Pakistan is a nation that is defined not just by its physical borders and underrated scenery, but also by its soul and spirit. Every time the country undergoes a challenge or August 14 takes place, its spirit gives us the jubilant feeling of being ‘one’ – albeit temporarily. This year, as always, corporations and brands draped the Pakistan flag and invested in ad campaigns to relay their ‘unique’ take on what it means to be a Pakistani. Here, I list my top three and not-so-top-three August 14 ads:
1. Zong 4G – 75 Years of Azadi – Notes of A.G. Chagla - A Tribute
This takes the top spot on my list. It stays true to the spirit of independence while marketing its product subtly and without being too obvious. A musicology student struggles with his thesis report, experimenting with classic melodies. His mother remarks that she doesn't understand Mozart and prefers listening to Pakistani songs. After facing rejection regarding his project many times (while chronicling everything online through Zong’s seamless internet connection), he sets out on a challenge – recreating the melody of the Pakistani national anthem with a little help from beyond the grave – through internet research on the famous Pakistani composer, A.G. Chagla who composed our national anthem.
2. HabibMetro Bank – 75 Years of Pakistan and HabibMetro’s Legacy
What should a nation's history be? Should it be superficial, bordering on a romanticised retelling of power dynamics and shiny achievements, or more of a grounded and gritty account, chronicling the blood, sweat and tears behind it all? Rather than focusing on material innovation, this ad spoke of something more abstract: hope as a result of faith. An old man narrates the eventful journey of his life to his grandson. We are taken through different timelines as the story begins in 1946 in Bombay all the way to 1998 when Pakistan becomes a force to be reckoned with on the nuclear front. Throughout the story, the viewer experiences a multitude of emotions as the narration instils a powerful message of keeping one's head up and powering through.
3. Oreo Pakistan – #PAK75STAN
This ad is more of a deviation from the previous two. It is simple and takes the route of visual storytelling – a montage of Pakistani landmarks, all made up of Oreo biscuits! Oreo adorably aligns itself with Pakistan as it turns “75 years young”. The depiction of landmarks is important, as it not only shows our heritage but our invaluable sites of tourism. Oreo Pakistan also unveils a brand new Independence Day surprise – a special edition cookie!
Ads That Missed the Mark
1. Sarsabz – Sarsabz Pakistan Ki Umeed
Sarsabz, in collaboration with Fatima Fertilizers, failed to successfully establish the personalised human connect with the product. An elderly gentleman looks at photos from the past; as his grandson enters the room and asks him to accompany him to Independence Day celebrations, the man dissents at first but gives in at the persistence of the boy. At this point, audience members, like myself, would skip the rest rather than wait for the ‘suspense’ to end. The core message of the ad, “Dharti hamari maa hai, beta” seems forced and clichéd rather than organic.
2. Tajarat Properties – Dada Jaan, an Original Film
Lazy marketing with cues and stimuli thrown in to make the more emotionally vulnerable among us shed a tear or two as a fail-safe (which personally should be a last resort) is Tajarat Properties' short film Dada Jaan. Predictably, our protagonist is an elderly man whose family, especially grandchildren, are shown to be fussing around, clearly impatient for the meal to be over. As soon as the birthday cake is cut, everyone goes away, leaving the man alone with his youngest granddaughter to whom he excitedly narrates the story of Pakistan. A short commentary on materialistic tendencies overshadowing the more abstract is not just enough to hold one’s attention, not to mention flimsy connections to Independence Day as well as no indication as to how and where Tajarat Properties factors in.
3. J. Fragrances and Cosmetics – Watan Ki Khushboo Anthem
Finally, the last item on the agenda, and a let-down not expected of an illustrious brand like J.’s advertisement for fragrances. The elements seem too disjointed to be part of a whole. Beginning with the iconic Radio Pakistan announcement – yes, there are depictions of culture, religion, post-partition immigration as well as portions dedicated to native languages of Pakistan in the song playing in the backdrop, but there is virtually nothing tying it all together to portray a collective soul. The entire ad is one big music video extolling the virtues of independence. I personally feel slighted in the sense that this music video approach seems like a disservice to the image of the man who created the brand after abandoning an illustrious career in music for a more spiritual path. A person picking up a J. perfume called '1947' just lying around in random spots like the desert, kissing the bottle and spraying also feels like forced placement. Could have been better, people.
To conclude, a recurring theme throughout the not-so-favourable-ads was elderly men trying to explain what being a Pakistani should mean to the newer generation. Meanwhile, the Zong 4G ad centred on a young person rediscovering love for his homeland on his own, cementing the fact that one must find their own connection to the land that has nurtured them.
Muhammad Ahmed is a compulsive writer with a penchant for bridging differences. email@example.com