Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The saas-bahu narrative with a twist?

Updated 17 Aug, 2018 04:17pm
Mezan’s new TVC reviewed.

The new Mezan ad featuring Ahad Raza Mir, Ahsan Khan and Hareem Farooq is not different and yet it had me hooked from the very first frame. The TVC, which starts with a low angle shot of seasonal flowers being arranged delicately for a wedding, coloured with cool, pastel shades of spring and set against a subtle music score, is beautifully crafted and delivers a compelling, though slightly cliché message to viewers – ‘You are never alone and family bonds can carry you through the hardest of times’.

Creating effective ads for a product category such as cooking oil can be challenging. Ads either focus on the functionality – taste and texture, or create an emotional, albeit stereotypical, narrative around the experience – cue the ‘saas bahu ads’ where families are seated around a dining table, dutifully served by the daughters-in-law, under the approving looks of the mothers-in-law. Culinary endeavours remain the domain of the womenfolk and within the confines of the kitchen.

For decades, brand managers have been spending their allocated budgets on narratives that never veer too far from these typical execution styles. Using run-of-the-mill jingles, dining room family settings and a medley of stylised food shots, they create ads that feel very template-y.

Then, from time to time, agencies break away from the clutter and create communication based on a larger value system and which adds to the brand’s equity. With this new ad, Mezan has done just that. It has dared to change the narrative, but the alternative approach also raises questions about how effective this new strategy will be in the long run.

Set against historic landmarks in Lahore, the ad is grand and aspirational, yet seeped in Pakistan’s culture and heritage. The story centres on wedding preparations, where Ahad Raza Mir, playing the groom, contemplates the arrangements around him. His sister-in-law, played by Hareem Farooq and brother, played by Ahsan Khan, joke with him about the perils of marriage. As the wedding party gets dressed for the event, we see Farooq making a batch of laddoos for the event. During the rasm, Mir exclaims that the laddoos taste just like the ones their mother used to make. The family reminisces about how much they miss having their mother on this occasion, and the ad closes on a happy note of a family pulling through together.

The soundtrack, performed by Aima Baig in her husky, deep voice, with minimalistic music, pulls the story together and the result is an ad that has strong emotional undertones. The storyline, though not out of the box, stays faithful to Mezan’s platform of ‘Mohabaton ke rishtey nibhayein Mezan ke saath’.

This ad has high production values, a star cast, and an aesthetic that is beautiful and colonial in appearance (the colour palette is distinctly English). It is patriotic in its choice of locations, celebratory of tradition with a nod to the modern, and explores boundaries. I, for one, really appreciate the fact that the ad takes the business of cooking outdoors. All of this is well and good, but the one area where the ad falls short of perfection is the storyline. Unfortunately, once again, we see the same ‘saas bahu’ narrative repeated, though done in a slightly more original manner. Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to see Mir or Khan making the laddoos in memory of their mother, instead of Farooq?

For me the storyline was weak, but the visual treatment was a treat to behold. But communication isn’t only about aesthetics. It is about creating value for a brand.

With this ad and the one that came out earlier during Ramzan, Mezan is establishing itself as a brand that has a value system rooted in family and personal relationships. Unfortunately, the two ads speak a different language when it comes to defining the brand’s identity. What is not clear is where exactly on the ‘exclusive’ scale the brand sees itself. Is it aspirational and high-end, or is it approachable and middle class? Which target audience does it want to speak to? With time (and more ads), I am sure we will see a clearer direction, but for now it remains slightly confused.

Given the success of this recent ad, the Mezan team has every right to celebrate, but it would be in the brand’s long-term interest if the team can revisit the communications strategy and define the brand’s identity and values more distinctly, so that all future communication can be streamlined to portray a single value system and idea.

Sheherzad Kaleem is a documentary filmmaker based in Dubai.