A reason this season to end the silence

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | December 24, 2009
Aircel's corporate social responsibility initiative aims to provide the lonely senior citizens of the country a reason to talk

Christmas is here and like always, many brands have joined the festive bandwagon to reach out to consumers in different ways and with different agendas. On Christmas Eve, telecom brand Aircel will launch a CSR (corporate social responsibility) campaign aimed at cheering the lonely senior citizens of the country. The company is calling for consumers to donate their unused mobile handsets, which will be distributed through an NGO to the senior citizens, along with free talk time.

& #BANNER1 & #Aircel chose yuletide as the backdrop so consumers could do their bit by giving and spreading Christmas cheer. Taking a stand and making a statement has mostly been competitor brand Idea's prerogative. However, Aircel, too, has regularly reached out to its target group.

Two commercials, which will be aired this evening on major channels, will set the ball rolling for the initiative. The commercials have been created by Dentsu Marcom and directed by Adrian Mendonza, national creative director, Dentsu Marcom.

The first commercial, titled Couple, is a film showing an old couple having dinner in complete silence - all by themselves. The second film, titled Carom, starts with a hand taking the strike on a carom board, before the next hand takes strike. Soon, one realises that it's a single old man toggling between different sides of the carom board, playing by himself. Both ads end with the super, saying 'Silence is not always golden'. It then urges viewers to donate their unused cell phones to Aircel.

Towards the end of the ad, viewers wishing to donate their old mobile phones are encouraged to send an SMS, Donate Phone, to the short code, 5800000. Aircel also offers to pick up the phones for no additional cost.

Drop boxes will also be placed in high traffic areas such as malls, multiplexes, clubs and all 500 Aircel outlets nationwide, where one may drop the extra handsets. The drop boxes will be placed in the six major metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata.

The handsets that will accumulate in the drop boxes and the ones that are picked up on request from the homes of people will be collected by Aircel. Repairs, if any, including that of faulty adaptors, will be undertaken by Aircel, too. The handsets will then be recharged with a year's worth of free talk time, before being given for distribution.

Aircel has tied up with HelpAge India, an NGO that works closely with the health care and well being of the elderly. The cell phones that will be collected as a result of the initiative will be handed over to HelpAge India, which in turn will give it to senior citizens so that they can get in touch with their loved ones.

The idea germinated from the need to do something special and unusual, which would touch people. "We wanted to create a level of emotional engagement with consumers and establish brand connect in an innovative manner," shares Rahul Saighal, chief marketing officer, Aircel.

Though Aircel didn't specify what activity it would like to associate with, Dentsu Marcom came up with the thought of enabling conversations among that segment of our society that is usually the loneliest during festivities.

The cell phone, says Mendonza, is more of a young person's gadget, allowing him to do more than just communicate. It enables quick connect to the Internet and chat, listening to music and interacting on social media. The thought was to turn around the device and make it something that adds value to an old and lonely person's life.

"It's about connecting lonely hearts," adds Saighal. It is also commonly observed that a cell phone handset is changed very frequently, almost every year. Hence, the possibility of people having an extra handset is also likely.

While the holiday season is the time when people spend time with their loved ones, go out, enjoy and make the most of the season, it is also the time when the old, particularly those who don't stay with their families, feel even more lonely and forgotten. Hence, kick starting this activity during the season of goodwill seemed just right.

Apart from the TV commercials, press and poster ads will be released in major publications. Digital as a medium will also be used, including the Aircel website.

Though Aircel cannot put a figure to the number of handsets that the initiative is expected to garner, it is hoping that the season of giving will cast its magic.