There isn’t a parallel ceremony to the Academy Awards in Pakistan, but for account managers, creative directors and brand managers, the Pakistan Advertisers Awards (PAS) could be considered Pakistan’s equivalent to the Oscars of advertising. At the annual awards gala which was held last week, the who’s who of advertising, and then some, all descended upon the Expo Centre in Karachi, dressed to the nines and hoping to win gold.
With a total of 130 submissions received in 27 categories, the nominations were judged on a combination of the strategic challenge and objective of the ad campaign, bringing the idea to life and the result of the campaign. The screening of each nomination’s show reel revealed some of Pakistan’s most innovative campaigns (as well as the most annoying but unforgettable taglines), including the folks behind the painting of the bridge on Shara-e-Faisal (the makers of a popular soft-drink brand) as well as those who have turned doing the laundry into a romantic affair.
Fasi Zaka carried the evening at a decent pace with jokes that weren’t hilarious but amusing nonetheless. Behroze Sabzwari and Javed Sheikh, on the other hand, probably thought this was an episode of Family Front, delivering quips many of which didn’t even register. Fortunately there were plenty of other celebrities including Maheen Khan, Tapu Javeri, Nabila, Chef Mehboob, Chef Shai, Nazia Malik who was introduced as Frieha Altaf, Mathira with Beyonce Knowles’ dimensions, and the titans of the advertising industry, Anwar Rammal and Masood Hashmi.
The biggest attraction of the evening was Alamgir. Performing with Fuzon and singing hits such as Keh Do Na, the former and now resurgent pop sensation showed how he could still rock a crowd. Alamgir remains a cherished performer and his return to Pakistan, despite his ailing health, has taken Pakistanis back to all that was good before rock. Dressed in his signature white pants, he jumped, danced and sung his heart out without the slightest hint that he has lost any of the ability that made him famous in the first place. Backstage, he was out of breath, but he had a smile that was still beaming, with fans shaking his hand and remarking how he was young as ever. Indeed he is.
There were other spectacular performances too, including a percussion ensemble called Quadrum who performed for the first time in Pakistan and some prancing around by Joshinder Chaggar. The Banana News Network boys were there too, impersonating Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani. The highlight of the performance was when Gillani began to hang (i.e. freeze) and Rehman Malik (in mock ad manner) whipped out an energy drink, break-dancing around like a man possessed (in crocs!) before ‘recharging’ Gillani back to normalcy. The routine brought rapturous applause from the crowd, but unfortunately where the guys scored a hit with the clip on politicians, their take on what it takes to be a creative director was a miss.
As the night drew to a close and the Campaign of the Year (remember the dirty dishes revolting against traditional dish-washing soap?) winners were announced against a backdrop of blazing fireworks, the PAS organisers gave themselves a pat on the back for a successful night out. For an event that is only in its second year (compared to the LSAs, this one is an infant) there is still room for improvement—thorough dress rehearsals, a short shout-out by the winners, sticking to schedules, using better mixers for performances and even better mocktails. Maybe the advertisers would even like to see print and video ads segregated. But it’s good to know that the awards are certainly on the right track by rewarding excellence in advertising and encouraging professionals to think outside the box.