Remember the ads of yesteryear?

Published: May 16, 2012
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Wasim bhai ap thaktay nahin hain?’

(Wasim brother, don’t you get tired?)

Nahi, mein cigarette nahin peeta.’

(No, because I don’t smoke.)

These simple words uttered by Wasim Akram in an anti-smoking advertisement many years ago are still remembered by millions. I am sure all those born in the 80s watched this advertisement on their television sets, and those who missed it must have seen it on YouTube.

Why is it that we still remember this ad?

It is simply because the commercials of yesteryear had a certain feel to them. Even today, they successfully manage to grab our attention, and as soon as we watch them we can instantly recall the brand or campaign that they were associated with.

So why do these ads have such a high brand recall rate?

Firstly, most of the advertisements themselves were very simple, which makes sense as it is as it is believed that simplicity is beauty; these commercials had the power to gain and retain the viewer’s attention.

Secondly, the emotional connect of commercials of the past was really high, and one could actually create a need to buy the product advertised.

State Life Insurance’s ‘Ay khuda meray abbu salamat rahain’ (Dear God, please keep my father safe) or Molty Foam’s ‘Meri nannhi pari naye ghar ko chali’ (my little angel is going to a new home) are the two most relevant examples of this proposition.

Thirdly and most importantly the fact that PTV was the only channel – thanks to the sheer absence of cable television – also made a huge difference. Plus, the mindset that advertising is a waste of money made whatever few commercials that went on air grab the attention of viewers wholly and completely.

Coming back to the commercials we watch these days, it is undeniable that there is a glimpse of the past in them. Many carry the same concept that was prominent in the advertisements of  the past. 

The well appreciated and much talked about Mr White Smoker’s toothpaste advertisement, starring legendary actor Moin Akhtar, is reminiscent of Wasim Akram’s anti-smoking advertisement because of its simplicity.

The well known Pepsi commercial ‘kisnay kaha tha Pepsi pay 5 rupay kam kerdo?’ (who said to lower Pepsi’s price by Rs5?) is another example of an ad gaining popularity due to its simplicity.

The sense of emotional attachment portrayed in the commercials of earlier years can still be witnessed in the recent campaigns of National Foods and Tapal Tea.

Still, these companies do not enjoy similar brand recall. This is why most of the them have resorted to dance, comedy and mockery, creating a vicious clutter which makes it difficult for the viewer to recall the brand that an advertisement is promoting.

The war to be ubiquitous on every channel is making the situation even worse.

But there is some hope. Gurus sitting in the creative departments of the advertising agencies have figured a way out and it seems to be working; having a face for the brand.

Recent research carried out by the students of SZABIST found that Ufone has the highest brand recall because they have the same actors in all of their commercials which go on air.

In addition to this, complementing a commercial with other mediums on television, like branded content, also helps increase brand recall. For instance, Tarang’s “Hero Bannay ki Tarang” show or the 360 degree marketing campaigns by Dove and Pantene shampoo.

Only if brands carry out thorough preliminary research about their target market instead of jumping on the bandwagon, their advertisement campaigns might end up being more productive. It is also important to keep the local culture in mind, and realise that what’s popular abroad, may not necessarily be successful in Pakistan too. Plus, we need to give our young generation a chance to integrate their fresh ideas with those of the company.

If these suggestions are put into practice, it will certainly give remarkable results and make the shareholders and the owners feel that the advertising budget was spent well.

Read more by Salman here, or follow him on Twitter @jilani7

Salman Shah Jilani

Salman Shah Jilani

A management undergraduate who blogs at globaldaaira.wordpress.com and chowrangi.com and tweets at @jilani7.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.