Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The singularity of the written word

Updated Apr 14, 2018 01:14pm
Recollection of memorable ads of the era when advertisements were powered by words alone to express a strong idea.
Advertisements for the Department of Tourism, Midway House (PIA & KLM’s Airport Hotel), Cox’s Bazar (located in Bangladesh and part of the ‘Know your country campaign’ for the Tourist Bureau) and Peek Freans have a single name in common: Javed Jabbar, co-founder MNJ Communications, one of the most influential agencies of the seventies and eighties.
Advertisements for the Department of Tourism, Midway House (PIA & KLM’s Airport Hotel), Cox’s Bazar (located in Bangladesh and part of the ‘Know your country campaign’ for the Tourist Bureau) and Peek Freans have a single name in common: Javed Jabbar, co-founder MNJ Communications, one of the most influential agencies of the seventies and eighties.

Advertising, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “The act of calling something to the attention of the public, especially by paid announcements.” These announcements require two things: art direction and copywriting. Both are found in equal measure in the nascent days of Pakistani advertising. Going through the archives, what strikes me is that while we have moved forward with the art direction – thanks to advances in technology – the ability to convey a concept engagingly or tell a story in a few words, may perhaps be a thing of the past. And no one quite managed to do it as well as Mr Javed Jabbar.

An alumni of the agency I now work for, Mr Jabbar later co-founded MNJ with two other IAL alumni, Nafees Ghaznavi and Majeed Ahmed. The three of them, along with Naseer Haider, were the first people PIA recruited for their fledgling in-house advertising agency. They were trained in London by seasoned British advertisers. As an advertising person with a copy background, I still look up to the iconic concepts and copy produced by Mr Javed Jabbar, some, while he was at IAL, others at MNJ.

Here are some examples of his best work from the late sixties to the mid-seventies:

The Peek Freans Pied Piper

Strong copy and concepts defined Javed Jabbar’s work; a testament to his genius is the fact that the Pied Piper he introduced to Peek Freans’ communications in the seventies continues to appear on the packaging of the all the brands manufactured by English Biscuit Manufacturers.
Strong copy and concepts defined Javed Jabbar’s work; a testament to his genius is the fact that the Pied Piper he introduced to Peek Freans’ communications in the seventies continues to appear on the packaging of the all the brands manufactured by English Biscuit Manufacturers.

If you grew up in the seventies, eighties or even the early nineties, you could not have missed the Peek Freans Pied Piper. Far before its time, the brand positioned itself as a snack between meals – and not just a tea accompaniment, with the Pied Piper enticing us to a world of sweet and savoury biscuit treats.

Gold Leaf

Before Gold Leaf became a paan shop staple, it was a classy brand in the eighties. The Gold Leaf man was a sophisticated art connoisseur with an elegant lady by his side. A single line communicated the idea with a visual that captured a moment in this man’s life. Incredibly brave, if you ask me. Today, you would get a display of Photoshop skills and a scrimmage of words to convey every single possible reason to buy the product.

Know Your Country

The tourism ads written by Mr Jabbar in the late sixties are my all-time favourites – I am deeply envious of the copy and the idea. Whether it was the witty spin on the age and beauty of Miss Moenjodaro, the pithy reference to Alexander or celebrating the legendary shores of Cox’s Bazar, even today they can help you get to know your country, or at least what it used to be.


There have been some iconic TV campaigns but with the increasing reliance on visuals, music and glamour to tell a story, the ability to do so with a handful of words is a dying art. At least in Pakistan.


Lawrencepur

Whether it was the print ad that cleverly transformed the L into a road, as well as a metaphor for being several steps ahead or the evocative ‘A Woman Will Always Be Lyla’ campaign, Mr Jabbar’s work for Lawrencepur turned it into the most desired clothing brand. It would take several years for (the now defunct) Mohammad Farooq Textile Mills to grab attention in the same way. Until then, every woman wanted to be Lyla and every man aspired to wear a Lawrencepur suit.

Midway House

For people who don’t know this, Midway House used to be Karachi’s upmarket airport hotel. Located near the old airport at Star Gate, Midway House did in fact ‘begin where Karachi left off’ and was where you could ‘take a cool, detached view’ of the city, whether by chilling by the pool or dancing the night away on New Year’s Eve. I wouldn’t mind some of that. Would you?

PIA

Some of the best advertising from the sixties through to the eighties was for PIA. And in the early days at IAL, the copy was written by Mr Jabbar, when it was an airline that competed with the best in the West and the Middle East carriers were a mere twinkle in the eyes of the Arab Sheikhs.

Public service

It was incredibly brave of Mr Jabbar and his team to produce ads exhorting religious tolerance at a time when tolerance was under fire. Written as a public service campaign, in collaboration with the evening newspaper, the Star, these ads succinctly capture a point of view and a fervent prayer.

There have been some iconic TV campaigns but with the increasing reliance on visuals, music and glamour to tell a story, the ability to do so with a handful of words is a dying art. At least in Pakistan.

So, for a change, when we celebrate the best of Pakistani advertising over the last 70 years, let’s pay homage to a man who did this incredibly well.

Rashna Abdi is Chief Creative Officer, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi. She tweets at @rsabdi.

First published in THE DAWN OF ADVERTISING IN PAKISTAN (1947-2017), a Special Report published by DAWN on March 31, 2018.