Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Generation Hels: Why that Nestle Crunch ad hit such a nerve

JWT Egypt’s Ramadan 2015 television ad for Nestle Crunch snacks (not their chocolate bar, also going by the same name) is a reminder that there are a lot of talented comedy writers in Egypt who don’t typically have a platform to shine through outlets such as film and television, but who have apparently begun to infiltrate television commercials over the past few years. Off the top of our heads, Arab Dairy’s Panda commercials come to mind — becoming an international meme whose Egyptian origins is unknown to most people. See also: Fresca’s bellydancing orangutan, Edita’s Beethoven commercial, and the Aflam Melody commercials (before they ruined it by trying to extend the sketch into a feature-length film).

What is it about the Nestle Crunch Spot that makes it tick? The commercial addresses head-on something which many young Egyptians have felt intensely but are unable to express, or who have attempted to express it to their families only to have had those complaints fall on deaf ears. Frankly, the youth of Egypt are held hostage to what seems to be a completely alien way of thinking by older generations, specifically those born, let’s say, before 1975.

For the sake of argument, let’s call them Generation Hels [Nonsense]. We can already hear furious tapping on keyboards in efforts to send us hate mail, so we just want to clarify upfront that we say with this with complete love and respect for our elders — our parents, our grandparents, aunts and uncles. We love you, but you have held us hostage in your world of utter unreality — and frankly, it’s stifling.

We should also make clear that this is not a simple issue of “every generation tells the next that they walked uphill both ways to school.” This is something else: A younger generation that is far more critical and connected to the world has been left to its own devices to try to relate to a sometimes unfathomable generation.

The ad resonates because a variation of the conversation depicted in the commercial has occurred in nearly every Egyptian living room. It has been replicated hundreds of thousands of times, whenever a young Egyptian and his older family members talked past each other, whenever a young Egyptian pleaded with their parents in vain that there was no such thing as the AIDSKofta cure, whenever a young Egyptian has argued with their parents only to feel that they are instead arguing with what the talk shows have programmed their parents into believing. This commercial is a summation of sorts of all of these ongoing arguments.

People will leap up to disagree, but the ad’s message borders on the revolutionary without actually delving into politics. The teenager in the commercial typifies what many young people feel, or to be more accurate, don’t feel — that there is no point to caring or trying to argue with any sort of passion. It’s the weariness of having lost too many battles against brick walls, of having nothing they say be heard, of having listened to their elders go on and on about how they used to pull Skenchizer apart like taffy.

Nothing about the commercial is mean-spirited; it’s a love letter to Generation Hels, signed: You’re suffocating us, really.

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