The wondrous world of ‘badvertising’

Published: October 8, 2011

If you decide to turn on the TV, be prepared to sit through the mind-numbingly ridiculous ads...

You have just come home from a stressful day of work and decide to unwind by sitting in front of the TV and indulging in some me-time. Just when you find a show that seems to strike your fancy, the channel decides you subject you to a commercial break. You let our an exasperated groan, and the torturous attacks on your nervous system begins.

From shaking their booties to annoying jingles (remember 09-00-78601?) to cheesy plots – Pakistani ads have it all. The most aggravating part is that every channel decides to take their commercial breaks at the same time. There is no respite and no way to escape. You have to suffer the agony of sitting through the mind-numbingly ridiculous ads.

While print and radio advertisements are less painful the ones that run on TV are pure torture. While I do not have a count yet of how many things I  hate about the multitude of commercials running on the idiot box, here are my top 5.


Their big claim is that they get the toughest of stains out of the garment. Well, excuse me for being so bold, but isn’t this exactly why they are called detergents?

A ‘different concept’ was recently brought in by a local brand of washing powder showing Shaan and Noor as a couple where the husband hands over a packet of washing powder to her wife in a moment of intimacy they shared. A writer at a major marketing oriented blog gave a thumbs up to the ad for its emotional appeal. You call that emotional appeal? If my husband ever presents me with a packet of washing powder during a romantic moment, I wouldl curtly ask him spend the night on the living room couch.

Cooking oil

These guarantee you a cholesterol-free healthy life – and miraculously, that after eating biryani, parathas, deep fried chicken and french fries. These ads become an even greater torture during the month of Ramazan when Amir Liaquat takes an oath that he will only sell his cooking oil before Iftaar. The only good thing about them is the inner guilt I can easily get rid of after munching on delicious burgers while I am on a diet. After all, they are prepared using the healthy, low calorie, cholesterol-free cooking oil.

Cell phone connection

These guys do not need a concept at all; just rip, rape and ridicule the competitors’ version, and consider it a job well-done. However, if I have to choose between their old dance-and-sell ads and the ones currently running, I would definitely prefer the current ones.

Warning: the moment you notice fine pint on your screen which will vanish in a matter of seconds, know that they are lying about the rates they claim they are offering.

Fairness cream

These are wildly popular even a decade after the world has entered the 21st century. God knows what makes advertisers think that only beautiful (read: fair-skinned) girls make it to their dream jobs. Fairness creams are hardly good enough to get one qualified for therishtaa brigade’, let alone a dream job.

 Real estate 

I only discover at the very end of these long ads, that they were actually trying to sell some property. The ad begins with a groom in an awful looking sherwaani who enters the bedroom on the wedding night. Lets not to forget, the sleazy jingle running in the background that is ripped off from some Bollywood song. The bride, in an even more awful looking dress is waiting with a coy smile. This marks the beginning of the family. In the next sequence, the couple is seen eating meals with four kids (proving family planning ads are equally ineffective), when the wife requests her husband:

Hamein bhi Rizwaana Apartments mein apna ghar dilaadein na!”

“Please buy us our own house in Rizwaana Apartments!”

And there you have it; this series of events is supposed to convince you to spend millions of rupees. To be very honest, my 3-year-old cousin’s plea for a lollipop is far more convincing.

Like I said, these are only my 5 top picks amongst some greatest wonders in the world of advertising. Unable to tolerate the short commercial break, which in reality is longer than the program itself, you decide to focus on your healthy, low calorie, chicken burger, served with french fries, prepared in cholesterol-free cooking oil. The delicious burger is just about to come close to your mouth when your eye catches the screen;  a camera is capturing images from deep inside of a stained commode.

Sigh- welcome to the toilet bowl cleaner ad.


Sana Iqbal

A marketing student who teaches economics, Sana is a freelance writer based in Karachi. She is an aspiring journalist and blogs at Twitter handle: @sanarites

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

  • Zain Gilani

    Ni bachega. Ni bachega. Ni bachega x 3 .. Ughhh These stupid ads.

    A nice article by the way. Couldn’t agree more ! Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    Ok ok I agree you are more creative than them. Recommend

  • Omega Supreme

    I almost threw up at the end. Bloody brilliant & totally spot on.Recommend

  • Shane

    thats why i left tv and use laptop :)Recommend

  • adnan zaidi

    very well written article . nice undertone humorRecommend

  • Sana Iqbal

    Thank you for liking. will be putting up the unedited version on my blog soon.Recommend

  • Baber

    If my husband ever presents me with a packet of washing powder during a romantic moment, I wouldl curtly ask him spend the night on the living room couch.

    Nailed it there.

    These advertisements are ridiculous. Can you even think that a Telecom giant Mobilink doesn’t have the resources to make up its own graphic its new Jazba package. Mobilink just googled crazy cool logo and used copy/pate.
    Crazy cool logo

    That mobilink stunts says all about the creativity these guys have. Recommend

  • Prodigy..!!

