Another Ramzan means another flurry of sentimental ads. This year, while some ads were indeed typical Ramzan ads (read: lavish iftar tables, pious smugness, epiphanies of being good), there were others that were a pleasant surprise. Here, I list those Ramzan ads that I re-watched over and over, as well as those which I skipped/rolled my eyes at – in no particular order.
1) Shan Foods: If there was a lifetime achievement award for advertising, Shan Foods would have been the champions over the past few years, and this Ramzan’s ad takes the cake. We are shown a couple prepping for an iftar reception in (presumably) old Lahore, and they are a Sikh couple! The idea that non-Muslims were not only represented but also shown as generous towards Muslims was heart-warming. Rewatched.
2) Surf Excel: Playing on the ever-familiar theme of children doing good deeds, the brand seems to be circling old homes and orphanages. This year’s two children clowning around in a hospital’s children’s ward is baffling at best and does not exactly relate to the initial mention/emphasis of zakat. Skipped.
3) KFC Pakistan: A family shares their KFC meal with their driver. I don’t know what is more frustrating – the trite concept or the driver’s tearful face? Shouldn’t treating house help as equals be the norm already? When will we stop stigmatising them as hapless, tearful recipients of hand-me-downs? Skipped.
4) Coca-Cola Pakistan: Move along, little to see here except the usual warring father and son subsequently bonding over a bottle of Coke/7UP. Skipped.
5) SIUT: Too long, but a tear-jerking tale that is an effective insight into philanthropy; capped off by a stunning performance by Talat Hussain. Rewatched once.
6) HANDS: Suffers from the same drawback as above – too long! It is heart-wrenching, beautifully shot and best of all: does not patronise any part of society. Rather, it shows the courage of a nomad child bringing a change in the fortunes of his community. However, I really think a shorter version for today’s TikTok generation could generate a higher reach. Rewatched once.
7) Tang: The brand’s big plastic can is turned into a donation box. While I appreciate the spirit, the ad is meh; for years now, Tang have not quite captured the youthfulness or joy of the product, focusing too heavily on its [supposed] nutritional value. I, for one, am not looking for Vitamin C when I am thirsty for a sweet drink. Skipped.
8) Telenor: A shop, reluctantly abandoned by its owner for the day due to the birth of his daughter, is instead run by a young woman who makes the shop viral on social media, attracting thousands of customers. Whew! That was complicated. Still, you have to see the ad and it will make sense. Good job, Telenor! Rewatched.
9) J. (Junaid Jamshed): Albeit a different idea: for expats, a trip to a J. outlet reminds them of a visit home. I am not sure about the supposed homesickness of expats, and to me, they are just a ploy to exploit some assumed attachment to the homeland. However, I can’t fault the ad’s cinematography and direction which are beautifully executed. Rewatched.
10) Dalda: Saving the best for last. No hugs, no hapless drivers, no sanctimonious do-gooders, no expats missing home, no joyless poor. Dalda has made a series of animated shorts that showcase the various, joyful aspects of Ramzan via a bubbly little girl. The themes are present and correct; what’s different is they are presented in a light and creative manner. Rewatched.
This year has showcased an evolution in Ramzan ad concepts, as well as our ingrained approach to depicting goodness, philanthropy and positivity. For the first time, not only have I not skipped most Ramzan ads, but I am already looking forward to Ramzan 2023!
Talha bin Hamid is an accountant and observer of pop culture. firstname.lastname@example.org