Guess who wrote a decent print ad the other day?


Remembering Pakistan’s most iconic Alexander ad.

In 1968, a young writer named Javed Jabbar sat down to write a tourism ad campaign for Pakistan. Those were very different days in Pakistan, and there was much to celebrate; the national airline, for instance, was counted among the best in the world and didn’t require duct tape to hold its engines together. There was a promise of a brighter tomorrow.

During these heady days, Mr Jabbar wrote five ads in this particular wonderful tourism campaign, one that is – to borrow the words of Paul Beatty – as timeless as a hydrogen atom. Tellingly of the era, two of these were written for East Pakistan. All five were witty, interesting and engaging – traits that the Pakistani advertising industry somehow has decided to leave out of its briefs over the years.

Of the five, it is the fifth in that series of print tourism ads that I want to discuss, to give an idea of the history of advertising in the country.

When you look at the history of advertising in Pakistan, the majority of work – especially in the modern era – simply doesn’t match the standards the rest of the world aspires to, despite the ever-rising budgets for production. It wasn’t always like this. There have been many gems along the way, and every once in a while, even now, you get to spot something that gives you hope. But the true golden era of Pakistani advertising was back in the 60s. Back when folks like Mr Jabbar sat down at their typewriter.

The brief for the tourism ad, says Mr Jabbar, was “broad”. But from the outset the goal was that the campaign would make both Pakistanis and foreigners aware of all that was to be celebrated.

The print ad in question is astonishingly simple. It works off of a classic device that would make Don Draper giggle with joy: a highly-engaging trick of ‘visual-verbal coordination’, which in this case was as razor sharp as the hand-eye coordination inside-left Naseer Bunda exhibited in the goal that won Pakistan a gold hockey medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Heady days.

Artist Majeed Ahmed was the art director on this print ad, in what I believe is probably the finest Pakistani pairing ever of the classic model of copywriter-art director. This was an era when art directors such as Helmut Krone in the United States had started changing advertising design models quite drastically, stripping them down to a page’s bare essentials and Majeed Ahmed’s art direction is in keeping with the simple, yet effective, minimalism that Krone had advocated. It’s important to note this: a print ad such as this one would have been appreciated anywhere in the world.

Dawn for more

Comments are closed.