Since the introduction of television in 1964, the Pakistani entertainment industry has been attempting to galvanise this unique component of contemporary culture, but it has only been in the last 30 years, that advertising agencies and production companies alike have tapped into the potential of showcasing their goods on the small screen. Melding together entertainment and glamour, the advertising industry has now reached its creative zenith.
To look at a commercial in Pakistan, is to look at a mini-movie, with inventive narratives, exquisite costumes and scenery, high production values and, finally, a roster of film stars and musicians, from Ali Zafar to Mohib Mirza.
The benefits of a progressive and creative advertising industry is two-fold, on the one hand it has the gift of showcasing Pakistani society as diverse, cultured and all-inclusive, on the other it gives writers, producers, directors et al the chance to flex their creative muscles in a way that enhances both them and the country as a whole. For example, the Pakistani film industry has faced some very tough times in the last few decades, with political upheavals in the 1980's and late 1990's obstructing the pursuit of cinematic excellence, however, throughout this time, the advertising industry remained a strong force, acting as a creative repository for cultural enlightenment.
With the advent of the internet, Pakistanis are now able to get access to a wealth of knowledge and culture, by the simple click of a mouse, this in turn has enhanced their outlook, instead of always looking inwards for inspiration, creative individuals now have the opportunity to absorb a wealth of culture from Asia to the West, and subsequently take inspiration from that, to form something wholly unique. As has long been said, a culture survives not by defending homogeny, but by interpreting and reshaping other cultural elements from outside.
Like all the best commercials, those conceived by the Vision Factory are leading the way in presenting Pakistan's cultural qualities to the world at large, with its superb portfolio of commercials, which tip the boundaries of cinematic luxury and are defined by an innate desire to experiment. As its Director Asim Raza states - "Our films capture a vital sense of place and a lyrical feel for varying periods and landscapes. They are a combination of intelligent concepts, visual beauty, mature directions, fine acting and shrewd casting. The diversity of The Vision Factory's work is evident in the range of the commercials and videos we have done. Emotional, comical, earthy, stylish, classical, contemporary, we have done it all." For 18 years the Vision Factory has surpassed its peers in showing us how aesthetics combined with innovative ideas can simultaneously create a memorable commercial that entertains and highlights Pakistani pluralism. For example the Vision Factory's recent series of commercials for Cadbury's chocolate brought these two themes to the forefront, incorporating the Islamic festival Eid with the Christian Valentine's Day and Christmas, not only did they show that there is more than one religion in Pakistan, but also the power of inclusiveness.
Of course, some may sneer at the Pakistani advertising industry, for their traditional portrayals of family life and gender defined roles, but what must be remembered is that the commercial is no place for gender politics. The commercial follows reality by idealising it, and also appealing to the country's biggest consumer block, which is the suburban population. Like the majority of commercials throughout the world, the Pakistani commercial is a microcosm of dreams, desires and escapism, yet unlike most others, the Pakistani commercial sets itself apart by going beyond simple commercialism, they promote the best and most heart warming aspects of Pakistani culture across the globe, disseminate a comforting message of stability, and they do so with supreme vibrancy and versatility.
The commercial has proved to be another weapon of the entertainment industry's arsenal against the dark forces of religious ultra-conservatism, who seek to devalue and destroy Pakistan's foundation of enlightenment and progressivism.