Ramadan TV’s stand-out ads: Etisalat is optimistically classist

Beaches, birthday parties, drum circles, cooking classes, bachelorette parties and stylish weddings appear on the screen as Syrian pop star and producer Asala’s sings Bokra Ahla (Tomorrow will be Better).

Created by Egypt’s oldest ad agency, Tarek Nour Communications, this ad looks like a posh kid’s Instagram feed mixed with a Pintrest profile. Colorful images filled with friends having fun lead us to the distinctive voice of advertising giant Nour himself, thanking Etisalat’s subscribers on behalf of Etisalat for “letting the company be part of the lives of 30 million Egyptians.”

Celebrating 30 million subscribers this year is a milestone for Egypt’s youngest telecom company, and sees the launch of their new tagline: “Takhayal Bokra” (Imagine Tomorrow). The number places Etisalat just after Vodafone and Orange, but with almost a third of Egypt’s total number of subscribers of 95 million, according to the Ministry of Telecommunications.

Etisalat’s last milestone of 15 million subscribers in three years was celebrated in Ramadan 2010 with an all-star cast including Yousra, Hend Sabry, Dona Samir Ghanem, Mohamed Mounir and Ahmed Ezz. Since then, it has shifted its advertising focus from celebrities to specific campaigns depending on its offers of the moment, while using micro-celebrities who thrive on social media.

This new advertisement is all about optimism, but many find it problematic — the classist tones the sequence brings forward are hard to miss.

“When Etisalat first started in Egypt, it was competing with the already-established Mobinil and Vodafone, and thus offered the lowest prices and packages mainly targeting lower-income sectors of society,” 33-year-old architect Yasmine Abu Samra, a Vodafone subscriber, tells Mada Masr. “Most of the subscribers they’re celebrating in this ad can’t go to Gouna or have bachelorette parties on rooftops on the Nile.”

“There’s no connection with Etisalat unless you watch till the very end to get the message,” says Tarek Nasr, founder and director of The Planet media company, which produces an annual advertising award show for Ramadan. “It’s a confusing ad and doesn’t tie in with Etisalat’s branding. The tones are a bit too bright. They’re just talking about memories and good times and no communication. It would probably be better off if it was an advert for cameras.”

“It’s well made, but I feel like there’s no concept,” Nasr says, adding that Etisalat’s larger Ramadan campaign featuring football players with the same “Imagine Tomorrow” tagline is better. “At least it’s saying something or sending a better message than aspiring to be an idiot.”

Abu Samra feels classist tendencies are prevalent in ads this Ramadan. “Especially the real-estate adverts, such as the one for Masr-Italia compound, which tells people that they can live only with people like them,” she exclaims. “It’s shocking.”

“I don’t know if there is a trend, or if the real-estate sector is booming and has big budgets so we’re seeing more of their ads for gated compounds, which are classist in themselves,” Nasr says.

Regardless of the ethics of social exclusion, one can see why a compound would target its ads at specific high-earners due to the prices it’s selling at. But a company whose customers come from a much wider, more diverse sector of society seems to have missed the punchline. Perhaps they should have stuck with their celebrities concept for this milestone.

Rowan El Shimi 
Culture journalist

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