Everyone knows that Google’s homepage is the most visited page in the world. What takes second place? Google-owned YouTube.
Many people use YouTube as their default search engine. Thanks to its seamless integration with other Google services, YouTube presents you with very interesting personalised content every time you open it. As part of their annual tradition, YouTube has published their list of the most viewed videos, sliced, diced and spliced according to various regions, including Pakistan. So what did Pakistanis watch the most during 2016? Here is the list from Number 2 to Number 10.
None of these videos come as a surprise – from drama OSTs to ads thinly disguised as music videos, various dramas and unexplained phenomena like Angel, the list is in line with entertainment trends for 2016. The main surprise is the one I missed out: the number one position. It belongs to none other than Commander Safeguard – Jungle Main Mungle.
Make no mistake. Commander Safeguard is our very own, home-grown superhero, who burst onto the scene when the Marvel and DC juggernauts were not even a gleam in their creators’ eyes, when Disney did not own everything and when the concept of ‘superhero’ had been convincingly laid to rest by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero.
We sat down with Imtisal Abbasi (COO, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi), the brains behind this successful concept.
“I created Commander Safeguard as part of Safeguard’s direct to consumer programme in 1998,” says Abbasi.
“Initially it was in the form of a slide show and audio cassette – a la Cassette Kahani ... The mission was to lessen the incidence of preventable diseases such as diarrhoea. Safeguard has since then touched million of kids and helped reduce this incidence in Pakistan. This effort culminated in US Centre of Disease Control in Atlanta conducting a major research in Pakistan and which was showcased on CNN, BBC and other global media outlets as an example of how a cartoon character can help drive a healthier Pakistan. It was 2004 when P&G Pakistan bought my vision of doing an animated series around the character. Thus Commander Safeguard was born in his present manifestation.”
Commander certainly delivered, not only by saving the world but also keeping the brand etched in consumer consciousness. Safeguard become the leading antibacterial soap in Pakistan and was recommended by the Pakistan Medical Association as their number one choice.
So what sets this particular video apart from all the others, even for the same brand? For Abbasi, it is about the execution. Saving the world has always been a popular concept and Commander Safeguard, just like James Bond, does it again and again in new and interesting ways.
Isn’t there a possibility of staleness, even obsolescence? After all, every James Bond (or Mission Impossible, or Marvel) movie may be a sure-fire hit; nevertheless there are continuous concerns about their relevance. For Commander Safeguard, the challenge is even tougher, what with 24-hour cartoon channels, animated features, and the avalanche of superhero movies from the house of Marvel and DC, all vying for attention. Abbasi is aware of the competition.
“We do immense amounts of research on current trends and our number one goal is to keep it relevant. My team and I hold ourselves accountable to a very high standard and we have, over the past 12 years, ensured that each animation is engaging and mind opening. We are fully cognisant of our task – catering to kids who have content ranging from Disney and Marvel to other fairytale characters and Commander Safeguard has to be good enough to compete with international content.”
However, the content cannot dominate the message. “For that we work with the insight that ‘people don’t think in-terms of information’; they think in terms of narrative,” adds Abbasi.
The production is done by local production houses and is truly a feather in the cap of the Pakistani media industry. By ensuring an ongoing audience made up of kids, Safeguard seems to have successfully ensured that a thriving market for antibacterial soap was created (inviting various imitators) and it remains the number one choice in this segment.
So what about the video itself? Rich visuals invite kids to a world of outdoor adventure, which is predictably raided by the villainous leader of germs, “Germander”. As I see my own kids laugh as the Commander once again lays waste to the evil plan, I can imagine them insisting on Safeguard as their soap of choice, and the same thing happening in around 3.6 million households in Pakistan who have watched the video.
Talha bin Hamid is an accountant by day and an opinionated observer of pop culture, an avid reader, a gamer and an all-around nerd by night.