If you had to study advertising as a course or happen to work in an agency, you are made to watch a mind-numbing array of TVCs for various god forsaken reasons. I did both. And I learned two very crucial things: there are ads, and then there are atrocities.
The most ironically funny are the ones that contain a popular celebrity, aka the celebrity endorsements. Defined as “a form of promotional campaign that involves a well known person using their fame to help promote a product or service”, celebrity endorsements are a tricky bet to pull off. This is primarily so because we don’t really have any proper celebrities in Pakistan to begin with. If you start counting the number of celebrity endorsements gone bad I guess you will compile more volumes than Encyclopedia Britannica.
So here are the 5 worst examples from the recent times that I consider celebrity endorsements gone horribly wrong!
Wasim Akram for Ariel
I look at this ad and I wonder how desperate Wasim Akram could have been or how much money Ariel must have dished out. The brand which has been rolling out series of similar comparative advertising campaigns with a male lead probably thought a celeb cricketer would be very relevant. But I question, isn’t he too premium to be walking around in neighborhoods and asking people about their laundry detergents? I presume there must have been quite a bit of research but somehow common sense prevails and to me it says there’s a disconnect.
Ahsan Khan and The Real Shahrukh Khan aka Sahir Lodhi were probably acceptable but Wasim Akram? No. It is celebrity just for the sake of it.
Iman Ali for Kashmir Cooking Oil
Okay so all you need is to watch the TVC with model turned actress Iman Ali and with Indian dancer Hanif Hilal (not a celebrity but he has done a few dancing shows on Indian channels). The ad starts as a fairly normal plot around kitchen but then the horror is unleashed as Iman Ali goes from cooking Korma to initiating Kama Sutra with her facial expressions frivolously playing a cat mouse chase in the kitchen.
One expects to see a family-friendly warm ‘slice of life’ moment in a food product ad. Although it might have been a hit for a more personal product in an intimate setting, here it’s surely a miss.
Cricketers for Fair & lovely Max
What do you do when you have to market a men’s grooming product to masses? Well, the stereotypical answer would be a sports star. And if you have to market a fairness product, would you cast a fair Pathan guy who is already pretty fair? I guess no. The agency and the brand team probably had this myopic thought that men would respond the same way females respond but I guess they should have known better than casting Shoaib Malik and whiting him out like white fluorescent lamps.
My experience in men’s fashion retail has taught me that men think more practically and are not swayed but such fancy quackery. Can’t you find a more ingenious way than ‘patana hai’.
Zubeida Apa for Doctor Toothpaste
Zubeida Tariq is to Pakistan what Martha Stewart is to United States. The lady should be applauded for coming up with the weirdest and often funniest shit that can put even full time comedians to shame. She is the undisputed queen of uncanny home remedies. But having said that, endorsing a toothpaste which is supposedly making your smile look nice isn’t a good idea when your own teeth and gums are stained.
If you are marketing a personal hygiene/well-being product you would ideally show a model/celebrity that is high on those end benefits after the use of the said product. The real beauty approach of Dove sadly doesn’t apply here. Toothpaste=good smile. As simple as that.
Ayesha Khan for Telenor Talkshawk
Television actress Ayesha Khan may be the most commercially viable actress right now and maybe just maybe she is the perfect aspirational figure for Talkshawk’s demographic. But the story line of the Anarkali and its relevance with target group’s top of mind entertainment consideration set is a big question mark. There are times I wonder if people coming up with such concepts and the ones approving are high on drugs or something. Although I don’t have the numbers of the campaign’s results but I would take the liberty to laugh it off to an extent that tears starting rolling out. The advertisement fails to highlight her so called celebrity status and instead chose a tired irrelevant concept.
Having said all of this I would like to point out that merely numbers should not be held as the parameter for gauging the effectiveness of a campaign. You might disagree and I respect your right to differ with my highly subjective opinions. You probably find even worse examples but I have a fleeting memory so these were the one that stuck in my head. I would love for all the readers to put it in your nominations for worse celebrity endorsements in the comments below.
By Syed Aamir Bukhari
Illustration by The Desi Design using icons from The Noun Project