Cannes loves Pakistan’s hatred for drones

BBDO wins at international film festival with anti-drone ad campaign.

Momina Sibtain June 29, 2014


As regular consumers of advertising, I think the entire nation will stand united on the point that Pakistani advertising campaigns, TVC’s and radio ads have reached a new low. For example a local biscuit jingle can no longer be characterised as a jingle, it is a full-fledged Bollywood song. Also, we have mindless dish washing soap ads or detergent ads. It has been a while since clever advertising was seen in Pakistan.

Recently, BBDO Pakistan came up with, and executed the simplest and most effective campaign Pakistan has ever seen. So much so, that its effectiveness not only captured the interest of international media but was just awarded The Best Low Budget Campaign Award at the Cannes Film Festival. This was the first time Pakistan was even nominated for such an award. The advertising firm was approached by Reprieve FFR (Foundation for Fundamental Rights) to create an anti-drone attacks campaign. ‘Bugsplat’ is military lingo for those killed in drone attacks, and the campaign aims at creating awareness regarding the collateral damage done as a result of drone attacks in the K-P region. “It took a few months to create this campaign but the idea was simple,” says Ali Reza, creative director BBDO. “We chose an image of a young girl who had lost her family in drone attacks, and we blew up her portrait to about 90 feet by 60 feet and laid it down in K-P.”

“The point was for it to make an impactful aerial view, so that drone pilots saw that their drones were not killing bugs but actual men, women and children,” says Assam Khalid, strategic planning director BBDO. “We got the poster printed in Karachi and then had it transported to K-P, where all the villagers helped us roll it out.”

The poster was so large that villagers had no idea at ground level what they were opening. “It was not long before BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and other news channels, blogs and newspapers picked up on the campaign, and the image of the girl went viral,” continues Reza.

The two advertisers furthermore talk about how it is always the simplest of ideas that make the most impactful campaigns. “Advertising in Pakistan has gotten into a rut,” says Khalid, “because jingles, songs and dances worked many years ago, people assume these methods are still effective today.”

Advertising is a mix of creativity and art. “It is a two-way street in this business. Clients need to be more open to creative ideas, and advertisers need to be able to sell their creativity successfully,” continues Khalid.

The simplicity of the Not a Bugsplat campaign not only brought about awareness regarding collateral damage endured in these attacks, this image has become the poster image for Anti-Drone campaigns around the world. “We have had museums contacting us asking where they can display this particular image,” says Reza. “In every market, there came a tipping point as far as advertising is concerned, and we are hoping that this campaign and this award will bring about that change in Pakistan and urge people to come up with intelligently simple campaigns.”

In advertising the key ingredient is the idea, the idea needs to be strong and good enough that you do not need to dress it up with a good looking woman or a song and dance. “You cannot dress up a bad idea into a good idea,” says Khalid.

The innocent face of this little girl plastered on the mountain of K-P has not stopped drone attacks but it has sparked a debate not only on social media but electronic media also. This may just be the beginning of the end in a long-standing issue that has plagued Pakistan for years.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2014.

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iLovethat! | 7 years ago | Reply

Bravo! Ali Raza and Company. You guys are really fantastic. No wonder Apps & Ideas created in Pak always get attention from Google, Apple, Hollywood and many top electronic manufacturers website developers. We are a nation of Artisan aren't we?

Usman | 7 years ago | Reply

Completely agree, Pakistani adverts are cringeworthy and dull, all revolving around mumta, bahoo, expressionless models, soap, and bollywood songs.

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