Synergy is the act of two objects working together, willingly or coincidentally, resulting in something great. It is a buzzword we hear all the time in marketing pitches; it is the word that can make you sound savvy, hip, and intelligent – all at once.
This year, Pakistani advertisers hit the jackpot. The World Cup in England was a golden opportunity for local and multinational brands to develop extensive patriotic campaigns, run them from the start of the World Cup, through to March 23rd then sustain them for four months (during Ramzan/Eid), and finally, rekindle them in August.
Don’t believe me? There is one ad that has cricket fever, patriotic fervour, Ramzan’s thirst, Eid-ul-Fitr’s fulfilment and Eidul Azha’s bountifulness, all rolled into one. As an incredible bonus, it serves perfectly as a prelude to a certain annual musical performance show. Of course, none other than Coca-Cola’s ad campaign achieves this remarkable feat. It updates the classic anthem “Iss Parcham Ke Saye Talay” quite elegantly to these untrained ears, and is such a brilliant gem that it can fit any occasion. The only thing I found lacking was the actual song – it got buried somewhere in all that hoopla.
And now we get to the part where we talk about The Rhythm of Unity. Just like Coca-Cola, Morven Gold doesn’t have any common visual cues with the Pakistani flag. Just like Coca-Cola, the product is detrimental to health. In fact, thanks to anti-smoking legislation, even in 1993 a cigarette ad was banned. Nevertheless, Spectrum took the brand’s colours and ran away with them. Set to an epic soundtrack composed by the legendary Farrukh Abid (perhaps his finest work), it kicked off with desert-evening notes from Balochistan, before flitting like a bird and gathering stately snippets from each province of Pakistan – all of it set to a common, uniting percussive rhythm with all the disparate pieces of music can be seen (and heard) coming together as dancers set Lahore Fort on fire with their attire of red and gold.
To this day, this ad gives me goose bumps. It is one of the finest pieces of filmmaking/music I have seen. You can count on our performers and content creators to cash on any fads. When Vital Signs ruled the roost, Pepsi came up with several ads mutilating their hit Dil Dil Pakistan, even to the extent of changing the lyrics to Pepsi Pepsi Pakistan. I don’t recall anyone ever speaking positively about those ads – it was mercilessly picked apart in DAWN’s pages. It did nothing for Pepsi and ended up damaging the repo of their brand ambassadors.
Speaking of legends, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan starred and sang in many ads during his life. However, the one for MCB Bank reached dizzying heights of success. Pakistan, Pakistan – a simple, earthy tune sung by Nusrat sahab, became as popular an anthem as any other and taking a place besides Sohni Dharti, Main Bhi Pakistan Hoon, and yes, Dil Dil Pakistan. The song was then adopted by all the TV channels as a backdrop to their Independence Day programmes and can be heard everywhere during this period. MCB has hit a jackpot which keeps on giving.
Here I would be remiss not to mention Ufone. The company has lost some of its lustre before the combined the might of Mobilink/Warid (“We are the biggest so we are the best”), the always effervescent Telenor (to varying effect) and the emotive styling of Zong (“No dances for us”) – and the company seems not to have renewed their contract with Faisal Qureshi et al, which in their time, resulted in some of the most memorable and original ads seen on Pakistani TV. But Ufone has one ace up its sleeve: it is Pakistani (though that is somewhat questionable given the foreign stake in its holding company).
The tagline Tum Hi Tou Ho is amazingly effective. It tells audiences that although other competitors are foreign owned and may or may not care about them, Ufone does. This faint tug at the heartstrings is carried on year round. Now if only they would change their logo colours to something a little less akin to a neighbouring country’s flag.
In the era of increasing globalisation, blatant patriotism is a somewhat risqué proposition. It is no longer fashionable to pan, criticise or ridicule people, celebrities and indeed, the cricket teams of other countries. Instead, the focus has shifted from glorification to reform. Remember Telenor’s campaign a few years ago where people were shown solving small infrastructural problems through the power of social media. https://youtu.be/p29TvnErGws
Indeed, it is time that empty patriotism was replaced by a call to action.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org