Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

If music be the food of love

Updated Apr 14, 2018 01:12pm
Musical impresario Arshad Mahmud speaks about his long association with the advertising sector.
Tango, the editing suite at Spectrum Y&R. Spectrum was established in 1978 by Shahnoor Ahmed. Before establishing Spectrum, Ahmed worked in the client services department at MNJ Communications. Lakson Tobacco was Spectrum’s first client. In over 40 years of existence, Spectrum has been the recipient of over 60 national and several international awards. In 2007, Spectrum won the Aurora-Zephyr Award (Durables & Services), in the Best Magazine Advertisement category for ‘Kenwood – A Toast to a Great Breakfast.’ (photo: Arif Mahmood/Dawn White Star)
Tango, the editing suite at Spectrum Y&R. Spectrum was established in 1978 by Shahnoor Ahmed. Before establishing Spectrum, Ahmed worked in the client services department at MNJ Communications. Lakson Tobacco was Spectrum’s first client. In over 40 years of existence, Spectrum has been the recipient of over 60 national and several international awards. In 2007, Spectrum won the Aurora-Zephyr Award (Durables & Services), in the Best Magazine Advertisement category for ‘Kenwood – A Toast to a Great Breakfast.’ (photo: Arif Mahmood/Dawn White Star)

On starting his career in advertising

I worked as an Account Executive at Prestige in the early seventies; one of the major campaigns I worked on was for Servis shoes. We rejuvenated the jingle ‘Sheher Sheher gaon main, sab ke paon main Servis Shoes Servis Shoes, sab ke paon mein’ and this time, the jingle was sung by Nayyara Noor. We also came up with a new tagline for Servis’ injection moulded sole (IMS) shoes: ‘Step into elegance, Step into comfort’; it was translated into Urdu as ‘Qadam qadam haseen, qadam qadam araam.’

On the brands he worked on

There were several, including Capri, Lipton, UBL and Johnson’s Baby Lotion. For the latter, I composed a lullaby and asked Nayyara Noor to sing it. Another jingle which was appreciated was sung by Bunny for CandyLand, ‘Singing away under the sun’. The last jingle that I composed was for PEL in 2016. The music was based on one of my older compositions – Koi baat karo (Say something). It was sung by Tina Sani with lyrics by Hasan Akbar Kamal. The TVC’s objective was to launch PEL’s ‘talking refrigerator’ and showed a couple who were having a fight; the wife was not talking to her husband and the lines worked well in this context.

On the jingles of the sixties and seventies

So many come to mind, such as ‘Kapas ki chandi ko sona banai’ which means ‘turn the silver white of cotton into gold.’ It was used to advertise a pesticide. There was another one for Philips: ‘Jahan jahan suraj dhallay, Philips ke bulb aur tube jalay,’ which means ‘wherever the sun sets, Philips’ bulbs are lit.’ The jingles in the earlier days were very conceptual in terms of their construction and these two are prime examples of good ideas that gel and stick in your mind. Other memorable ones include ‘Hum to jaane seedhi baat, sabun ho to 707’ for 707 detergent soap; ‘Jahan mamta, wahan Dalda’; and ‘Ab bhi tawana, jab bhi tawana,’ for Tullo.

On the big names in radio jingles

Talat Hussain was a popular voice-over artist. Others included Pervaiz Basheer and Hasan Shaheed Mirza. As far as composers were concerned, there was Sabir Saheb and Anjum Effendi, who composed the Peek Freans jingle with Alamgir. Then there was Sohail Rana, who composed delightful pieces, including ‘Phool gudi laye’ for Politrin C, another pesticide. Many acclaimed writers, such as Shabeeh Farooqi and Shahid Kazmi wrote lyrics for jingles from time to time. Once I requested Faiz Saheb to write a jingle for National Masalas. Even though it was an outstanding piece of advertising, the client didn’t like it and never used it. I was very young then and at that time, nobody probably believed me that Faiz Ahmed Faiz had written it.


Advertising agencies and their clients need to believe in the power of music to create recall for their products. One of the problems is that people are not coming up with solid melodic structures anymore; they are not chosen because of their talent; instead, they are chosen because they are referred by other people.


On working for the musical composition for Dawn’s Lahore launch TVC in 1996

I rendered the line at the end of the TVC, ‘Dekho dekho saher aye... gaya andhera.’ I came up with it and it worked well as a tagline for Dawn. The line and tune came to mind when I saw the beautiful images that Imran Mir, who was part of the creative team, had shot, and they served as a source of inspiration; the first scene was that of a door opening and as the light enters the room, Dawn slides in. That visual inspired me and Hameed Haroon. We spent hours in the studio having intense discussions before finalising the melody.

On the musical composition for the Dawn Islamabad launch TVC in 1998

It was set in a different raag (a form of classical music) and the score was slightly different; this time, Ustad Nafees Ahmed rendered the line. The Lahore version was based on the Gujri todi raag, which is a morning raag; for the Islamabad TVC, I used the koshak dhani raag. I think that the use of the surindo (a musical instrument) by Faqir Mohammad in the Islamabad version added another dimension to the background score.

On the future of jingles in Pakistan

Advertising agencies and their clients need to believe in the power of music to create recall for their products. One of the problems is that people are not coming up with solid melodic structures anymore; they are not chosen because of their talent; instead, they are chosen because they are referred by other people. The other issue is that clients no longer want their creative teams to be creative; they want them to produce imitations of music that they like. They should leave the creative work to the artists instead of interfering; only then will they come up.

My friend, the late Amir Zaki, said something profound in this regard: “If I don’t tell them [the clients] how to make supari, why do they tell me how to make music?”  

Arshad Mahmud was in conversation with Mamun M. Adil, a leading advertising and communications expert at Aurora. mamun.adil@gmail.com

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