Ah Ramazan – that month of introspection and spiritual enlightenment, of frantic sehri wake-ups and iftar menu plans, of road rage and desperate requests on Karachi Food Diary for restaurants that deliver lunch, Aamir Liaquat battling with Fahad Mustafa for ratings supremacy and of course the ubiquitous Ramazan commercial.
This year, was also the month that the aforementioned ubiquitous Ramazan commercial was not the standard mix of food and piety. Instead, refreshingly so, there was some genuinely good work with appropriate messages.
QMobile was a brand that played against type both in terms of what is expected of the brand and what is expected during Ramazan. Instead of a glossy commercial with a celebrity we got the heartwarming story of a young girl who wants to play cricket much to her father’s chagrin. We see her journey from the nets to the field, lovingly encouraged by her mother on daily phone calls. When the girl triumphs in the end, her father discards his archaic principles and relents, taking the phone from his wife to finally speak to his daughter who tearfully says that she has so much to talk about with him.
The overall message of tolerance and acceptance and open communication is always relevant in Pakistan but more so during Ramazan. The focus on a young girl going against the odds for sporting success is refreshing in an ocean of women in the kitchen. A few questions marks on the execution though – it didn’t feel Pakistani enough. Somehow whenever the Indians produce a Pakistani commercial it feels ever so slightly trite and overdone. In the hands of a Pakistani director (or even a non-Indian foreigner) it would have felt so much more real, relatable.
Pepsi came back with the Litre of Light campaign – a beautiful emotional commercial that reminded people of the initiative started last year and a call to action to continue to partner with the brand in the distribution of solar energy. Coupled with testimonials filmed by double Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, people were informed exactly how used litre bottles where being transformed into light sources and changing peoples’ lives. Cause based marketing at its best.
The campaign was so successful that it was covered in the Indian press a week after airing – a fact that seems pertinent to mention, since for some the epitome of good advertising lies across the border.
In an industry where both clients and agencies are easily bored and change campaign ideas as often as committee aunties change their lawn wardrobes, it’s always heartening to see a brand that sticks to its guns. Surf Excel has not only persisted with the Stains is Good idea for much of a decade, it also evolved it seamlessly. Adapting it for Ramazan with the message that helping someone in need is also a way of serving God is simply beautiful. Just wish it had been a Pakistani production. The Indians just don’t get it right. There needs to be a discussion on the travesties that Indian production companies do with Pakistani commercials.
Speaking of consistency, Mobilink continued with the Let's Give Back campaign with a commercial for Ramazan. The premise was simple – use your tools of connectivity to bring your friends together in a good cause, no matter how simple, and spread some smiles around. Bang on the brand equity of Dunya Ko Bata Do and in sync with seasonality. It’s also good to see Jazz back, older and wiser and with a purpose.
On a similar track was the Nestlé Milkpak ad. A young man sneaks out at night to leave secret parcels at various doorsteps. He comes back home to get an approving hug from his father. We then find out that he has been depositing Milkpak cartons. Interesting idea.
Downside is that there is the overkill of suspense and drama around this hooded figure in the beginning and the exaggerated magical glow around the gift at the end. Maybe the drama should have been on the beneficiaries and a clearer message track.
The Walls digital video also has a sweet message – that of a little boy resenting his doctor father’s absence and before realising that his father is away for a worthy cause. He makes it up to his father with a care package of ice-cream. Lovely idea which fits well within the Ramazan universe. Again, the execution is suspiciously Indian, from the casting to the boy’s accent to the Arabic music. Completely understand that sometimes, multinational brand projects end up in regional hands – also understand that this really stinks. But agencies and clients, you have to fight for a more locally relevant production.
To see brands take a leaf out of Christmas advertising and shifting the focus from the sehri/iftar table to strong altruistic messages feels like a better fit for Ramazan. It also gives both agencies and clients an opportunity to build on equity without resorting to consumer promotions, a chance to develop memorable advertising,
The best of the bunch: Q Mobile, Pepsi and Surf Excel.