Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Why Is Urdu Difficult for Us?

Published 05 Apr, 2021 02:55pm
Muneeb Akram on why Pakistan's national language struggles not just in general but in advertising too.

Ramzan (and therefore Eid) is around the corner. Muslims around the world prepare for the month of patience as advertisers around the country buckle up for upcoming campaigns, office iftaaris and smoke cravings. It is a time that has creatives, including me, on their toes. Some of us are preparing full fledge IMCs, the others shooting films. Long story short we are all really occupied!

What did anything I just write have to do with Urdu? Before I come to the point of elaborating on the topic under the spotlight, I would like to turn the pages backwards and talk about the backstory.

I had my first solo (without an agency) TVC shoot and the preproduction went really well. The talent, the very talented director, the treatment, the location of shoot, everything was locked! Having no shelter of an Executive Creative Director put a lot of pressure on my shoulders and I knew I had to be on my A game. Right a day before my flight for the shoot, an unexpected (and urgent) task arrived: a Job ad in URDU!

Being an English resource, the task and its urgency put me off beyond my expectation. Had I had ample time, I would have had managed, but with my upcoming campaign right on my screen view, I had no choice but to take assistance from unusual places for the completion of the task. What this experience did for me was that it raised a whirlpool of thoughts that lead to some questions.

Had it been an English job ad, I would have had written the text in merely 10 minutes. Why don’t I have the same grip on my National Language? Creatives do not shy away from admitting that they have a weak proficiency in Urdu, how is that even acceptable in a country where the majority cannot read or speak English?

It is saddening and worrying about the way Urdu is treated by agencies around the country. Most agencies have one resource who is adept in Urdu vocabulary, translations, jiggle writing and helps translate the Creative Director’s ‘English idea’ into Urdu alphabets. However, a question we all need to contemplate on is that is the Urdu creative resource offered the same exposure, pay & opportunities as of their English counterparts? Is the language only limited to philosophical TVC narratives or tender notices? How can a person who has merely an abstract idea about the real lingo of the common man would be able to communicate to him through a brand? Do people know (for example that the word used for ‘having fun’ is "Shughal" in Punjab and "Tafri" in Karachi?

90% of the creatives I have worked with have never used the Urdu software INPAGE and have not even the basic grip of writing in Urdu (I am unfortunately sailing on the same ship). It is terrifying! What is even more terrifying is that we are the minds behind every TV ad shown across the country, and we don’t have expertise in the mother tongue of the people who watch them.

Let me stress on the fact that the point of this article is not to point fingers (if it seems like finger pointing, then I am guilty too) but to raise the red flag on the fact that Urdu, as a language, is struggling to maintain its glory not just in Pakistani society, but in Pakistani advertising as well. We need to work together to revive the role (and significance of Urdu in advertising) in every bit that we can by self-learning, reading more Urdu literature and giving Urdu resources the integrity they deserve.

Muneeb Akram is an in-house creative at NDURE.