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Spotlight: Magnum opus

June 16, 2012


It’s not often that the city of Karachi celebrates a frozen dessert. But as the jokes ran on Twitter, that’s exactly what last Sunday’s launch was all about. And with a guest list of the who’s who of the celebrity sphere, it was one of the most extravagant in recent memory.

The Royal Treatment ad campaign has been all over TV and billboards, teasing those with a sweet tooth for a bite of some Belgian chocolate-covered delight. The same theme was kicked up a hundred notches at the event where invitees to the black-tie affair were treated to a black-and-gold hall filled with chocolate delicacies such as truffles, cakes, shakes and fondue. The sensual appeal was heightened by the presence of blue-eyed, blonde table girls. A guest at the table identified the gimmick as a classic “Dubai import” — the Belarusian girls had apprently been flown in to serve guests desserts in this strangely sexy way.

Compered by Adnan Malik and the celebrity sphere’s newest (or soon-to-be) darling, Ayesha Linnea Akhtar, the event served to unveil the brand council members in the form of photographer Tapu Javeri, model Ayaan, designer Deepak Perwani, jewellery designer Kiran Aman, stylist Nabila and Madiha Sultan of Lal’s Chocolates. These council members will serve in their capacities to promote the brand through various ad campaigns and endorsements, and were carefully handpicked to associate the brand with qualities they embody such as sophistication, perfection and elegance. Appropriately, the quintet was brought to the event in a pearl-white Rolls Royce with trumpeters decked as courtiers from the era of Louis XIV.

Pakistan’s most familiar media personalities were all there, from Frieha Altaf to the heavily made-up Faakhir, as well as Iman Ali, Annie Jafferi, Ayesha Omar, Anoushey Ashraf and others, each interviewed before they entered the hall and asked how they liked their chocolate.

Clearly, the intent was to dazzle everyone — before getting them to relish the frozen dessert. But aside from the celebrity fraternising, a five-course meal and subtle PG innuendos while discussing the product, the most remarkable part of the evening was how an FMCG had employed theatre to promote its product.

The ad campaign depicted a short idea of how eating the frozen dessert could transport you to an era (17th century France) where you could feel like royalty with the entire court at your beck and call. But Nida Butt (Made For Stage and the MAD school) directed the musical play titled A Royal Remedy to bring the idea to life, with stage stalwarts Faraz Lodhi and Rubya Chaudhry depicting how a gregarious king tries whatever he can to restore his daughter Princess Magnolia’s (Sanam Saeed) sense of taste. Predictably so, the play ends with a mixture of Belgian chocolate, ice and creamy filling undoing the spell cast on her by her evil stepmother. It followed the campaign theme to the T, with all the performers dressed in imperial outfits (lacking a few sneakers here and there), even to the extent of having Hamza Jaffri’s live music performers dressed for the part as well.

Critics have since been commenting on how despite some quality actors in Faraz Lodhi and Rubya Chaudhary, a 12-man live band and a script written by Uns Mufti, the play was sub-par, especially considering the success of Nida Butt’s previous effort, Karachi: the Musical. But it was to be expected; the purpose of the play was to promote a product rather than celebrate art and theatre. Even so, it might not have been worthy of the Arts Council or Napa, but it was hardly a catastrophe.

A multinational company pairing with a local theatre company to promote its product might dumb down the quality of theatre in the country, but it bodes well for the industry as a whole — there is obviously something there that attracts people for a major conglomerate to invest in it. The Magnum launch will hopefully inspire others to follow suit (and explore further possibilities) in the very near future.