Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Nov-Dec 2017

Telling the story

Lauding the industry’s new approaches to storytelling.

My earliest memories are of the jingles on TV just before and after the nine o’clock evening transmission of the khabarnama. My dad used to watch while my mom debated with him. In those days, I don’t recall the notion of muting ads, maybe because they did not interrupt a programme every 7.5 minutes and then go on for at least 15 minutes; in fact, people actually watched them. I remember watching the Frooto juice commercials and believing that the girl in the Rafhan commercial was my older sister because my parents said we looked alike. There is so much nostalgia I associate with the sounds of the Marlboro, Benson & Hedges and the ‘Waves Ka Triplet Wah Bhai Wah’ commercials. They all have a near and dear place in my heart. However, despite the nostalgia, there was an obvious lack of storytelling.

For the longest time in Pakistan’s ad industry, a brand was cool if it had a jingle or a song associated with it or a celebrity presence to rely on. However, we could never break the habit of introducing the essence of the brand; nor could we weave its functionality around the narrative. It was mostly hard-sell, because in all fairness, this is their USP or differentiator. The first thing that comes to mind are probably electronics, detergents and cooking oils; however, if you take a step back and look at everything you can touch, buy and use in everyday life, a basic truth will reveal itself – all products are functional. There are so many other industries that can be held accountable for similar pitfalls.

Let’s look at the evolution of some of the brands and categories we have grown up with.

Fashion

Surprised, right? Yet, we have all fallen victim to the lawn dupattas and the gaudy prints, be they plastered on billboards or on our TV screens. Summer in Pakistan has long meant the inevitable image of a woman sitting on the back of a bike, singing about why she wears Sitara Sapna lawn, while recommending it for her husband too; or of an overtly foreign-looking model; or a woman running amid the ruins with Atif Aslam singing in the background; or an Indian actress draped across a sofa with a nonsensical voiceover in the background. With the budget and the simplicity of the task at hand, one would think brands would be more creative – and lo and behold – after years of struggle, we have actually started a conversation about empowerment, with campaigns that try to go

beyond the superficial. ‘#MeinPerfectHoon’ by Gul Ahmed and ‘Azaadi Mera Libaas’ by Bonanza seem to be paving the way for a less vain and more human view of a functionally-superficial product.


How about those Lifebuoy ads with the ‘Jahan Tandrusti Wahan Lifebuoy’, and their evolution to ‘Bubblo Tumhara Sabun Slow Hai Kya?’ Even Dettol Germbusters is a delight; of course they have their doctors’ coats’ and fun facts, but the storytelling along with the naughtiness of their target audience is a fresh perspective.


Detergents

Let’s be honest. The days of ‘micro-cleaning boosters’, ‘power wash’ and ‘Kya Aap Ka Sabun’ ads are behind us. Okay, that may be too optimistic a view of the current detergent ad situation, so let’s say that rather than behind, those days are beside us and with a more promising future. Remember the Rin ads with the husband stomping off to work in a cream shirt that went ‘Itna Sara Jhaag Aur Itni Safayee?’ or the Express Power ads with ‘Goli Mardoon gi.... Daagh Ko Ek Hi Dhulayee Mein’? The good old days were simple, but a bit too simple for my liking. It’s interesting to see how Surf Excel has patented ‘Daagh Toh Achay Hotay Hain’, with Ariel catching up with ‘Wash the Label’ and Brite slowly crawling ahead as well.

Electronics

Okay, so here is the biggest criminal of them all. Despite the love I felt as a child for ‘Waves Ka Triplet Wah Bhai Wah’, and the little boy in Waves ‘Naam Hi Kaafi Hai’ ad (and his horrific comeback a few years later), the evolution of this category in terms of storytelling has been (shall we say) slow. The usual electronics storylines involve a woman and her daily struggles or a clichéd shot of her pulling out food like a Stepford wife. I’m sure we all remember those horrid Shaan Shahid ads, where he romances his wife in their lounge, twirling and dancing, as the ceiling fan (in full focus) blows away their hair! What were they thinking? However, every dog has its day and the curse of the flying locks and dry ice broke when the category zoomed into the daily nuances of married life. Kenwood’s oddball Nawazuddin and Ayesha Khan ads emerged as relatable slice-of-life films that had you in stitches (no, I haven’t forgiven or forgotten that washing machine ad), even PEL’s ‘Jaga Bana’, although a bit far-fetched, had a great insight and was relatable in every way.

Hygiene

Remember those super Gillette ads that prompted our parents to ask us to close our eyes because of inappropriate contact? And then their evolution to the father-son commercial, where the son goes into a monologue about ‘Ek Dum Zabardast’ shave with Gillette Blue, ‘Pehla Blade Karta Hai Chan, Doosra Chun’. I still smile at this one. And how about those Lifebuoy ads with the ‘Jahan Tandrusti Wahan Lifebuoy’, and their evolution to ‘Bubblo Tumhara Sabun Slow Hai Kya?’ Even Dettol Germbusters is a delight; of course they have their doctors’ coats’ and fun facts, but the storytelling along with the naughtiness of their target audience is a fresh perspective.

There is a constant evolution in the culture and habits in nations, and it’s nice to see the shift to storytelling. I was losing hope, but in the past two to three years, there has been a huge shift in perspective and I would attribute this more to the brands than to the agencies. Brands have become more open to taking risks and being storytellers. Digital marketing has played a big hand in this shift with the goal of becoming viral – and a regular ad does not go viral.

Understanding audiences, their thoughts and sentiments are gauged via digital. Some brands are smart and are catching on to the digital trend, while others are waiting by the sidelines for the right concept and opportunity to pop up. What makes me proud is the fact that despite the heat our industry receives, we are evolving and saying goodbye to a lot more than our horrible hair choices in the 90s.

Sana Naeem is Creative Director, The Brand Crew.