Published in Mar-Apr 2022
Any Ramzan advertising worth its salt usually leaves you feeling tears prickling in the corner of your eyes and tugs at the heartstrings. This year, brands began the race to tell the most emotional and moving story to capture the essence of the holy season. Some hit the spot; others that failed did so because they overworked the storyline and tried too hard.
If Ramzan TVCs were in a race, then this year SIUT’s Ramzan appeal would finish first. It stands out because the brand avoided taking the easy way out. Most philanthropic TVCs focus on their core issue and storylines tend to revolve around sick patients getting better and people being helped in emergencies. Steering clear of hackneyed storylines and the ‘let’s throw a cute child into the mix’ route, SIUT’s campaign sought to inspire consistent giving in donors instead. The TVC took inspiration from the true story of a man who single-mindedly contributed
Rs 1.5 every month to SIUT since its inception. Because isn’t attracting reliable, consistent donors the whole point of philanthropic advertising? Come rain or shine, our dependable donor/hero played by veteran actor Talat Hussain made the trip to SIUT every month to make his precious contribution. And when old age and dementia took over and death became imminent, he instructs his grandson to carry on the dairh rupay wala tradition. Now, if you aren’t moved by that maybe you are actually an online political bot.
KFC’s #sharingfeelsgood is the other campaign that deserves an unconditional shout-out. Poking holes in social norms that are based on the Subcontinent’s caste system, KFC hits the spot by being relatable and relevant in a culture where house staff is often left watching from the sidelines while employers enjoy iftar at restaurants. The brand sent out a strong message about society’s inherent elitism by showing children of a privileged family inviting their driver to join them for iftar at a KFC outlet. Netizens have been calling out privileged Pakistanis who take house staff to restaurants and don’t share meals with them for a few years now. By drawing attention to a common occurrence that many don’t even see as problematic, #sharingfeelsgood gets a 10/10 for relevance.
Unfortunately, relatability was exactly what was missing from Surf Excel’s #NekiNahiRukegi this year. Over the years, Surf Excel’s Ramzan campaigns have become the yardstick for campaigns in the holy month. And they have been pretty consistent. They show children being children and tears and heart tugs are guaranteed. In 2022, though, we have to say, Surf Excel has done better in the past. The brand continued with ‘children doing good deeds in Ramzan’ theme; however, the storyline went a little awry. The Unilever team may have tried a little too hard and lost points for not keeping it simple or relatable. The TVC works till the point the father is shown teaching his young children about the importance of zakat. The whole dressing up and painting their clothes to put on a show for sick children without any real help from an adult was a bit much to digest. And truth be told, the Ramzan vibe was missing this year.
This brings us to Telenor’s #AchaiKaTrend. Important message, but a storyline that was far out, Telenor’s Ramzan campaign erred on the right side. But just about. This one had two worthy messages: celebrating the birth of girls and supporting small, local businesses. Supermodel Saheefa Jabbar helps out a down on his luck dupattawala by sitting at his shop and promoting his wares on her social media accounts so he can go home to see his newborn baby girl. And of course, the small business takes off. Just the whole supermodel manning a dupatta shop… out of the box, maybe. Relatable, no.
A word to marketers trying to come up with out-of-the-box concepts: It’s great that you try. Please keep it simple and relatable. Concepts are more effective when the audience can see itself in the situations doing what the characters are doing. A simple and relatable concept will do most of the heavy lifting for an emotional feel-good campaign and you won’t have to resort to engaging supermodels and an army of sick kids to make it work. Shahrezad Samiuddin works in communications and is an agony aunt. firstname.lastname@example.org