Zong and the colours of Pakistan
The new Zong ad featuring cricketers Younus Khan and Jason Roy is entertaining, cleverly executed and fun to watch. The premise of the story is that Roy has landed in Punjab and is taken through the culture and sights and sounds of the province, which he shares on his social media pages using Zong’s powerful 4G connection. The film (at one minute and 27 seconds this is no longer a spot ad) shows the beauty and connectivity of Punjabi towns and villages, beyond the alluring city of Lahore. The concept is brilliant and creatively executed.
The film opens with Roy, in the middle of a vast field, having his hair cut and massaged by a street style barber. He then exclaims, "Thand pai gaye", and stares wide eyed into the camera, and this sets the tone and pace for the rest of the ad. The fast-paced editing, sepia tones, and imaginative camera angles all lend an air of fun and adventure to the film. The bird’s eye landscape shots combined with extreme close ups of the action are reminiscent of Hollywood and Bollywood adventure films, where boys go on their ‘self-discovery’ and ‘bonding’ trips. It is light-hearted, energetic and flowing with positive vibes.
One has to acknowledge and appreciate Roy and his ‘acting’, which has won the hearts of Pakistanis across the globe. He appears charming, curious, easy going and ready to accept and embrace what Punjab has to offer. He plays the humour scenes well – especially, when he has to run after chickens and wipe his lassi-tache. It is also endearing to see him immersing himself completely in the culture of his host country. His enthusiasm and curiosity are palpable, and here the credit goes to the director for pulling together the different moods and expressions of Roy and Khan in such a human and personable way.
Let’s now talk about the song, which sets the rhythm and beat for the film, and sits at the heart of the whole experience. It is upbeat, fun, and represents the pulse of Punjab. It is the kind of song that has you tapping your feet and sashaying your hips. Having said that, I felt something was amiss. Perhaps, it was the lyrics that didn’t work for me, or that it felt a bit like a shaadi song. Bottom line is, I was seeking something else here - although, I have to confess that as I watched the commercial on repeat mode, the lyrics did start to grow on me.
Ultimately, a good ad film is one where the product and its features are built seamlessly into the narrative, and where the ad would make no sense if the product were replaced by another generic consumer item (yes, I am pointing fingers at tea brands, which often choose story lines that are too broad and could work for anything, including the kitchen sink). The Zong commercial acknowledges popular culture and people’s need to stay connected and share their experiences with their friends and followers. Roy is seen in very remote areas of Punjab, happily taking pictures and using Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to share his experiences and moments with his followers – product placement and integration at its finest.
It is really hard to find fault with this ad as it has all the ingredients that are needed for a successful delivery – celebrity power, stunning locations, catchy music, and most importantly, a story line that is fun, engaging and relevant. Kudos to the Zong team and their creative agency, The D’Hamidi Partnership, for a job well done.
Sheherzad Kaleem is a documentary filmmaker based in Dubai. firstname.lastname@example.org
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