Zong is reshaping the advertising industry with goal-oriented ads – others following suit

April 30, 2008 12:48 pm 20 comments

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So when Zong launched a lot of people made a mockery out of the fact that they only had an in-house advertising department and were not, infact, working with agencies. It was almost like people in denial as employees of ad agencies repeatedly judged, analyzed and mocked every small mistake in their early times.

But the telco seems to be laughing the last laugh along with the rest of the nation now as their delightfully fresh commercials become the talk of the town, causing them to gain 1 million new customers in the first 4 days. I really dont think the Mobilink and Telenor theatrical ads have ever given them a similar result.

These ads nailed down pretty much everything I’ve been trying to advocate about advertising here for the past two years. Lets break it down and discuss what these were.

Its a people connection

The Zong ads are a human-to-human message. They arent pretentious in giving out a "all powerful company" to "consumers" message. There’s a guy, who thinks, speaks and acts like me.

Being consumer-oriented is a strategy that most MNCs are deathly afraid of (thats another post though), but introducing ads that the large subset of people can relate to has been incredibly successful for Zong – you want to care about Zong because they want to care about you.. simple!

It picks on Cultural Memes

Cultural memes isnt enough to say "CHAPPAR PHAR KAY" as loudly as you possibly can, then giggling about how much of a rebel we are for saying it. Its also not about reminding us of our heritage of values through emotional key messages ("wah beta… kya yadein taza ho gaye apnay bachpan ki").

Connecting with culture comes from being candid about how people are already speaking to each other, not by pointing to the past or to pseudo-hip things. The idea is to use culture as culture – i.e. it should just be a small part of the interaction, not the punchline.

The "naach naach key plans bechnay" was becoming a meme and by just pointing to it they were able to immediate establish the credibility they needed.

Its Transparent-ish

When looking at the ad, they’ve designed it in a way so as to feel transparent and honest… its just a person speaking with empathy. Even though they arent not actually fully transparent, (e.g. the "12 aanay" isnt transparent because 12 sounds lower than 75 paisas which competitors are charging, and this is for 30 seconds too). But compared to competing ads, where the entire focus is on how that telecos’ "group" is having so much fun in their "exclusive club" because of something "mysterious" about that teleco, this approach seems to work much better.

Its a conversation

Anyone working in social media will tell you that if you aren’t able to shed the "look at me, I’m a big company" persona and get down to the people’s level and TALK to them, you will get killed, and that is precisely what these ads will do to other telecos.

Its actually about U

There’s an unwritten rule of the world. If you run around saying "I’m an expert on this subject" no one will believe you to be. Your credibility depends on talking instead about the subject matter and letting people decide.

If you run around shouting and jumping "I’m all for U!" no one will believe you. Its better to make sure to talk in way that makes it seem like it truly is for people’s benefit.

The image below summarizes this.


Others following suit

Hot on the heels of Zong, Ufone seems to be the next company attempting this type of an honest ad, and I hope others follow. Enough theatrics, enough maulla-juttingness (if thats a term), we need stories that we can emote with.

Facebook comments:


  • I would say… just keep it simple and real. That’s the best advertisement.

  • Haris

    I am not sure if it was solely their ad which got them that many customers in 4 days. remember when ufone was selling their sims free of charge and how many they attracted?

    i totally agree that their ad looks fresh and different from amna haq, ali zafar, iman, moammar rana, sonia jehan’s dancing. what are they trying to sell us by showing celebrities’ mujras?

  • DMX

    Advertising is dead. Brands like The Body Shop don’t advertise still they have managed to grow exponentially not only that but turn whole industry towards eco-responsible ways. A good read “The Fall Of Advertising & The Rise Of PR”, by Al and Laura Ries. Can you ask yourself, was it Energizer bunny or a Duracell bunny. Ads are not that effective any more.

    Also times have changed, demographics are moving from Generation X being to Generation Me, who want honest and direct communication.

  • Zong advertisement is good but cant say its best..Atleast better than othe telcos there in Market..

  • Rashad

    Well the ad was definitely different..but i thought it was flat n dry..more likely i think it was their packages(or more specifically their lifetime free number offer) which got them such results..i mean everyone was buying atleast 2 sims..n most people bought them in bulk n sold them to others..besides i hvn’t come across ne1 who bought a postpaid connection as yet.. most of em are buying prepaid connections..(i checked out their outlet in islamabad and observed almost every1 buyin 2 sims n all prepaid…not very likely to use it as their primary number either i guess)…i guess give it more time…they will need to revise their packages..otherwise users will only switch to a zong sim after 11pm n shut it off at 7am!

  • Adnan

    The Zong campaign, certainly before they launched was rather refreshing. Full page ADS in national media just highlighting their plus points etc and nothing more. It reminded me of a campaign that was carried out in the UK some 23 years ago!!!

    The campaign became known as “TELL SID” and was universally acknowledged as one of the best ever marketing campaigns run. It achieved its purpose of getting the public interested in the product, by not telling them what it actually was promoting!! Everyone wanted to know what this TELL SID advertisements all over the place were all about. This went on for some weeks until it was finally advertised that TELL SID TO APPLY FOR HIS SHARES IN BRITISH GAS. The first major privatisation issue in the UK. The UK public has never looked back and now the UK has I believe the highest public share ownership in the world (if not then one of the highest).

