Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Brand Talk - Sooper's Blooper

What were they thinking?

There can be a number of reasons behind their thought process. Maybe it's a new brand manager who wanted to make this mega TVC and impress all and sundry. Or maybe it was the old agency who thought that the new brand manager will buy this 'song +dance+biscuit' concept (see ad here). Or maybe it was both. Or maybe the top management felt that it was about time that the biscuit industry follows the sing song formula which was used, misused and abused by the telecom giants, milk brands and cola drinks, to name a few. 

But why Sooper? 

Sooper is the crown jewel of English Biscuits Manufacturers (EBM). And it deserves to be that. The biscuit tastes good, looks good and has very attractive packaging. It gave LU Bakeri (a product of Continental Biscuits) a run for its money so much so that Bakeri had to completely revamp itself; new product line, new packaging and a new campaign and still they are no match to the mighty Sooper. Even when EBM reduced the size of the biscuit and increased the price, Sooper survived. 

The thought, which I humbly believe, is behind this new campaign is merely to take the brand to the 'next' level (a jargon often used by our agencies and some brand people). How do we do that? The most easy method is to have some good looking people eating a tea time biscuit in an extremely seductive way at all the places where biscuits are not, usually, on the menu. You would think the models are taking swigs of whiskey or chugging down beer, and not eating an egg and milk biscuit. Looking at their expressions and body language it appears that the biscuit is giving pleasure of an orgasmic proportion. ‘Mazar Ker Lay, Dil Bhar Kay’ (Have a good time to your heart’s content) – what has that got to do with biscuits?

Why do brand teams want to break away from the legacy of a brand? Why do we forget the basics and just focus on the advertising campaign? Why do both brand teams and the agency forget things like target market, usage situations, user profiles and brand personality? Why?

Poor Pied Piper – his days are over and done with, unless he, too, gets a makeover!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The festive Google Doodle!

I am loving the Google Doodle today. The page opened to unveil a beautiful collage of various landmarks/features of cities around the world. With just one click, you can get a glimpse of Mount Fuji (Japan), The Great Wall of China, delicious French cuisine in Paris (where else!), romantic gondola ride in Venice, classical Indian dancers, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and of course, Santa Claus on a rooftop, ready to go down the chimney with his bag of gifts! 

Google has a tradition of changing its logo to commemorate birthdays, holidays etc. Some of my favourite Google Doodles this year include Robert Stevenson's 160th birthday (he happens to be the author of Treasure Island), Discovery of X-Ray (the rubber ducky was too cute!), Pacman's 30th Anniversary Doodle, and the 170th Birthday of Tchaikovsky  (the composer of the beautiful ballet, Swan Lake).

What was your favourite Google Doodle this year?

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tour dé Lahore - a pictorial

The Beautiful Wazir Khan Mosque

The walk to the splendid Wazir Khan Mosque was through small streets (left) after entering from the Delhi Gate (right). A street beggar counts his change, oblivious to the rickshaw. Benazir's photo looks down from the crumbling walls.

A work of art indeed!

'This beautiful building is in itself a school of design'- Lockwood Kipling

The Lahore Fort - still holding strong.

These crumbling walls of the fort hold many secrets of the glorious era of the Moguls. If only they could talk...

Walking up the steps to the grand Badshahi Mosque. Nothing can ever prepare you for the sight of this architectural wonder. The designers, masons and artisans of that age were true masters if they could produce wonders such as these without the aid of modern technology. The enormity of the Mosque takes your breath away and every beautiful detail of the Mosque leaves you awestruck and humbled. 

The majestic Badshahi Mosque

Nothing can prepare you for the 'lowering of flag' ceremony at the ceremonial Wagah Border also!

It seems like a big 'tamasha' (performance). We were the 'Tamashbeen' (public) cheering and shouting patriotic slogans when ever one of our soldiers struck the ground hard with their boots or adjusted their turbans and showed fists to the 'enemy'. 

