You! Yeah you! You who inhabit the Pakistani inter webs and fill every last forum with your comments on literally every last thing. I have a question for you. Why are you not talking about possibly the most significant advertising campaign of the year?
No I don’t mean the next Coke ad because they’d be the Zalimas if they keep forcing that old horse to race. Nor do I mean the multitude of tone-deaf, half-baked detergent and dish soap ads. I’m referring to Telenor’s latest campaign.
Yes, I’m serious. And yes, I’m well aware their ads are usually less than stellar; I haven’t forgotten the brain fart brought to life from last year. But hear me out.
A YouTube Ad Worth Watching?
So, this is about a few weeks ago. I’m on YouTube and I decided to watch a Superwoman video. Given YouTube’s current dependency on ads, an ad starts playing first. A decent looking man is unnecessarily fixing his hair on screen, only to utter,
“Woman’s rights ki to sab Bat karte haiN, nobody talks about Men’s right!”
Dumbfounded, my reaction was literally what the actual eff is this ish? Yeah I’ve taken a leaf out of Lilly Singh’s book, substituting out my otherwise usually free flowing expletives. Anyway, this man goes on to say, “After all, it’s a man’s world”. Now, I’m on the verge of raging, getting ready to watch this ad so I can rip into it online for you all. Especially after the train wreck that was Bata’s new posters.
Spoiler Alert: I’m going to be doing the exact opposite.
I love a good twist, especially one I don’t see coming. I’m generally very good at spotting foreshadowing, or so I like to believe, so I can usually call things out. So in the rare times when I don’t see things coming, when a story leaves me gob smacked, I love it. For that to happen while watching a skip-able ad on YouTube though, is unheard off.
I assumed this was another brain fart inadvertently brought to life, by frustrated marketing heads desperately trying to make their mark on the Pakistani ad landscape. But it turned into two and a half minutes or pure, stereotype shattering gold. This ad basically took all that we as a society believe is manly and masculine and beautifully disposed of it all.
Second spoiler, the male protagonist is a stay-at-home dad who posts cooking videos on YouTube. Recently, the average Pakistani Male’s ego was bruised quite easily (think the SOC incident or the many BS Verna reviews). And I would have thought the repressed Pakistani male populace would be up in arms about such an advertising campaign; but nothing.
What Women Really Want
I eventually moved on to watching the Superwoman video and the ad slipped my mind. That is until I was witness to another ‘skip-able’ ad. This time, a dark-skinned woman is sitting in a dressing room. She goes on to say;
“Wanna know what women really want?”
What follows is another assault on stereotypes, and so-called social norms. This time calling out our tendency to bring down people, especially women, when they deviate even slightly from the archaic, preordained, and at times draconian norms. It does so by bringing to centre-stage, the words that are thorns in the sides of many; “Haw Haye”.
Calling these the boundary by which good girls are defined, the ad explains how they are used as ammunition to kill a multitude of hopes and dreams. It then conveys a message of defying these norms. This adds on to the theme of the last ad; showing us that what is expected of us is not necessarily what is right for us.
Given how relatable I found this to be, one would have thought this would be shared quite a bit. But once again, zilch.
An Advertising Campaign that Hits Home
It was at this point that I decided to check out Telenor’s YouTube channel and found two more similar ads. One was about we look down upon the use of Urdu as a first language. The other, that particularly hit home with me, about the ridiculous amounts of pressure put on students to get results.
Like many of you reading this, I too, am a product of the Pakistani education system. Thus, I have been through this. From as early as age 9 until A’ levels, after which I went off to University in London, and things drastically changed for me. Your worth as a student is equated by how many A*’s you get. God forbid you should get an A or worse, a B.
Regardless of how hard-working I was, what my attitude was or how much I actually knew, the clock hand of my life would go no further without the grades.
What’s worse is, if the teacher was horrible, that wouldn’t matter because you got the bad grade. I once had a teacher who gave me 5 out of a possible 10 for my logical answer as to why I took his subject. While a classmate got 10 out of 10 for writing the one sentence: “because I wanted to.”
Well, you get it by now that this ad really hit home. It tells a similar tale, of how society has ‘evolved’ to believe that success is derived through grades, any other pursuit is folly. Though this same society promotes Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and other college drop-outs as successful people.
The underlying theme once again is, to not weigh your worth against the archaic expectations of an unforgiving society. This, I thought for sure would strike the right chords with the youth. But again, nada.
Why Aren’t We Talking About This?
There’s so much to talk about, so much good in these ads, yet we are quiet? We shared the mindless Zalima ads over and over. Talked about how good they were, when all they had was a somewhat catchy song that got old really quickly.
Everyone and their moms weighed on the SOC incident, argued for hours about the Islamabad Dharna, and literally made fun of a woman because of the way she talked on a game show. But a good ad doesn’t warrant a single share?
Partially though, I feel Telenor may be to blame for not pushing this hard enough. But we as a people talk about everything else, feel the need to fill every last forum with their own points of view. When we stay quiet about something which will no doubt have a positive effect, I find it incredibly worrying.