    Zong seems to have carried the same idea in the marketing campaign to start off with and no doubt it has been hugely successful.

  • Kamran

    A quick comment on the Advertising Agencies.

    Maybe, the Campaign Succeeded, because they DIDN’T hire an Ad Agency.

    I seem to have come across People, who hire an Agency, and still end up doing copy writing / concept development themselves.

  • Initially I too was quite impressed with the different Zong ad, considering our telecom marketing is cluttered by song and dance routines which have no connection to the brand itself, but I have recently found out that the Zong TV ad is apparently a copy of a British telecom company ad, so there goes the Zong Creative Originality. But At least they didn’t copy the local ‘success’ model of random noise generation.


    i like the zong ad. coz its message is very clear and goal oriented. n easy to pick by viewers. Zong SUB KEH DO. SAY IT ALL.

  • sadaf

    please upload ad of independence day by ZONG i luv tht … i m dying for tht

  • Medical Sotre Clerk

    Ms. Sadaf. Do you have a prescription?

  • On the positive side, I beleive
    our advertising agencies have come a long way in last 4-5 years. The quality of advertisements has improved significantly and telecom played a significant role in making it happened.

  • Kluivert

    Advertising in Pakistan:

    1. Showing flesh for selling every thing, selling water to selling real estates. e.g. Fey Water.
    2. Women as sex objects. e.g. Shezan juice sultry ad pasted on billboards.
    3. Ten minutes of programming with 20 minutes of repeated advertisement. e.g. Loose Talk on ARY.
    4. Stolen concepts from abroad, rarely original. e.g. Zong initial TVC.
    5. Intrusive ads inside programming e.g. Cocacola ad in Lucman Show.
    6. No concept of 9-5 job, they pay you so they own you. e.g. Not naming the agency.
    7. Lying about products e.g. Philips, Viewsonic 17 inch monitors are actually 16.1 inches.
    8. Direct advertising to kids e.g. Lifebuoy, Safeguard. Advertising to kids outlawed in EU.
    9. Unnecessary product shoving e.g. Anti bacterial wash even though simple soap can do the job just fine of removing pathogens. This anti bacterial washes will give rise to super bugs.
    10. No innovation, one formula for all e.g. Dancing people in Telenor, Jazz, Tarang Milk.


  • Apart from the Ad, I will like to say something about zong’s services.

    The other day I was at Zong Customer Service close to Singapore Plaza in Saddar Rawalpindi. I just brought a Pocket PC – KJAM and a Zong sim. I was thinking of just checking the instructions from the customer service about how to activate GPRSon it’s sim and get to know settings of internet for my mobile.

    For the first time I experienced a telecoms customer service making there customers wait, not even inside the building but outside that in the scorching heat.

    I was made to wait for one hour before my ticket no. arrived and the lady at the counter said to me Dial bla bla bla to get the info. What the hell… I was there for this purpose and she was just not willing to tell me. There were a lot of counters but only 2 of them working and that too so slowly that I was frustrated out a lot at the end.

    There was also a fighting scene created at the front door when a man tried to enter the building and he was stopped by the guard as there were already a lot of people inside and he started abusing him and said i am a policeman, how dare you stop me.

    Some representative of zong came from inside and stopped the fight and took the man to his office and called the guard inside too. He eventually figured out the solution by insulting the guard.

    After getting pretty disappointed from the CS… i tried calling there helpline to activate the internet. I went through the menus and when the relevent menu comes it says like press 2 to activate internet and i press 2 and nothing happens and the speaker starts all over again.

    After a lot of calls i was able to activate GPRS. Three days back, it started increasing my balance as i was using GPRS, I was happy :)

    But i think they charged me later on for that. Also, I am not getting signals for Zong where i am getting for UFONE and mobilink.

    So, by all this i conclude that zong has a lot to improve yet.

  • imtiaz

    Subject: Happy Hours

    As Zong advertised that they are offering happy hours to its customer. But it is undelighted to say that i have subscribe happy hours on which charges were suppose to 4.99 Rs for one hour but they charged me 100 Rs for an hour. It happened to me thrice and twice with my Fiance.

    I sent emails to Zong customer service but they have not replied me yet in fact their fax number on the website it is out of order.

    This sort of servive?????????

  • mara set chori hogaya hey is sim bloack karwao please koi mari sim block kardo no. koi is sim se rashid ban kar bat karta hey plz plz plz

  • Hasan

    I like the approach which ZONG has employed for their Commercials. They are based on straight-sell factual message unlike different advertising combos which sometimes hides the original communication intended to the customers.

    The Person simply comes on screen, Talks about the features of package in style and signs off by saying “Sub Keh Doo” Its definitly a kind of advertising which the other companies should looking into for future.

  • Shahid

    aww ur comments are became old now

    just check out their new adv of their 1st Anniversary i bet its the best adv ever made by a Telecom company in Pakistan’s History.. 3.30+ min adv is very good and brilliantly implemented

    and nobody in Pakistan is spending on Marketing like ZONG did and still doing

  • Shahid

    aww ur comments are became old now

    just check out their new adv of their 1st Anniversary i bet its the best adv ever made by a Telecom company in Pakistan’s History.. 3.30+ min adv is very good and brilliantly implemented

    and nobody in Pakistan is spending on Marketing like ZONG did and still doing…

  • Wow, this article is nice, my sister is analyzing such things,
    thus I amm going to let know her.

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