Published in Jul-Aug 2023
First things first. Despite the stress and the gloomy times we live in; the economic uncertainties, the rising cost of living and the frustration of not understanding why, when the prescriptions are so obvious, Pakistan is unable to turn the corner and move towards some sort of long-term economic stability and progress – despite all this, we have a ray of bright sunshine. So without further ado, very warm congratulations to the wonderful women and men who recently shone at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.
Congratulations to Raaj Kheraj and Ezza Syed from the Adcom Leo Burnett team for winning the Silver Medal at the Young Lions Competition and to Sameer Ali, also from Adcom Leo Burnett, for his selection to the Creative Academy. Congratulations to the indomitable Atiya Zaidi from BBDO Pakistan for winning the Glass: The Lion for Change Gold Award, for EBM’s campaign ‘Schoolgirls Newscasters’ – and felicitations to EBM for being the sort of client ready and willing to move the needle (we need more!). Finally, and not least, congratulations to Ali Rez, a veteran recipient of innumerable international and local advertising and creativity awards. Ali Rez has brought honour to Pakistan for being the first creative from Pakistan to have been selected as Jury President of the Cannes Festival. An amazing triumph for Pakistani creativity and a source of inspiration for everyone involved in this exciting calling that is advertising.
On to our cover story, where we take a look at Gen Z through the prism of food. By any measure, and whichever way one chooses to take it, Gen Z are inherently different from any of the preceding generations. Of course, all generations are different – especially when young – until the passage of time, the assumption of responsibilities and challenging encounters with the unexpected reshape outlooks, equalising them to the dimensions of what we call the human condition. Nevertheless, this generation is different.
Gen Z are different because they exist in an age of accelerated evolution, where change is a state of being rather than a happenstance. Because they exist in a time when the rules that govern our customs and behaviour – what is expected of us and what we can be certain of expecting – have been disrupted. Because they exist in a time when the definition of what is true and what is false is disappearing. And perhaps most of all because Gen Z inhabit two worlds; the physical and the digital. All previous generations, the Millennials included, were born at a time when it was still possible to experience (in varying degrees of advancement) the transition to the new world we are living in. For Gen Z, the world as experienced by even their immediate preceding generation, is a world that belongs to the past; a world they can perhaps imagine but will not have as a reference point for a lived experience. And all this is expressed in the way they want to live and in their lifestyles.
Implied in all the above is the overarching influence of social media. Social media has made Gen Z both more sociable and more isolated. More social because they can pretty much connect to anyone they want to. Isolated, because almost (but not) everything they do is through the agency of the screen rather than person to person, eyeball to eyeball. And this applies to their food preferences too. It is through their screen that they learn about and discuss food. They may not be able to eat through their screen (at least not yet), but their food experience is not complete unless it has been given a screen presence before, during or after consumption – preferably all three.
This said, it is not only about the screen. Gen Z bring a robust approach to what they like to eat. Their worldview embraces both diversity and authenticity, leading them to try what is different, and then blend different flavours and textures and conjure new dishes if not cuisines, and while their awareness about sustainability motivates them to lean towards the organic and embrace ingredients that are locally available. They are also price sensitive; they live in times when the cost of living is on a perpetual rise, irrespective of where they live. And they love to share their food experiences, and in so doing they multiply the experience exponentially across different social media platforms, creating new trends that make it hard for the purveyors of food, be they brands or the establishments that serve or deliver food, to keep up. And yet keep up they must. Not only in what they serve but also in how they serve it (everything must be Instagrammable) and when they serve it (traditional opening and closing hours may need revising).
Like everything they do, Gen Z are bringing a new outlook to the dining table – an outlook that is the product of the way they live. To even start connecting with them, brands in Pakistan will need to take an altogether more granular approach to understanding this generation.