Remember the ads of yesteryear?

Published: May 16, 2012

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 and 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.

  • kazmageddon

    ah, brings back memories
    but when i clicked this, i thought this would be about old commercials… most of the ads mentioned are defiantly not. Nevertheless, a refreshing article.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Wow. No they don’t have a certain ‘feel’ to them. Kids remember stuff vividly from their past. Especially when there only two or three TV channels in their childhood, of which only a few featuring Wasim Akram in an ad. It is like the comedian, Chris Rock, says, “If you give a starving man a cracker he will think it is the best cracker he ever ate.”

    I remember everything from my childhood. When kids today grow up, they will remember a lot of these adverts, good or bad.

    You are reading far too much into this. ;)Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Oh and people should realize that when that advert is recalled by adults who were kids back then, we aren’t admiring its ability to shake us emotionally, but its terrible production values. When we think about that advert today, we laugh.

    There was also a Gillette ad where some dude is shaving with a new ‘Blue 2’ and his buddy is standing down the stairs. Both have incredibly hairy bodies. So the one downstairs asks him how it is, and the one upstairs tosses his used razor down to his friend, shouting, “Lo, azmao!”

    We don’t recall these adverts because they touched our soul. We recall them because they were hilariously bad, and there was very little advertising on TV anyway, so they stood out in our minds. Recommend

  • The Analyst

    What about- “Aik chutky dentonic se …. ” and “Piyaray bacho kiwi kya hai … ” Aaah good old days. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Tricky business this………what works for some does not work for others.Recommend

  • faraz

    What’s the name of that stunning female model in Ufone add? The add would have been quite forgettable without her.Recommend

  • Asad Baig.

    All those who were Kids/in their teens in the 1980s/90s will be happy to see these Gems(Ads) from PTV’s Golden Era.

  • galli ki larki

    oh oh oh…. the guy in waseem akram ad is Luci of Teen bta Teen .. i noticed todayRecommend

  • peshawri

    lol he used to drink “it”…. we were kids in those days… now we know what he used to do …..Recommend

  • n00r

    @ galli ki larki
    ya i noticed the same its luci ( Adeel Hashmi, son of Shoaib Hashmi) Recommend

  • tanzeel

    What about Waseem Akram’s new ad in which a telecom a company has turned him into a gutter breed…Recommend

  • alicia

    I still remember the Marlboro cigarette add “Yaro yahi dosti hai kismat say jo mili hai ..”
    and the Lipton Chai chahiye. Kon si janab .Recommend

  • Sana

    We remember those advertisements well, because in those times we only had one channel called “PTV” and we had no choice but to listen to the advertisements rather than change the channel while the commercial break is over. So please dont over simplify marketing. Recommend

  • Fahim Khan

    Daant safaid aor chamakdaaar.. Din To Nic.! never used it but remember the ad, while watching the morning cartoons shows on PTV.. Recommend

  • ALi

    nowadays no message is given in any ad. Only sex appeal and testimonial appeal is used with a little bit of slice of life. Recommend

  • hafsah

    i believe, there’s nothing about simplicity, the only factor here is nostalgia and association with the brands used in the past decades. Who knows after 10 to 20 years when we get to see today’s adverts we might like most of them tagging them with simplicity.
    everything from concepts of promotion to production have now been developed immensely so yeah after sometime we will definitely be talking about adverts that are being aired.
    we cant ignore some ads that still covers the element of emotions even today, ‘DAIRY MILK, COCA COLA and OLPERS are some brands that are exemplified in most of the universities because of their good adverts and other promotional activities, and I’m sure they’ll be remembered for a good long time. Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Whilst it is perceived that Pepsi’s “5-rupee kam kerdo” ad campaign was catchy, Synergizer noted that Coca Cola’s more family oriented Ramadan campaign was much more recalled.

    Sadly, these days many of the successful ads are cheap. The Ufone ad that is placed here makes fun of a voice which had natural pitch problems.Recommend

  • Irfan Cheema

    Sorry to be a bore but Waseem Akraqm does or atleast did smoke, sometime after the add was made. Saw him with own eyes at a test match in UK. Thats the reason the add stayed in my memory, because of the hipocracy of it!Recommend

  • Cpt. Obvious

    Lets not forget Guy Soap with the classic “What a guy!” ending!Recommend

  • Zaheer

    Surely takes back to the childhood days where i used the sing along on

    “Come on Come on Come on and have a pepsi day”…. “meri muthi main band hai kia”….
    ” Noras lay k ghar aanaa”….

    however… these days… i amuse my self listening to statments “cone hai sahir lodhi nai…”
    dance steps of a rice company celebrating 40 or 50 years…Recommend

  • Sajid Ali

    I still recall very old ad from early 70s by Phillips

    “Aaiyee na aap hamarey ghar.”

    “Na parosi naa”

    “App key ghar mein TV nahi”

    This was in black and white.Recommend