The handsome Emirati capturing the hearts of UAE viewers
ABU DHABI // Sultan's right-hand man, Saeed, is always there to offer words of wisdom when the carefree Emirati finds himself in trouble, which is often.
Sultan takes his advice reluctantly but is always thankful he listened to his sensible friend, who always ends their conversations with five words: "Your health is your life."
The animated Emirati characters are part of a continuing campaign by Seha, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, which has captured the attention, and in some cases the hearts, of television viewers.
The one-minute episodes follow the escapades of Saeed, a handsome, level-headed Emirati in his early 20s and Sultan, his quirky but foolhardy friend.
The concept was formed when the team at Seha asked themselves how they could convince people to live healthier lifestyles.
"We tend to never think about our health until we get sick," said Salama Al Mazrooei, corporate marketing and communications manager at Seha. "People don't like being lectured, so that was the challenge. We started thinking of introducing a cartoon character – something the audience could relate to."
Saeed was first broadcast on Abu Dhabi TV during Ramadan of 2011. As families gathered around their tables for iftar, they would watch one-minute clips of Saeed and Sultan.
In one episode, Sultan insists he can handle spicy food for suhoor, only to end up thirsty the next day.
In another, Sultan thinks he has had a beneficial exercise session after running for just three minutes – until Saeed snaps him back to reality.
"Sultan's character is always complaining about things not going well for him," Ms Al Mazrooei said. "It's like your typical local guy who always goes out and does things without thinking about the consequences, and then gets upset when something goes wrong."
The playfulness of Sultan's character contrasts with Saeed's astuteness, making the pair an interesting match.
Plots are driven by community issues and doctors are consulted before developing each episode to ensure each messages is correct, Ms Al Mazrooei said.
A year after the characters were created, Salem, the nephew of Saeed, was introduced. This campaign was launched by the Ambulatory Health Services (AHS), the wing of Seha that manages the ambulatory care clinics and school health services.
"We wanted to come up with something unique to spread messages on positive healthy attitudes and behaviours in a way that would reach families in their homes," said Ahmed Lari, director of marketing and customer care at AHS.
"Normally in marketing we print brochures and pamphlets, but a one-minute episode on television could pass these messages better than thousands of brochures we could distribute or print."
Salem was introduced as part of a family unit. This was for two reasons, the team said. The first was to depict reality.
"When it comes to school health, you don't want to just talk about the student – the student has their family," Mr Lari said. "We wanted to emphasise this area, that the student's parents should support him in school, even in terms of their health."
Second was that having a family unit would allow the creators to expand the messages. "Now Salem is the lead character but in the future it may be his mother, for example, if we want to highlight breast cancer," Mr Lari said.
Salem was introduced as a pupil at primary school, about 8 years old, to target schoolchildren between the ages of 4 and 12. Part of what makes children relate to Salem's character is his humility.
"We always look through the scripts to make sure he's not a good boy doing everything right because we don't want kids to feel like he's a perfectionist," said Lubna Haggag, the senior e-communications and website analyst at AHS.
"So in our episodes you'll see him making mistakes, and then learning from them."
The focus of the episodes has been extrapolated from statistics, said Dr Najah Mustapha, school health services director with AHS.
"These are the problems which are prevalent in the community in Abu Dhabi among kids," she said. "We have the annual school screening reports, so we look at what issues are prevalent among students and, based on that, we come up with the topics."
Feedback from the community has been overwhelming, with many posts on Twitter demanding the characters' return.
"We had people telling us Saeed looks like someone in our company. Girls loved him immediately," Ms Al Mazrooei said.
"When the adverts aren't airing, people ask us where is Saeed? and we tell them he's preparing for the next season.
"It's great because this is exactly what we wanted to do, create a memorable character to relay important messages."
Saeed can still be seen on Abu Dhabi Al Oula and both campaigns are available on YouTube.
For more clips of Seha's campaign, click here.
Updated: May 4, 2013 04:00 AM