    Tea Ads must be Number 6. Tarang, Tea Max :p .. May be the advertisers have a policy to get attention via annoying ppl. Weird but works for them!!Recommend

  • Xam Xaffa

    HaHaHaHaHa! This Made Me Laugh So Hard! Recommend

  • Susu Diapers

    Woman kissing those diapers is just ewww ….Recommend

  • Ufone

    Well UFone is an exception though. There ads are bloody hilarious. The standard overall should improve.Recommend

  • Junaid

    Before I read this article I myself never knew why I stopped watching tv a long time ago!
    Now I do….Recommend

  • malik

    One consolation is that, our commercials and advertising are definitely better than the Indian ones!Recommend

  • Parvez

    I feel our guys are very creative but when you have censorship rules that force you to work within restricted boundaries then creativity gets muzzled and you land up with a product that is just so-so.
    Liked the article and your easy style of writing. Recommend

  • sahar syed

    haha… true..nicely writtenRecommend

  • Opium

    Good subject but as far as the article goes, your humor is cliched and seems like you tried really hard to make this article funny when you really didn’t need to. Recommend

  • Jockeychik

    @malik: are you kidding me? Our ads are better than India’s?? I guess you need to watch more Indian channels or simply YouTube ‘best advertisements’ … You will b amazed how many Indian ads make it to the top list! Recommend

  • Yumna

    Slight disagreement here- advertising isn’t about making ads with brilliant concepts, it’s about making something that the audience would relate to. A basic concept that we study in advertising is that any ad must fulfill the following principles- AIDA which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. That ACTION is most important from any brand’s perspective. If you wanted to add logical weight to your point; it should’ve been backed my some statistics proving that these ads are unsuccessful.

    The fairness cream ad concept? disgusting- yes, successful in terms of converting to sales/winning loyal consumers- hell yes!

    This does not mean that I fully endorse the quality of our advertising- yes we have a LONG way to go to match up to the standards of say India; but the wider audience, the target market, needs to mature accordingly- in terms of education, lifestyle, socially etc. Otherwise, what would be the point of ads that look pretty but don’t serve their basic principle?Recommend

  • Yumna

    uh, you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. Indian ads are brilliant! Recommend

  • Javeria Mahmood

    brilliant article can’t agree anymore…Recommend

  • KolachiMom

    And, her jora doesn’t ALWAYS have to EXACTLY match the shampoo bottle ffs!

    Nice post, enjoyed the subtle humor.Recommend

  • waqqas iftikhar

    brilliant!! but ‘fine pint’? have we started advertising pilsener? wohoo!!!?Recommend

  • asssssss

    ur comment was better than the article!Recommend

  • exams-are-near


    Thank you for pasting your principles of marketing lecture…I needed that :PRecommend

  • Rabia Malik

    our adds are purposeless….. they dont have any guts to capture the interest the audiance… only i think ufone is doing thiei job welll although their adds r funny but have smthing in it… indians adds have sm meanings…Recommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    A nice article but ET where is the editing? So many grammatical errors! It just ruins the flow when one is reading. Recommend

  • Ali kazmi

    For the Detergent Add: They are targeted at rural areas where detergent can be a good way to express a night advancement.

    Regards Recommend

  • designer gaon

    The designer dress that noor is wearing that ad isnt what rural women wear. and i know who designed it…sobad way of taregtingRecommend

  • Baba ji

    Sana Iqbal : You are good … Bittiya you are good … Shabaash …. I like your writing style …. you have actually hit the right chord … it was time someone pointed out the stupid ads we are bombarded with … not to discourage our youth but our ads show how jahil we are as a nation …. we need people dancing to convince us to use Tarang milk for our tea !!!!! DANG !!!!Recommend

  • Sana Iqbal


    Thank you for your appreciation. You can read the unedited version of this article at


  • Sana Iqbal
  • john

    You watch tv? Seriously?Recommend

  • sara

    u forgot the telenor talk shawk ad, which tho is a bit old…husband presents wife with a jewellery set…that he himself got as a freebie! and the wife is apparently ok with it!! if i found out my husband had recycled a free gift and given it to me…..thats another night hed spend on the couch. Recommend

  • john

    sara, try that with your husband, i’m sure that would be the last night you spent with home.

    This is exactly why I am against the liberal fascism. Women should not be allowed to talk or think about their husbands like that. They should respect them as told them in our religion. And here women talk about their husbands like they are used tissue. Throw them away if you don’t need them!Recommend

  • sara

    yr religion only teaches women to respect their husbands?? my my isnt that sad….in my religion, respect between husband and wife is a two way street….if women arent allowed to think or talk like that about their husbands, well, neither are husbands supposed to think or talk like that about their wives or treat their wives like used tissue either. “you have rights over your wives and they have rights over you”, one of those rights is being spoilt and pampered by our husbands and another one is respect. so much so that that was one of the last things that prophet mohammad stressed on before he died, thats how important treating yr wife right is..why is it that when ppl like u quote religion, they only quote the part that suits the man, but very conveniently leave out the part that doesnt suit them?Recommend

  • malik

    If my wife tried that tactic with me, I would immediately use those magical three words* which a muslima never wants to hear in her life !

    clue; it is not ‘I love you’….

  • Yumna

    Then I fear for the well-being and happiness of your wife. Do yourself and the poor soul a favour and dont marry.
    It’s men like you who’ve ruined the image of Islam. Do your research about Prophet Mohammad’s (S.A.W) relationships with his wives and his general treatment of women before declaring your judgements as ‘right and islamic’.Recommend

  • sara

    @malik….do the poor girl a favour and divorce her, so that she is free to find the right guy who can and WILL treat her right, i.e. accord her an islamic treatment, which she as a “muslimah” deserves, and which right her religion grants her. and BTW, while u R throwing religion at me, do u know what a detestable act divorce is under islam? Recommend

  • Parvez

    @malik and @ john its not fair that you’re engaging in leg pulling with Sara and Yumna and both of them have taken you seriously – now be men and appologise.
    Anyway liked the little exchange but you guys took a hit.Recommend