ADVERTISING: THE MARKETING THAT MAKES LAWNArchive
You may or may not love luxury lawn but living in Pakistan, you can’t ignore it. It resiliently dominates the landscape, sending jigsaw puzzles of florals and geometric prints across your line of vision until you’re driven dizzy. If you live in Karachi, you’re currently exempted from lawn sirens staring enticingly at you from billboards dotted all about the skyline. Regardless, the onslaught of three, four and five-pieces is unrelenting, taking over radio, television, digital media and of course, billboards in cities less fortunate than Karachi.
However, despite the consistent advertising, lawn marketing is often forgettable, following a predictable format: a silk dupatta flutters in the air held by a svelte model. She is ideally fair-skinned and is often preening away in the last places you’d expect to see luxury lawn. She’ll be the overdressed lady with the scantily-clad women at a beach in Thailand, she’ll choose to wear expensive designer shades while balancing on a camel in the Thar desert, she’ll insensibly stare into the distance while standing dangerously close to the railway tracks in Vietnam or she’ll teeter on high, high heels on the cobbled roads of Spain, Italy, Monaco or Croatia.
This imagery has been carefully conceived, is supposed to exude luxury and has cost a considerable sum of money. Should the lawn brand be interested in extending its marketing budget even further, a star or starlet can be hired to be the face of the brand. It turns out that this can lead to quite a dilemma.
Till last year, lawn moguls could happily search across the border and have a Bollywood actress as their model for the year. Given recent cross-border tensions, though, this is no longer a good idea. Instead, they are left with no choice but to scrounge around into a very small pool of local talent.
Immediately, local actresses with a penchant for item numbers, vampy roles and a predilection for bursting into dance in cars’ backseats have to be vetoed. Inevitably, the local lawn star ends up being an actress who has gained considerable popularity enacting good girl roles, preferably ones in which she gets tortured by her evil in-laws and ultimately emerges victorious. These are the celebs that are wholeheartedly loved by the nation and they reap the benefit of shedding all those on-screen tears by earning big bucks with lucrative lawn deals.
Given how few in number these stars are, it can lead to some pretty confusing lawn marketing. Mahira Khan, for instance, was the face of Feeha Jamshed by Flitz lawn last year while she’s happily wearing Al-Karam lawn this time round. Mawra Hocane, meanwhile, has already been seen wearing two lawn brands this year, Orient Textiles’ recent collection and Noor by Saadia Asad.
And yet, for all the time, effort and moolah splurged on lawn marketing, the resultant TVCs and shoots end up being forgettable. Embroidery runs into silk, diaphanous chiffon, beaded trimmings, flotsam and jetsam. Often, campaigns boasting expensive international locales don’t even clearly show the location in the final imagery.
Amongst some of the most notable lawn shoots that have been seen this year, Zara Shahjahan’s sojourn into rustic Vietnam has been lovely. Maria B. claimed to be ‘selling a dream’ with a glamorous pictorial journey through Dubai featuring actress Maya Ali, Sapphire and Zainab Chottani escaped to Italy, Elan trooped through Spain, Faraz Manan roamed Sicily, Farah Talib Aziz for Lakhany Silk Mills went to Monaco, Image Fabrics flew off to Croatia and Honey Waqar recently visited Santorini with Mira Sethi as her model.
There were other brands — Khaadi and Sana Safinaz come to mind — who resisted the lure of foreign soil, opting instead for eye-catching studio shoots. Others chose to narrate stories. Al-Karam Textiles, in a well-shot TVC, had Mahira Khan enact the many nuances to a woman including the celebrity, the mother, the girl next door and unfathomably, the woman fighting with her husband. With some confusing connotations, the TVC declared #BelieveInYou and it was, at least, better than Mahira twirling her dupatta in a Yash Chopra-esque floral meadow.
On another tangent, Gul Ahmed perceptively latched on to the current wave of feminism with the #MeinPerfectHoon (#IAmPerfect) campaign. A very well-scripted TVC drifted through glimpses of girls who societal norms may consider ‘less than perfect’ because they were too dark, too tomboyish, had unruly hair or a mole on their face. Rising against the odds, the girls declared ‘Mein Perfect Hoon’, giving out a singularly strong individualistic statement. What further differentiated the Gul Ahmed campaign from those of its contenders was the lack of focus on the clothes, letting the message take center-stage.
“In today’s world, people don’t just buy what you do; they also buy why you do it,” observes Gul Ahmed’s COO Shehnaz Basit Ikram. “Our Spring/Summer ’17 campaign gave voice to an issue of extreme importance not just for women in Pakistan but the world over. We were also happy to note that customers responded positively to the campaign, with discussions initiated regarding what is ‘perfect’ and ‘imperfect’ and our hashtag #MeinPerfectHoon being used frequently on social media.”
One wishes, though, that the hashtag had not been quite so similar to international brand Esprit’s #ImPerfect campaign. Shehnaz points out, “Esprit puts forward the notion that everyone is perfect in a very straightforward way while Gul Ahmed addresses the concept in a more relatable and personal manner.” This makes sense, although perhaps Gul Ahmed should have tried to at least change the wordings a bit more.
Also, perhaps the message would have been more impactful had a more diverse slew of women been featured in the TVC rather than svelte, more or less typically ‘perfect’ models. One understands that models are scrutinised even more than regular women and may actually have to fight harder against piercing judgments related to beauty. Nevertheless, fashion has globally been advocating acceptance and empowerment by highlighting models that are plus-size, above a certain age, battling skin diseases or hail from diverse ethnic origins. Similarly, Gul Ahmed could certainly have pushed its cause more emphatically.
And yet, with luxurious images becoming far too frequent, a more cerebral campaign — despite its flaws — is interesting at least. It may or may not help sales — according to market insiders, most lawn aficionados are sticklers for glamorous shoots in Europe — but it is certainly more memorable.
Published in Dawn, EOS, April 23rd, 2017