Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Rockets or Rickshaws?

Khalid Naseem on the emerging trends that are affecting the direction Pakistani advertising is about to take.
Updated 27 Feb, 2024 12:39pm

Hold on to your cups as we begin a thrilling journey through Pakistan’s dynamic advertising and marketing landscape. From old jingles such as Ek Naurus mere bhaiya ki, ek Naurus meri lana to the rise of social commerce, there are plenty of trends to explore. From a creative agency’s perspective, we are going to spill the tea in your cup on how you can take advantage of these trends and make waves in the market. Imagine you are walking through a bustling Karachi street while being bombarded with advertisements from all sides. From vibrant vehicle branding on rickshaws to colourful graffiti selling everything from chai to rockets (not exactly, but you get the point), advertising in Pakistan is like a wild desert landscape.

1. Where Billboards and Bullock Carts Collide: In the world of Pakistani advertising, old meets new in a whirlwind of creativity. It is not unusual to see a billboard promoting the latest smartphone next to a bullock cart laden with fresh produce. The contrast is startling, yet it is this juxtaposition that defines our advertising landscape – and you will probably not see it change much in the next 25 years. Bullock carts will remain, although billboards may turn into digital boards. Visit Allah Wali Chowrangi and witness a KFC digital board over McDonald’s outlet – and if you are lucky, you could spot a donkey cart passing by as well.

2. The Street Art Revolution: Have you ever wondered what happens when you combine traditional art with modern marketing? The answer: Pakistan’s thriving street art scene. From the narrow streets of Lahore to the bustling markets of Islamabad, artists are turning walls into canvases for ad campaigns. It’s like a gallery on every corner with a side of marketing magic.

3. Small Business Marketing: Visiting Lahore I stumbled on Shahbaz’s tea stall. What was so special about it? Well, Shahbaz turned his humble tea stall into a mini advertising agency. His tea comes with a side of marketing advice, and I left with a new-found appreciation for grassroots marketing. Shahbaz uses several channels to reach customers and build a loyal customer base, among them social media. He has a sizable presence on Facebook and Instagram, where he shares photos and videos of his teas, as well as customer testimonials. It seems that the big boys will not continue to dominate the marketing scene with their big money. The new currency will be ideas and a will to do something different.

4. The Gali Ka Hero Trend: We are familiar with the term Gali Ka Hero – it translates into ‘local hero’ and celebrates ordinary folks who become heroes in their neighbourhoods. In other words, they are our unsung heroes. Brands are tapping into this phenomenon, using local stories to create relatable, heart-warming and memorable campaigns. They are a reminder that advertising does not always have to be grand and that sometimes the local touch wins hearts. An example is Dasani, a bottled water brand from Coca-Cola, which ran a campaign on local Pakistani heroes to celebrate their quiet contribution to society.

5. Memes Marketing: Pakistan is surfing the social media wave like a pro. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are our playgrounds. The best part is that we have humour down to science. Memes are our love language and brands that speak it will win big – because if you can make us laugh, you have our attention. BBC Urdu recently ran a documentary called Pakistan Memes Ki Dunya Mein Wah Wah – a recognition of the popularity of Pakistani memes. This said, the adoption of meme marketing by brands has been limited due to concerns about potential threats to brand image. But if it does take off, it will also take our advertising to a new level.

6. Make ’Em Feel Special: Remember the feeling of walking into a restaurant where the owner knows your name and your favourite menu items? This is the magic of personalisation. In the digital world, personalisation is about customising campaigns to fit individual tastes. Whether it is using customer data or a dynamic creative, the objective is to make every customer feel like a VIP. Coca-Cola ran a campaign in which they printed common Pakistani names on their bottles. This encouraged people to find and share a Coke with friends and family members whose names were on the bottles. FoodPanda and other food delivery platforms often use data to provide personalised food recommendations. They analyse past orders and food preferences to suggest restaurants and dishes to suit individual tastes.

7. Creating Memorable Moments: Advertising is going from musical extravaganzas (jingles) to creating experiences. Khawaja, a kabab king, made his truck a mobile food fest. He is an artist in the kitchen and a marketer on wheels. People wait in line for hours not only for his succulent kababs but also for the experience. It’s a lesson that branding is not just about logos; it is about the creation of memorable moments.

8. The Power of Storytelling: One thing that sets Pakistan apart in the advertising world is our storytelling tradition. From our Bachon Ki Dunya tales to the latest TV dramas, we are born storytellers. Brands have caught on, weaving compelling narratives that resonate with consumers. If you can tell a good story, you are halfway to our hearts. Remember that three-minute Qmobile ad featuring a girl with a passion to become a cricket star? Or Shan’s ad where a Chinese woman cooked chicken biryani for her neighbours using their recipe mix? I bet you do and that is the power of storytelling.

9. Shopping Meets Socialising: Picture someone scrolling through your Facebook feed, spotting the perfect pair of shoes, and buying them with a single click. That is the power of social commerce; it is like having a mall in your customer’s pocket. The Branded Collection is a Facebook channel that sells women’s clothing live – and it signals the marriage of Facebook with WhatsApp. The anchor shows stuff live on Facebook and takes orders via WhatsApp. Brands are partnering with social media influencers and turning their posts into shops. Pakistanis no longer simply like posts; they are clicking ‘buy’!

10. Adapting to the Unpredictable: Pakistan is a land of unpredictability; from political upheavals to unexpected floods, to cricket matches that we want to win but end up losing. Brands in Pakistan have learned to adapt and stay agile. If a monsoon cannot stop us from getting our chai, nothing will.

So, what does the future hold for creative advertising in Pakistan? Are we set to see more rockets in the advertising space? Or will rickshaws always be a part of our landscape? One thing is certain; as long as Pakistan exists, our advertising will continue to be an unpredictable safari; a rollercoaster ride that merges tradition and modernity in unexpected ways. From chai stalls to e-commerce giants, our advertising is a blend of chaos, creativity and charm. There is always a surprise waiting around the corner.

Khalid Naseem is a brand and marketing strategy consultant and freelance writer.