Hits and Misses in the Year of Covid-19
Published in Nov-Dec 2020
Covid-19 and the changes it brought to our lives have accelerated the pace of new trends in the global ad game. The crisis initially brought to a brutal halt advertising investments, irrespective of the medium. The advertising ecosystem came under pressure and feverishly awaited de-confinement. When the lockdowns eased, the hope was for a revival in advertising, albeit predicated on the question of “What kind of advertising and which advertisers will successfully navigate the storm?” Conditions were no different in Pakistan. The bottom-line is simple. Advertising will not be the same as it was before March 2020. Nevertheless, no one in the ad industry stopped and we saw some good and purposeful pieces of communication and some that missed the mark.
This communication was a departure from the regular 45-seconder but it is one of my favourites. Easypaisa Raahi was a show that promoted the pursuit of dreams and executing plans you could have never imagined. From introspecting into our lives to reflect on how we live, Easypaisa Raahi was more than just a journey, it was the journey of life. With Umair Jaswal as the protagonist travelling across Pakistan discovering places, people, cultures, history, music, talent, this web series struck the right chord. Travel was our source of rejuvenation, even as in those difficult circumstances it was almost impossible to do so. Yet, travelling through Jaswal’s memories and looking at life through his lens served as a source of comfort in depressing moments.
Verdict: Are we going to enjoy another season soon?
It has become common for advertisements in Pakistan to be out of context, breaking the content’s link from the ad’s purpose. Gala’s recent ad is a perfect example of this no-link-to-the-brand tendency. Multiple languages to highlight Pakistan’s different cultures, extravagant sets, a so-called upbeat jingle and Mehwish Hayat dolled up and dancing, all failed to create the right kind of ripple among audiences unable to connect with the brand.
Verdict: Creative alert – a no-go zone.
There are two types of ads. One with a concrete insight and one that is made because there are mammoth budgets. Jazz 4G’s ‘Super Nahi Tou 4G Nahi’, although it touched upon the fulfilment of dreams, falls in the second category because it failed to justify the appearance of Esra Bilgiç as the concept didn’t require her to be there.
Verdict: Advertising is more than selling beauty.
In this unprecedented global moment, many brands across Asia Pacific pivoted their messaging to rally consumers to help flatten the curve and fight the spread of Covid-19. Lifebuoy too didn’t shy away. Instead of cashing in on the pandemic, the brand encouraged social responsibility. A simple yet powerful message asking the nation to wash their hands with soap… any soap. Communications like these are a testament to the fact that when brands think beyond their sales and are more purposeful, they become a love mark in their consumers’ lives.
Shan’s communications always tug at the heartstrings and make us think. Their ‘#MoreThanJustACook’ campaign is a combination of both. Their latest ad shows the bonding between a father and daughter and the importance of understanding and supporting one another in the household. Trying to break gender stereotypes, the ad hits the spot by calling attention to the double standards faced by too many women as they juggle professional responsibilities along with managing a house without any support from male family members. Beyond identifying the problem, Shan offered a key aspect of the solution in tackling this double standard. It is only when individual families recognise and appreciate the multitude of roles and responsibilities a woman has outside the kitchen that this double standard can be dismantled. Shan sends an important message about the equitable and gender neutral division of roles. It allows everyone (male and female) to cook at home, denting the social construct that the kitchen is a woman’s domain while the professional world is reserved for men. Food can be made with love and attention and that is all you need to cook a delicious meal.
Verdict: A step in the right direction and we couldn’t be prouder.
Surf Excel’s traditional focus on naiki (good deeds) during Ramzan became all the more relevant during the lockdown. In case anyone was wondering how to do their bit in those restrictive times, Surf Excel’s little angels showed us exactly how. And they did so while maintaining social distancing. With their message of hope, Surf Excel returned this year to a new world, but with the same message resonating even more powerfully this time around. We needed it. Verdict: A message of human perseverance.
Sumaira Mirza is a freelance writer.
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