The picture on the left shows one of the important rituals preceding the flag lowering ceremony. The soldiers of the Border Security Force of India are also doing the same on their side of the border. Since the gates are still closed, we cannot see if they can match the strength of our soldiers. 
All during the ceremony I was wondering when one of them might slip. No wonder they keep  the gates closed!

These two soldiers did such a good job at intimidating their rivals! Full marks to them for acting so well! The crowd applauded their show of power and clapped and cheered immensely. I could just not stop laughing! 

The flag lowering ceremony. Did we win? 
The final showdown!

    All smiles at the gates...these guards were really tall men! Or was it their shoes?
Is this the gateway of freedom for all? Just like Quaid-e-Azam, M.A.Jinnah had envisioned?
I think we all knew the sad answer to this question even as we shouted patriotic slogans.
Note: All these photographs were taken from Ahsan's camera by him, myself and Mohsin Bhai. I can't take the credit for all the photographs! :)

Tour dé Lahore

A day trip exclusively for sightseeing around Lahore seemed too good to be true but where there’s a will there is a way and Jeff proved it. It is nothing short of a miracle that wedding guests, ranging from the ages of 60 to two years managed to wake up early on a Sunday morning (while on vacation and after a late night of partying) and assembled at 10ish at Liberty Market for a traditional puri halwa breakfast. The day’s itinerary was ambitious; a quick trip down Lahore’s rich historic past and (a little not so rich) present.

The mastermind behind the entire trip was none other than the father of the bride, my dear uncle, Jeff, who was harbouring the dream of such a tour since the day he moved to Lahore! This trip was a recreational and educational trip. And it was a good change from the usual mundane trips to malls and bazaars.

Our first stop was the very beautiful Wazir Khan Mosque. This mosque was built in seven years and work began on it in 1634-1635 during the reign of the Mogul Emperor Shah Jehan. It is famous for its faience tile work (source: Wikipedia). The entrance to the mosque is through Delhi Gate, one of the old gates of the inner city. The tile work is absolutely breathtaking. Our stop there was brief and though we were in the middle of the city, there was a sense of quiet calm within the walls of the mosque.

As we moved through the narrow streets to reach Wazir Khan Mosque, I felt sad at the degradation around me. There was absolute chaos outside the Mosque; life went on around this great architectural beauty in the same manner it does anywhere in our country. It seems sad that all new governments want to build new monuments to mark their time in power; ugly structures that are a display of ego and fake patriotism but no one takes any concrete steps to protect our inheritance, and the little proof that remains of our glorious ancestors.

The display of decadence is nowhere more prominent than at the majestic Lahore Fort. It was built during the reign ofAkbar (1556-1605) and inside it there are many famous sites; Sheesh Mahal, Naulakha Pavilion, and Moti Masjid (source: Wikipedia). The Lahore Fort is also a UNESCO Heritage Site (as is Wazir Khan Mosque) but it seems otherwise from its dilapidated condition. The very walls of the entire place seem to be crumbling. On a previous visit during a trip I’d made to the fort in 2006, the Sheesh Mahal was being renovated. Four years later the renovation is still going on. What a splendid sight the mirrors must be during the heydays of the Moguls. It was heart breaking walking around the fort which, too, has become commercialized.Where, once, the footsteps of Kings echoed people are eating french fries under ugly branded umbrellas of Walls and Coca Cola.

We made a very brief stop at the Badshahi Mosque which is right opposite the fort.. This grandiose structure was commissioned by the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb in 1671 and was completed in 1673 (source: Wikipedia). The Badshahi Mosque is a landmark of Lahore and it is unparallel in its beauty, magnificence and splendour. Since it was a Sunday, the place was thronging with visitors. And we had to cut short our trip so as to be able to be on time at our final stop, the Wagah Border.

