There are children running around with flags in their hands; a giant national flag unfurling in a dramatic, high-frame rate every few seconds on top of iconic buildings; people dressed like Quaid-I-Azam are walking the streets in multitudes; men and women are hugging each other; women achieve enviable teary-eyed smiles; meanwhile, snippets of soldiers running with guns, our one World Cup victory, ethnically clad older men and women – all rain down everywhere. And yes, tanks. There are always tanks driven around.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the ‘Independence Day season’, and the media landscape is being painted green. However, this year is preachy and super-serious. As always, there are tricks and there are treats, so let’s dive in.
The opening salvo in this 500-gun salute to self-congratulation is K&N’s campaign ‘Apnay Parcham To Izzat Dijye’ (let’s honour our flag). Of course, there is an elderly person, stoic, smiling and teary-eyed, roaming through beautifully shot inner cities (I am guessing Karachi and Lahore), staring in wonder, amazement and sometimes consternation as the people around him celebrate the season. After a waaay too long build-up, we finally see miniature flags being dropped carelessly and blowing in the wind, and our protagonist gets upset at this disrespect. He then organises a group of people to pick them up. And, of course, how could there NOT be tears?
Kamran Steel posit the exact same idea through a slightly less clichéd approach. The ad is a mini-movie that is shot in interior Lahore, with a young man shown planning something mysterious. After a way too long build-up (see a pattern?) it is revealed that he plans to pick up every last one of the flags strewn carelessly in the street.
Both ads are long and take even longer to get to the point but it is admirable that these companies are willing to spend so much on a social message. Perhaps K&N’s could have highlighted food wastage as that would be more on-brand? Similarly, Kamran Steel could have taken a page out of Amreli Steel’s book and equated our resilience with that of its products? A for sincerity though.
Super Habib start off with congratulating the nation on Independence Day and then intone that independence is not just about celebration but also purity of purpose and soul, just like, you guessed it, their product. The ad is a little preachy and the transition to the sales spiel is jarring.
Zong is back with a short and sweet TVC that is filled to the brim with the usual clichés, a person spinning a baton emitting smoke and flames (who does that in real life?), drone shots of sweeping vistas, but then dons on a teacher’s hat and scolds the nation about littering.
Engro comes up with something that is, perhaps in line with its diverse portfolio, all over the place. The ad half-heartedly tries to synchronise two shots in the same frame, before falling back on that age-old doorstop: smiling portrait shots of pretty faces with artfully blurred backgrounds. The commentary below the ad explains that Engro renews its commitment to food security and bridging the digital divide. The fact that I had to read it to make sense of the ad is, in my book, a little disturbing.
Ufone has come up with a social media campaign which asks its customers to snap pictures of themselves doing azadi related things and attach a hashtag. There is the usual imagery, lots of graphics and a long winded process and explanation which makes it sound even more complicated than it is. But what really stands out is perhaps the bad luck with regard to timing: with the Delta variant of Covid-19 on the loose, rampant partying and travelling is perhaps the last thing that should be encouraged.
Starting off from eloquent and noble, careening through predictable although good, we finally land on Daraz! The ad for their Azadi sale shows an actor/model, visibly trim and fit, throwing a ball onto an office wall. The camera then cuts to a close up of a protruding tummy and the narrator informs users that Daraz’s online shop can cater to changing needs. Not pretty by any means.
This year there is a refreshing emphasis on social messaging; however most of it is delivered in a preachy manner that just doesn’t connect. However, I will take insipid social awareness over peppy ignorance any day!
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