Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Piggybacking on patriotism

Published in Sep-Oct 2017

As brands celebrated independence, the output was mostly mediocre with some spurts of meaningful creativity.

It was a big one this year. The big Seven O. What resulted was a spate of brands painting the screens a metaphorical green. The output was mostly mediocre with some spurts of meaningful creativity.

First up. The national anthem. Much was expected of a particular music programme’s all-star rendition. It’s the national anthem which has been rated as one of the world’s best. And it was a gold standard music programme. Such anticipation.

To the point where, some people associated with another brand, were seeing a different kind of green at the thought of it. What could possibly go wrong? The much-awaited anthem fell as flat as a month-old cola. It was monotonous with an arrangement designed to destroy the scale of the original. On the other hand, an unbranded, non-star Acapella version of the anthem by some well-meaning peaceniks across the border hit all the right chords. It was fresh and youthful and still faithful to the original spirit.

I could listen to it any time. I just wish the much touted all-star Pakistani version had even an iota of that magic. MISS.

Acapella was clearly the flavour of the month with Strepsils, which paid homage to Alamgir’s peppy national song Khayal Rakhna by updating it for a different generation.

Again, although it was a new interpretation, it retained the essence of the original. The performance was effervescent and joyful, with Ali Noor, Ahsan Pervaiz, Rachel Viccaji, Sara Haider and Zoe Viccaji. More importantly, it was a perfect fit for the brand, with the use of just one clear instrument – the human voice – the clarity of which the product ensures. Visually, it was bright and cheerful in keeping with the brand lookbook. HIT.

Another miss (and this could be disputed) was the Gul Ahmed five-minute-long short film. Some liked the ‘real’ gritty, artsy look of the film. The story of a taxi driver, whose life revolves around his beloved Ashi – a rickety, black-and-yellow vintage taxi. It is August 14 and the rotating high-on-patriotism passengers are progressively getting on his nerves. Until a fateful ride with an elderly couple coincides with Ashi breaking down and ends with the requisite rap on the knuckles about ‘we are nothing without this country’ with Ashi being a metaphor for Pakistan – rickety and falling apart, but we love it all the same. With the preachiness laid on thick, it committed the cardinal sin of Independence Day advertising. It had no connect with the brand. And was completely superficial. MISS.

Then there was another clothing retailer, Khaadi’s Azaadi video which was built on the idea that the fabric that weaves us together as a nation needs acceptance and tolerance to stay intact. Nicely tied to a brand that was built on indigenous natural weave (though abandoned now as we Pakistanis are wont to do). This is juxtaposed with images of thread and weave in the colours of the national flag – white and green – and diverse Pakistanis (in both ethnic and religious terms) proudly proclaiming that they too are Pakistanis to a soundtrack sung by Meesha Shafi. It was the only brand brave enough to bring tolerance into focus – that human trait that we are only too happy to sideline. With its careful connect to the brand, the subtle inference to a social issue and the slick packaging, it is not surprising that this was not an in-house video produced by the brand, rather a one-off project outsourced to advertising professionals; although said professionals moonlighting without the management’s knowledge have created somewhat of a furore at the agency in question. Nevertheless the video works. HIT.

Some other notable mentions. The Sooper ad from last year. Has no connect to the brand but is so beautifully executed that it’s a joy to watch. And all the Azaadi sales from 14% off to a whopping 70%.

At the end of the day, I wish we had done something more meaningful with a landmark holiday. Something that was not preachy and superficial. But maybe that is what we have become. Never mind. There were all those sales. Nothing beats retail therapy.

Sophiya Rumi works at an advertising agency in Pakistan.