Honestly, how many of you knew about Dastak cooking oil before the Split the Plate ad? This brand has definitely been vying for our attention since they launched in 2018. The last ad featured actor Hania Aamir in track pants, showing off snazzy moves, flailing spatulas and dancing across the kitchen with two enthusiastic mates. The average TV viewer did a double-take because it is not every day you see a big name female actor flaunting short hair and looking cool. Aamir was noticed and the ad launched a fair number of roasts on Youtube, mainly because of the bizarre kitchen song and dance routine which could not have been more blatant in its confirmation of the stereotype about local ads.
With Dastak’s Split the Plate commercial however, the brand in finding their feet, have done a U-turn and taken a calculated risk...in the right direction. By picking up on the not-so-new global trend of cause marketing, Dastak seem to have finally found their bearings. The new ad was enough to make us sit up - and even one would wager, consider a product trial.
The scene opens in true Ground Hog Day style, with an executive who eats lunch in the office leaving his peon to take away the leftovers day after day after day. (Someone at the creative agency definitely had a Eureka moment after their half-eaten lunch was taken away, because the ad goes beyond the done-to-death ‘let’s feel sorry for the poor’ formula). Strong storytelling makes up for certain directorial flaws. The commercial could have been shorter in order to keep audience's attention until the message in the end and the executive is miscast - not quite looking upper middle class. The background score is assembly line, reminiscent of the background music of other ads with a message.
What sets this commercial apart is the timing (it was launched on World Food Day) and how it ended with the disturbing figures on how much food is wasted in Pakistan. That statistic is enough to make audiences do a double-take. “Come again. How much food did you say was wasted?” By linking the brand to not only a cause, but to the scale of the problem, Dastak have truly upped their game and made the potential TG sit up and notice.
Choosing to forgo blasting the Dastak brand in our faces and instead repeatedly showing the peon’s dastaks (knocks) on the executive’s door was a winning directorial touch and a welcome break from the need to stuff the brand and its colours in every nook and cranny of our screens. Nowhere in the Split the Plate commercial are we told ‘You should buy this cooking oil because someone is dancing rather well in the kitchen to sell it’.
In fact, Dastak’s message goes the opposite direction. By urging Pakistanis to waste less food, the brand is also saying ‘cook less’. When was the last time you heard a brand say ‘consume less’? When indeed did you see a brand use their marketing budgets to draw our attention to bigger causes in a country where hunger is a real problem? Very refreshing and much needed. While other brands have done the whole emo ameer boy ghareeb boy thing in the past, truth be told it this is getting stale. Dastak busted through all the emo storytelling that clogs our screens, by signing off with a mind blogging statistic and launching their campaign on World Food Day. Well done!
Shahrezad Samiuddin is a pop culture junkie and an aspiring screenwriter. firstname.lastname@example.org