14th Feb Special: Valentine’s Day Vs Anti Valentine’s Day

Saint Valentine must have done some pretty spectacular stuff in his lifetime to be remembered like this.

Legend has it, he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who weren’t allowed to marry and before his execution he wrote a farewell letter to his jailer’s daughter signed, ‘from your Valentine’.

Though the historical details are fuzzy, thousands of years later the world still celebrates Saint Valentine’s romantic streak with flowers, balloons, chocolates, and of course, advertising.

In Pakistan, Valentine’s Day gets a lot of flak for being a Christian holiday, thus making it a threat against local culture and Islamic teachings. Now whether or not you agree with this, it’s created a distinct divide in the advertising campaigns geared towards this day.

First, let’s take a look at some of the brands who have hopped on to the Valentine’s Day marketing bandwagon:Surprisingly enough, out of all the telecom providers (who are usually the biggest ad spenders) only Mobilink and Warid have promoted Valentine’s Day in their communication.

And then there’s Nestle Fruita Vitals whose Facebook page has transformed into an anti-Valentine’s Day campaign called Velatimes Day.At the other end of the spectrum, religious organization Tanzeem-e-Islami, founded by Dr Israr Ahmed and currently led by Hafiz Aakif Saeed, has launched it’s own anti-Valentine’s Day campaign urging people to ‘stop now’ in the name of Islam. This is their ad in Karachi, on the Bahadurabad roundabout:

Meanwhile in Lahore, the Islami Jamiat Talaba Pakistan has announced observing Valentine’s Day as Haya Day across the country. In a press statement, IJT Pakistan’s Nazim-e-Aala Muhammad Zubair Safdar said Jamiat activists would observe Haya Day by boycotting Western traditions and instead observing special ceremonies in educational institutions across the country. He went on to say that Pakistan was an Islamic country but unfortunately indecency was being promoted through such celebrations.

But that’s not all. Pakistani media watchdog PEMRA has gone so far as to issue a notice to television and radio stations requesting them to avoid offending religious sentiments and corrupting the nation’s youth through their Valentine’s Day broadcasts. While PEMRA has not called for outright ban, the letter states that celebrating the day is not in line with “our religious and cultural ethos.”


Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular amoungst Pakistanis, and I personally do not have a problem with those who choose to celebrate or those who promote it. I don’t think Valentine’s Day is inherently immodest, or that it spreads any more or less immodesty than is already present in society on any given day.

As far as Valentine’s Day marketing goes, none of the campaigns are terribly exciting but kudos to the brands for being current and relevant, especially Nestle Fruita Vitals who used the occasion to heighten social media engagement.

It’s often said that the most surefire way to ensure promotion is prohibition, but in this case promotion was being done by brands regardless. The Tanzeem’s ‘Say No to Valentine’s Day’ campaign did generate hype around the day, but it also promoted their own agenda,  and it got people talking. These two photos in reponse to the campaign saying ‘Pyar honay day‘ and ‘Fasla na rakhain‘ on the Secular Humanist Pakistan’s Facebook page are currently being circulated on social media.

If we take word of mouth and social media buzz as a benchmark for marketing success, then I’d say this year’s anti-Valentine’s Day efforts have been more talked about, and consequently, more successful.