It all started on Tuesday, the 10 of March, the day the Ramadan announcement ideas were presented to the management of Boubyan Bank. The idea was pitched to the administration and approved on the same day. Everyone was filled with joy, I personally really loved the idea and was very eager to implement it. Immediately, I rushed myself into a meeting with Cinemagic, the organization that would produce the ad for us. Our team and the Cinemagic team began to discuss the details of the advertisement (from the director, the date of the shooting, the location of the shoot..etc). We had come to agree that we would finalize everything discussed in the meeting within the week. Corona, the virus that shook the world into a standstill. Airports shut, ministries and organizations disrupted, and public gatherings discontinued. As a client, Boubyan Bank has always been very close to my heart - and I have always personally looked into every advertisement we have created for them, especially the ones produced for Ramadan. But, the Coronavirus crisis made everything worse, and things weren't seeming to get better any time soon.
Kuwait's Cabinet had imposed a partial curfew and was limiting people from going out until absolutely necessary. And this meant, that even if we were to shoot in Kuwait, it was impossible to do so. Most of the ads that were shot for Boubyan Bank were shot abroad for reasons that, our ads for Boubyan have always been short stories for which we would require professional casting. This isn't easily available in Kuwait. If and when we had found the appropriate cast in Kuwait, they were faces that were very repetitively seen in other advertisements, and we have always tried for Boubyan Bank's ads to stand out. And once again, we were hellbent on doing something that was different. The issue we were constantly facing was, that it was close to impossible to shoot this advertisement. Taking everything into account, I spoke with the bank's management. We had put everything into consideration, and we had no other choice than to follow the law and ensure the safety of our and Cinemagic's team members and somehow, this was also the most important message that was to be put out. All involved parties agreed, and we decided that we would not shoot an advertisement. A part of me was still looking for a way to implement an advertisement - and this was not out of personal interest, but rather the interest of the Bank. In times of crisis, such as what the world was facing with the Coronavirus, it is extremely important for organizations and companies to exercise their role in social service. It is important for any company to have a voice and participation in this crisis and in many forms, including advertising. I personally, would not recommend for any organization to remain silent in the shadow of the crisis, but rather, to wholeheartedly participate and make itself present. This was all it took for me to start looking for solutions. During this difficult period, and the laws of the country that were implemented to battle it - most of the advertisements had a similar message; 'thank you for your service'. I wanted us to be different and I knew that we had to stand out. Not to be mistaken, we are very grateful to the ones that are providing service during these difficult times, but I wanted to send a different message. A message that would be relatable by most and a message that would completely differ from the others. Because what would be the point of all that effort and money spent on the advertisement without it being any different or making an impact? After a lot of thought and research, we found a topic that we could take into account. The feeling of being lost with days passing by and wondering if things will ever change. This is what most of the people were feeling, especially those who were now stuck in the institutional or household quarantine and also to those who were stuck in the walls of their houses due to the ban. What were these people feeling? What are they thinking about? What are their daily routines? How is their mental health doing? And where do they see themselves going from here? The one question that's on everyone's minds - 'what happened?'. This is what it took for me to write the voice-over of the advertisement. Breaking the typicality of word usage in advertising, I chose to write a simpler message and my focus was to be able to express this feeling in the most real and relatable way possible which would be of deeper meaning and would hopefully touch people's hearts. I wanted this advertisement to be able to speak on behalf of millions of people and that meant, the simpler and deeper it would be, the more relatable it would be. Yes, we would not step out of our houses, yes, we would respect the laws, and yes, we would protect our health and ensure the safety of others, but we would not idly stand by. We may not film this advertisement, but we will be sending a message to the people. So we decided, that we would reuse footage from our previous works of Boubyan Bank - which we had filmed for 8 years. We could always use some new footage by purchasing stock footage from the internet. Initially, this solution seemed easier and doable but as we began to work, we realized that it was very difficult to implement this for the reason that we were unable to personally the see the same old footage with a new vision, and we wondered if the people would be able to do the same. The most challenging part was to make sure that each piece of footage was looked at with a different vision and rightfully put in its place to convey the best message possible. It was equally challenging to find the right kind of stock footage from the internet. This was because most of the available stock footage does not reflect the Arab or Gulf Word. It was difficult to find footage that felt Arab in nature, including facial features and skin tones of the cast present in the footage. The majority of stock footage present on the internet has European or Foreign cast. And when we did find something that was relatable for our ad, it wouldn't necessarily fit with the Islamic law. For example, women in the stock footage would not be veiled. As Boubyan Bank is an Islamic bank, we were to make sure that an ad created for them would adhere to the teachings of the Islamic Sharia. After a lot of research and scrutiny, we found, thank God, the appropriate mixture. Now came the time for the advertisement to launch.
In less than 10 minutes, the advertisement goes viral, gets a beautiful echo, and is liked. The ad was reposted on many pages and the reactions were all positive. A similar reaction was seen on the bank's social media pages and on their YouTube. It felt great to have succeeded in being able to touch people's hearts with a message, as the goal itself was to be relatable by everyone who sees or listens to the ad. So these reactions were the biggest success for us and the bank. Before concluding, I would like to thank the journalist "Ali Najem" for giving my words a voice and a feeling. And I would like to thank Boubyan Bank management for their constant acceptance of every new idea and their constant eagerness to provide all that matters and benefits the community. In conclusion, I send sincere advice or word to everyone who reads this blog, if your message is real and simple, it will always reach the hearts of millions. Always be confident that if you are hardened by circumstances and life gets tough "there is always a solution waiting for you to see it".
English Translation: Nehan Sarfaraz