a makeover with on-location branding. Brighto Paints, for example, physically branded the venues and used every opportunity to pop-up in front of the viewer, bypassing the traditional TV sponsors. These and other events, like the PakWheels Motor Show in Islamabad, gained a lot of traction on social media, allowing the participating brands to engage and influence people in a way they could never have dreamed of in previous years. For example, AGS Battery, a brand that one rarely sees on mainstream media, had tremendous success thanks to the event’s presence on social media.

The growth of malls in our urban centres have given brands the opportunity to engage with a captive and entertainment-hungry audience and as a result we have seen throngs of people entertained almost every weekend by one brand or the other. These activations have gone beyond a simple table and a stand with overhead branding; they have become ever more sophisticated, ambitious and adventurous – and in one case, bold and creative enough to catch the favour of award juries all over the world. Kudos to the team at BBDO Lahore for ‘The World’s First BillBed’ that continues to win awards as the year comes to a close.

In fact, ambient (and retail) design was an area where one saw a significant upsurge and improvement (in contrast to traditional advertising which was depressingly mediocre in terms of design output). Brands, large and small, are becoming aware of the value of good design within their retail spaces. The explosion of malls with brands competing for attention are almost analogous to the commercial break on TV where one is bombarded by a similar clutter – and placement is everything.

Although this attention to design seems to be merely an attempt to appear more attractive, the real challenge will be for brands to harness this to design ‘experiences’ that truly reflect their ethos/personality: where the physical, visual and online worlds come together and create a memorable encounter with the brand.

Adnan Syed is Chief Innovation Officer, Adcom Leo Burnett.