afaqs!

A puppy called Condom

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | November 18, 2008
NACO's new campaign aims at condom acceptance among the masses

If you & #BANNER1 & # are thinking about naming a dog, 'condom' is a ridiculous name. But in the fourth and final phase of the Condom campaign run by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), in association with the BBC World Service Trust (BBCWST), a puppy named Condom plays an important role.

The campaign aims at promoting condoms and fortifying India's HIV/AIDS control efforts. It plans to shock the masses and get them talking about the issue, apart from simply doing what an ad campaign is supposed to do.

In its first phase, the Condom campaign featured a Jo Bola Wohi Sikander contest, which ran from December 1 to December 20, 2007. This contest was run in the four highest HIV prevalence states in India, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. It was advertised on television, radio and in cinema halls. Outdoor media was utilised and on-ground activities conducted in shopping malls, on beaches, at transportation depots and in rural areas.

The campaign then went national in Phase 2, with a TV and radio ad featuring a 'kabaddi' match. The ad was broadcast from March 7 to April 18, 2008. It aimed to get men to talk about condoms because this has a positive effect on condom use, and to show social support for this demonstration of smart and responsible behaviour. There was also an interactive element, with an SMS opinion poll in the print medium around the core message.

Phase 3 featured condom ringtone ads in August and September 2008. It was extended across television, radio, online (viral and a website, www.condomcondom.org) and mobile push-throughs (SMSing 'condom' to 5676787 in India). In its first five days, the Condom a Cappella ringtone got more than 20,000 downloads; till August 16, there were 60,000 requests for downloads. The ringtone was composed by Rajat (Juku) Dholakia and Rupert and sung by Vijay Prakash.

The campaign's mascot, the animated parrot, is supposed to be smart and opinionated, with a great sense of humour. The parrot was selected because of its association with the act of talking.

In Phase 4, the campaign will use TV and cinema as its media vehicles. The current phase will also feature the Ringtone ad from Phase 3 in short bursts, before the current campaign ends.

Produced by Equinox Films and directed by Milind Dhaimade, the TVC will be broadcast in five languages - Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Marathi. It targets adult men and has reached nearly 150 million men nationally. The research and creative duties have been handled by the BBCWST team, while the media duties have been taken care of by Madison.

The film opens on a shot of a lady (Bharti Achrekar) playing with a puppy. She turns to its owner (Vrajesh Hirjee) and his omniscient parrot and asks its name. Mischievously, they say it's called Condom. She falls for it and starts calling the puppy aloud by the name.

To provoke her further, the owner asks her how she can go about uttering the word 'condom' in public. The lady defends herself and proclaims support for condoms. The film summarises this in the tagline, 'Jo Samjha Wohi Sikander (The One Who Understands is the Winner)'. The lady is applauded by men and women of all ages, reinforcing that condoms mean good sense and those who know it are the real winners in life.

Speaking to afaqs!, Yvonne MacPherson, country director, India, BBCWST, says, "The new TVC is a good way to put in a nutshell our endeavours for the entire campaign. It comes at a time when we have achieved a 5 per cent increase in condom sales from April to September 2008, compared to the same period last year, largely possible due to the campaigns we ran with NACO's support. Also, we are a few weeks shy of World AIDS Day (December 1)."

When asked about the use of emerging and new media, MacPherson says, "The use of mobile and Internet has largely shaped the campaign and yielded extraordinary results. Phase 3 of the campaign prompted people to download the Condom Condom ringtone. It became a massive success in India and abroad. We received nearly five lakh requests to download the ringtone in India; another 160,000 people, mainly from outside India, downloaded the ringtone from our website, www.condomcondom.org."

She explains, "When people downloaded the ringtone and played it in public, they became advocates of the cause and promoted it voluntarily. This gave us a multiplier effect. Even when the ringtone prompted a negative response, we emerged as the winners, with the cause championed, because people would have at least started a dialogue on an issue that they generally tend to avoid."

MacPherson maintains that the entire campaign is the fruit of intense research conducted by the whole team, which yielded crucial data, like mobiles being the hottest property in India, and their reach and penetration.

Elucidating further, Radharani Mitra, creative director, BBCWST, India, says, "While thinking of a film with which to sign off the 2008 campaign, it struck us, why not pass the baton to an authoritative lady this time, who champions the cause while our protagonists are still present? This was decided keeping in mind that our protagonists have done quite a bit throughout the campaign. We have never tried to preach, sermonise or, for that matter, jargonise things. That is the reason our films have been simple, dialogue driven and precise."

Mitra maintains that the use of ringtones and other new media to promote a social cause has been a ground breaking activity on the organisation's part, with few parallels either globally or historically. The website received nearly four million hits over a three month period. Recently, the Condom a Cappella campaign made it to the top of the list of the five most innovative condom campaigns in the world on CNN.com.

Even though the organisation is pulling the curtains down on the 2008 campaign, MacPherson and Mitra are already gearing up for a fresh research drive, which will churn up insights to give shape to the 2009 campaign. They maintain that the parrot will be retained as the mascot because NACO is highly impressed with the results it has yielded and the associations it has built up. However, fresh elements will be injected in the next level.

For the record, the BBC World Service Trust is the international charity arm of the BBC. Created in October 1999, the BBCWST uses the creative power of the media to achieve development goals. It works in 43 countries around the world. The campaign receives funding from the Indian HIV/AIDS initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.