Brands On Bandwagons – A National Debate

Lately, one TV show has taken the Pakistani audience by the storm – Diriliş: Ertuğrul, or Ertuğrul Ghazi. The show is a Turkish historic flick based on the life and family of Ertuğrul Ghazi, the alleged founders of the Ottoman Empire.

The story gained popularity in Pakistan after it started airing on Netflix, and Imran Khan commended its story. Soon after, PTV bought the rights to the show and started airing it as Ertuğrul Ghazi with Urdu dubbing for the masses, after which the show started receiving recognition publicly and became the talk of the town.

What’s the rage?

Pakistan has always been a welcome market for Turkish dramas, with most of them being hits and gaining loyal followers across the nation. But Ertuğrul has hit a completely different note.

Why? One of the reasons is the religious aspect of the show. While the cast, story and camera work are all amazing, the war scenes and their fight in the name of Allah are what has made them a fan favourite in the country.

What further sparked interest was criticism from local artists who felt the show was a threat to our culture and entertainment, along with moral policing from fans on the show’s cast’s Instagram photos. These controversies and the constant discussion about the show spread further intrigue, turning it into a household name in the country.

You Jump, I Jump, Jack

What happens when a popular show starts gaining insane media attention? They become ripe for capitalization, and that’s what happened with Ertuğrul. Soon after it shot to fame, discussions about the show’s marketing potential started circulating, after which two Pakistani brands – Jazz and Qmobile – got their hands on the goldmine of a trend Ertuğrul has been blazing and made Esra Bilgiç the face of their brand.

In all honesty, the move was smart and brought both the brands in mainstream limelight. A stagnant name like Qmobile started appearing in marketing conversations again, and Jazz got to flaunt its Number One status through the artist. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, right? The brands got their share of Ertuğrul, and the fans got to see Esra in the attire they so wanted to (jk, but am I?).

But the controversy and criticism we talked about haven’t ended just yet. The debate of national vs. international took a new turn after Esra was chosen as the brand ambassador by these brands. Now, along with the entertainment industry, the show was taking over the marketing industry as well. Which lead to artists calling the act of a “slap in the face” of local talent.

Now that’s a bit much, isn’t it?

National Talent or International Names

Choosing a brand ambassador based on market trends isn’t a new practice. Marketers have been doing this for ages. Walk back a decade or two and you’ll find tons of national examples, like Vital Signs endorsing Pepsi as the “Choice of a New Generation”, or Pepsi choosing trending influencers like Vais Khan, Abid Brohi, Irfan Junejo, Anita Karim and Noor Zafar to advertise Pepsi Black. Then there are Fawad Khan and Mahirah Khan from Humsafar fame, who became a household name after the show ended, along with being marketing’s favourite couple for ads till date.

Aside from local artists, we’ve also seen Nawazuddin Siddique endorse Kenwood with Ayesha Khan – another international artist who’s a favourite among Pakistanis especially because of Sacred Games and Gangs of Wasseypur.

So despite having all these examples, is it really surprising for our people to accept Esra Bilgiç as a brand ambassador for two of our top brands? One of them being Qmobile, a brand already famous for having stars like Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Shahid Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapoor feature in its former ads, and then there’s Jazz’s work with Nargis Fakhri. So when these brands haven’t shied away from international endorsements in the past, why should they now?

But what’s the point?

Choosing Esra Bilgiç was indeed jumping a bandwagon move, and not something that’s logically related to their brand. It does happen to strategically place them in trending conversations, but will it change the brand’s image in the long term?

I personally don’t think so. Being a former Qmobile and current Jazz user, I don’t think the artist’s presence as both their ambassador will change much about them, especially when I’m pretty sure she doesn’t use either of the brands in her daily life.

While I get that both the companies made a strategic decision to stay on top of industry clout, the idea of having someone from the outside flaunt Jazz’s number one status or Qmobile’s quality isn’t very viable. Esra Bilgiç, as talented as she may be, is a trend. A trend that’ll fade out when a new show or artist comes along. So how important was it to get her on board, or for that matter, how profitable? I guess only time, and market research will tell.

Till then, there’s one thing I’d give the brands credit for – their choice of the artist on the peak of her popularity in our country. Being able to make a hasty decision as this, which may have been an expensive one too, isn’t a small feat. And the fact that they did it is proof enough that Qmobile and Jazz don’t really need Esra to flaunt their brands for them to be successful, they just need the clout to show off their status as industry veterans.

Zainab Abdul Rehman

Content and strategy specialist with a head full of ideas that I never get time to execute.

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