Wagah Border is the ceremonial border between Pakistan and India. Over the years, it has become a major tourist attraction as there is an elaborate flag lowering ceremony which is preceded by a parade of sorts (very choreographed) between the Pakistan Rangers and Border Security Force of India. The ceremony is well known for the theatrics pulled by soldiers of the two countries with much fist shaking and boot stamping amidst cheering crowds on both sides. We also joined in the fun and shouted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ while the Indians did the same. Both the sides had more or less the same setup but ours was a little too pompous. We had a bigger and taller gate which looked rather ugly. Do we really think that a monstrous gate will make us a bigger or better country? I think the gate did represent what our nation stands for (especially now), a country which has big words and ideas (not to forget big presidential palaces and big government spendings) but is hollow from the inside (even the sliding gates did not work all that smoothly!). And to counter Asoka’s Lions which stood atop the pillars of the India gate, we had Allah carved atop both our pillars. Probably because the only reason we’re still here is because of HIM, otherwise we’ve not left any stone unturned to destroy ourselves.

The ceremony was fun. There was a hint of sadness in my feelings as I thought of the great Mogul Emperors, Akbar, Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb. They ruled over a united subcontinent where Hindus and Muslims lived together. How would they react to the Wagah Border? Surely they would be rather shocked. Will our reasons for a separate homeland for Muslims be good enough to justify breaking their homeland into pieces? Somehow, I don’t think so.

I did some sightseeing on my own also when I dragged my mother and brother to the Lahore Museum. There are some amazing things there; miniature Mogul paintings on ivory, wood sculptures of Hindu Gods, a huge stone stature of Asoka’s lions, and of course, the great Sadequain’s paintings. But it is a depressing place and it left me sad. Will we never learn to appreciate our past? I fear the answer. 

At the Shahi Qilla (Lahore Fort)

A big thanks to Jeff for planning this trip! It added a unique and memorable touch to the wedding festivities!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Teen Talwar dress up!

Karachi prides itself on being a melting pot of how did this come about?

Bram Stoker's - Dracula

Little did Bram Stoker know that his one creation will enthral and spell bound readers and non-readers alike for countless generations. Count Dracula is the perfect example of how a strong character can rise above the simplest of stories and become immortal. 007 (Fleming) and Jeeves (Wodehouse) are other such characters.

In writing Dracula, Stoker adopted a unique style of narration. It is through the diary or journal entries, letters and telegrams of various characters that the story unfolds. This lends a touch of realism to the story making it more creepy, mysterious and disturbing.

Stoker laid down ground rules about vampires in his book but he also left much to the reader’s imagination. Dracula’s past, his ancestors, his household, the extent of his powers are aspects which Stoker has not revealed in too much detail, leaving us to form our own conclusions and create our own variations.

The character of Count Dracula has a lot of depth, something which the modern vampires don’t possess. He is not just a blood sucking monster but an intelligent being that meticulously makes plans and executes them. His strength, both of mind and body, helps him survive but he also knows his limitations and cannot live among ordinary humans (unlike the modern vampires who seem to gel in perfectly well with the living and the dead) for extended intervals. His cold hearted nature is what makes him so horrific; he derives a certain joy from his kill. He plans to set up base in London to carry out massive destruction (both in terms of killing people and converting a selected few into his army of ‘un-dead’) in order to gain strength and amass power over the living. Seems Dracula shares certain characteristics with the present geo-political players who are willing to go to any lengths (as revealed by Wiki leaks) to establish their writ!

Dracula has inspired many film versions but almost all of them deviate to a certain degree from the book, making them very unpopular with me. I was quite upset with Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Dracula – ‘Love never dies’. Although the plot bore much resemblance to Stoker’s book, the execution and cinematography was in extremely bad taste. Coppola, as always, wants to create something ‘different’ so he selected an actor who was the complete opposite of Dracula’s description (as established by Stoker) and shown in previous films, added a love story in the whole Dracula saga and sprinkled the film with exotic costumes and nudity. I guess it was one artist’s interpretation of another. It is the 1931 film, starring Béla Lugosi as the Count which captures Dracula perfectly. The plot deviates, slightly, from the book but the black & white film lends an altogether different feel to Dracula’s character although I must admit that the flying bats looked more comical than eerie!

A must read – not for the faint hearted though!

'The blood is the life'– Count Dracula