Women scurrying about in the kitchen, opening this recipe mix, that cooking oil, hither iodised salt, thither laal mirch powder, all with Stepford wives smiles on their faces. Children forever frolicking about in new shoes and bangles. Men? There is one cooking biryani in a corner, and another looking amazed at the taste of freshly cooked kaleji (liver).
Venture outside and several startling sights greet you:
1. Children running for no purpose, laughing hysterically, splashing in muddy puddles and climbing inside pipes chasing toads.
2. A grandpa tsk-tsking in a corner, a grandma frowning in another.
3. A farmer driving a tractor in his field, smiling like an idiot.
4. Shaan taking one woman to a jewellery store, another to a Jazz shop. 5. Students guzzling Pepsi or Sprite, while gorging on seekh or bun kababs.
6. Yuppies talking on cell phones while staring into the heavens and, again, smiling showing all 64 digitally fixed teeth.
Venture towards the markets, another strange sight beckons: more women in a single spot than you have ever seen in your life, thronging storefronts like wasps, buying shoes, lawns, accessories, laughing.
Meanwhile, another set of women are busy raiding the houses of Wasim Akram/Fahad Mustafa/Ahsan Khan, asking them to prove their claim that the detergents/ drain cleaners they use are superior to any others.
By now you must have deduced that I am talking about Pakistan as seen by our advertisers, usually around festive occasions. This season, we have been fortunate (?) to witness no-holds-barred paeans to patriotism AND to shallow, advertising friendly occasions such as Independence Day and Eid-ul-Azha falling so close.
The ads I referred to above are not necessarily Eid ads, but around this Eid, our favourite pastime becomes our ONLY pastime – eating. That is why any product remotely related to food is flogged with renewed zeal and vigour. Cooking oil? Needed to make food. Recipe masalas? Duh. Dishwashers? Needed to clean up the mess. Detergents? Needed to clean clothes after eating. Cell phones? Needed for Eid greetings. Fizzy drinks? To wash down our kebabs. Drain cleaners? Use your imagination – this is a family friendly space.
Shan, of course, takes the cake. Their ad, ‘One Biryani One Family’ which I have nicknamed ‘One biryani to rule them all’, is so effective it is not even funny.
This time there are several objections to the ad – I am myself not greatly impressed due to the obvious, incongruous Indian sensibility, long, boring setup and ineffective payoff, and the happy-go-lucky tone failing to touch any emotional chords. But does it matter? There is National Foods, advertising year long with varying degrees of success, while Shan launches one ad roughly every year, and rules the airwaves and social media until the next Shan ad comes along.
Then there is the Sufi Group. I suspect that their jingles sound a lot like Shankar, Ehsan and Loy compositions and the models also seem to come from across the border. They also came up with a mini-movie, a hopelessly shortened version of which is run most of the time. Here is the complete ad:
The ad is the usual sappy story of a newlywed couple settling in Turkey and the bride out-cooking the Turks thanks to Sufi branded frozen food. Not expecting Citizen Kane, nevertheless my only gripe with the ad is that it is long and tortuous enough to incorporate all of the brand’s product portfolio: cooking oil, frozen food, washing soap, beauty soap, and heaven knows what else.
Combine all the most ‘happening’ faces right now in one ad, stir until homogenised and indistinguishable from the Shaan ad, serve 17 times a day – come on, can you guess which ad had this brief? Mezan Cooking Oil! Ahad Raza Mir, these days, is something of a heartthrob and so is Hareem Farooq – the ad makers decided this was enough and ripped off the Shan ad with gusto. Big meh – what a waste of talent.
All that aside, the most-discussed and revered ad these days in our household and social circle is one which features Fawad Khan. Oh, I hear you say – that could be one of thousands! OK, it shows Fawad Khan as a highly successful corporate type.
So? Err... it features a cute young boy winning trophies.
Wait, wait – it shows a birthday party. It shows a fretting mother.
That is not helping?
Alright, it is this ad
That’s right – Zameen.com. The ad has all our tropes – our copywriters seem to be stuck in the seventies, where office work was carried out via ‘files’ and decisions were taken based on ‘presentations’. However, the superb direction, amazing camera work, and a steadily building crescendo of a soundtrack help this ad stand out. Still, what ‘sells’ this ad for me is Fawad Khan himself, whose acting skills border on scary. He just knows how to work his face and eyes to add pathos to a situation, and makes one forget that he is acting. In this ad, when one witnesses his teary eyes staring at his son in an expression of unqualified apology, one can’t help but feel a lump in their throat. Though the ad doesn’t really give the audience an incentive to use the titular service for property trade, it doesn’t need to – the branding job has been accomplished superbly. It also helps that the ad carries a strong social message, and such messages are what we need to make our Eids and other festivals not only festive, but meaningful and worthwhile.
Talha bin Hamid is an accountant by day and an opinionated observer of pop culture, an avid reader, a gamer and an all-around nerd by night.