NACO: Choosing safety over risks

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 09, 2010
NACO's new campaign, 'Muqaddar Ka Sikandar' focuses on the issue of risk, as it champions condom usage further

'Safety comes first' is an age-old adage. Now, it is being championed by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in its latest campaign -- Muqaddar Ka Sikandar.

NACO's previous, and much-appreciated, campaign -- Jo Bola Wohi Sikandar -- focused on being uninhibited in using the word, 'condom'. Three years later, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar focuses on the risks of indulging in unprotected sex.

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The TVC, the first output of the campaign, has been created by the BBC World Service Trust, the social communication arm of the BBC, which creates communication outputs for NACO on certain thematic areas, such as condoms, sexually transmitted infections and blood safety.

The commercial opens on a young, married couple in an elevator. As the couple steps out, the man pulls out a packet of condoms, which almost slips out of his hands. As his wife suggestively tugs at him, the packet slips and drops down the stairs. The man then ignores his wife's gestures and chases the packet, as it continues its descent down the flight of stairs. After a series of stunts, risking life and limb, battling dogs and movers, the man eventually gets the packet back, when it is lying on the ground floor.

As the protagonist cheers his effort and his wife smiles, an old couple initially looks at the man with a sense of awkwardness, only to eventually approve of his actions and prioritise the use of protection. The commercial ends with the man, who has a cheeky look on his face and the condom packet in his hands, as the elevator door opens.

The logos of NACO, National Rural Health Mission and Deluxe Nirodh are then supered.

The TVC has been made by Milind Dhaimade of Equinox Films.

Talking to afaqs!, Radharani Mitra, creative director, BBC World Service Trust, says, "The issue of risk perception seems to be the major barrier currently against condom usage. We are equating condoms with control; therefore, the campaign idea of Muqaddar Ka Sikandar".

Mitra says that previous research has indicated that men think it is macho to be invincible, and usually take safety for granted. The campaign aims at making people aware of the risks in practicing unprotected sex, and that safety must be insisted upon each time.

The building of the drama in the commercial, she says, is to convey the message of prioritising condoms.

As in the case of the earlier campaign, the current one will be rolled out in multiple phases, till March 2011. The first phase includes the television commercial and radio spots in eight different languages (Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali and Oriya), which are already on-air.

Risky business

The film has met with mixed responses in the ad fraternity, while the execution has been appreciated.

"Social ads are often boring or too subtle. This film, however, is apt for the target audience. The cinematography, styling, casting, choreography of stunts and even the music is worth appreciating. The thought is linear that will help the audience to connect well," says Vipin Dhyani, founder and creative director, Thoughtshop.

He is of the view that compared to the previous campaign; the current ad is much more intelligent communication with higher thought retention capability.

Brijesh Jacob, managing partner, White Canvas, however, is far from impressed, although he thinks that the execution and the stunts by the "butter-fingered guy are fantastic".

"The idea is interesting and the premise is nice. But is the viewer going to remember the condom or the stunts? The execution has overpowered the objective. You need to tell me newer facts starkly and scare me; and not just ask me to use a condom, which is an old message anyway," Jacob says.

According to Jacob, such films need to take communication and awareness forward, which, he thinks, the ad fails to achieve. He cites Population Services International/India's 'Balbir Pasha', as an example of an effective campaign.

"You want to focus on risks and then show me a film that is filled with risks anyway (stunts)?" Jacob says tongue-in-cheek.