As originally published in Synergyzer Issue 5, 2017 – ‘The Show Must Go On’

Let’s start off with asking two questions from ourselves.

A) Do I remember the Urdu alphabet?
B) Can I count in Urdu?

If you answered ‘No’ to any of the above questions then you will agree with the point that I’m trying to make here: We, as a nation, are not keen on the Urdu language. A number of us do not consider those much educated who only speak in Urdu, surprising for a language that was considered philosophical at one time. Rather, speaking in Urdu is also sadly an indicator of class divide and is considered to be of a lower stature by many. University students prefer to talk to each other in English because that makes them look ‘cool’ unlike Urdu which sounds ‘Desi’. Urdu books don’t sell as much anymore and English has taken up a bigger role – local advertisements even portray their Urdu slogans in Latin letters.

Although a number of us have realized the extent of this problem, there are still not as many solutions being worked upon. The gora sahab mentality is still seeped into the mindset of our educated population and the Urdu language is at a danger of becoming extinct.

DEVELOPING A CAMPAIGN FOR URDU

Kashmir Cooking Oil and Banaspati highlighted this issue quite uniquely through a low budget activation campaign. The campaign, which was launched to revive interest in the Urdu language, connected well with the brand’s heritage as well.

Phonetically, the language of Urdu is regarded as “sweet” sounding. A mix of Persian, Arabic, and Hindi give it a dulcet, melodic and honeyed tone, and for centuries, poetry in the Asian subcontinent has been written in Urdu for this very reason. Even the script form of Urdu is Arabic and Persian based; using beautiful, flowy calligraphic styles.

The idea was to revive the beauty of Urdu by making it wanted again through something that’s just as old and sweet as the language but is still considered cool: Jalebi. It was the perfect opportunity to merge it with Urdu calligraphy.

#URDUPOEATRY

The campaign collaborated with two artists, a calligrapher and a chef to bring back to life the words of the 13th century legendary Urdu poet, Amir Khusro, considered the father of Urdu verse; in the form of Jalebi.

The craft was meticulous. All of Urdu script is not written in joint letters, whereas jalebi can only be formed when it is connected as one unit. Therefore a unique lettering design was created and practiced, so as to calligraph it in jalebi.

A fitting hashtag: #UrduPoeatry was created and high impact venues were picked for PR: The Karachi Literary Festival held in London and local bookstores in Pakistan. Every word of the poem was written in jalebi, served with the complete couplet and its English translation. The activity was filmed and released online on Pakistan’s 70th Independence Day, along with a billboard of the artwork.

THE RESULTS

#UrduPoeatry reached 5 million+ people and over 1 million views were achieved over the digital platforms in 24 hours. The live activations were immensely popular; thousands of people turned up to try the jalebi poetry. For the first time, the brand was featured in the local news. The project has encouraged Urdu poetry to be taught within secondary schools accompanied by the creation of the first proper Urdu alphabet song.

The campaign made Kashmir Cooking Oil and Banaspati the first oil brand in the country to make a mark on an international advertising platform: The Spikes Festival of Creativity 2017. The campaign was awarded a Bronze – Spike in the design category amongst 4,301 entries from 23 countries across the Asia Pacific this year.

The campaign was very well received by the audience and was a very thought-provoking one. Kashmir Cooking Oil and Banaspati successfully engaged with the audience and promoted the brand’s traditional image simultaneously, strengthening the brand’s bond with Pakistanis and generating positive word of mouth. Overall, the campaign made us feel proud to know a language with such a rich history; one which was derived from the Persian Mughal era court and was once the dialect of kings and poets.