Census 2011: Time to stand up and be counted

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | February 16, 2011
DDB Health & Lifestyle, Tribal DDB and Terra, in collaboration with UNICEF, are out with marketing initiatives to promote the concept of the Census in the country, and to get people to realise that it is important to participate and be counted as citizens of India.

Census and Advertising probably don't go hand in hand too often. However, the year 2011 is a contradiction to that. As is known, the Census process commenced on February 9 and shall continue till February 28, and for the first time ever, the Government of India, in association with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), has launched a campaign with a total branding solutions perspective.


The first phase of the campaign, created by Contract Advertising, was more of an announcement about the Census (including the 'infants' commercial that had a jingle on the importance of infants being counted in the Census). It involved house listing and housing census collection of data on National Population Register (NPR), and was done during April-September, 2010.

The second phase ('Enumeration', created by DDB Health & Lifestyle, Tribal DDB and Terra) takes on the job of fighting inertia - of people who do not consider being 'counted' amongst the population as important while the Census is actually going on.

The DDB team was given a brief to create a campaign that motivates individuals to be counted in the Census, something that encourages them to disclose complete and correct information to the enumerators.

DDB Health & Lifestyle conducted extensive research to understand the mindset of people regarding the Census, and realised that rural people are keen to be counted in the Census as it gives them a sense of identity, and in turn, makes them feel secure about having access to basic services as citizens of India.

"Rural people wanted to come to us, and not the other way round," grins Urvashi Guha, vice-president, DDB Health & Lifestyle. However, certain pockets of the rural population, which may be untouched by the Census, need to be educated about it.

The urban population, on the other hand, saw the Census as a 'waste of time' and saw little point in getting counted. The 'do I really have to do it?' question was on everyone's mind, and people were reluctant to spend the mandatory half-an-hour with the enumerators who came to their doorsteps asking some basic questions about them, their incomes and properties.

"Urban people feel these questions are intrusive, or may have tax implications, and are hesitant to answer," says Guha.

Clearly, the task is manifold.

The method: every element 'counts'

The government is putting in huge machinery in place to make the Census footprint considerable this year, including roping in 2.7 million enumerators and supervisors, who will make door-to-door visits for the purpose of counting. This includes 25 lakh schoolteachers, as well.

The idea of the campaign comes from the insight of the Indian propensity of getting together on issues such as religion, cricket, dharnas and morchas - basically, the power of shared belief.

DDB Health & Lifestyle has employed a multi-media campaign for this, including outreach programmes, PR, digital and mass media to support the idea of arousing a 'spirit of cooperation' among the masses to come together and participate in the Census process for the benefit of the nation.

The TV campaign includes one 60-second thematic ad which has people from all walks of life proudly standing up and declaring that they have been 'counted' ('Meri ginti ho gayi hai'), while two other ads, 'Disability' and 'Gender', talk of how disabled people, too, are counted in the Census. Women doing any kind of labour come under the category 'working women'.

Apart from this, there are two films, featuring actors Priyanka Chopra and Sachin Tendulkar. Here, the celebrity in question popularises the Census mascot, which is the 'Enumerator' (an animated teacher in a uniform) created by DDB India. The celebrities tell us that they have been counted, too (indirectly lending credibility and implying that even busy people are finding the time to stand up and be counted), and everyone else should open their doors to the Enumerator. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram first unveiled this mascot.

"One of the biggest barriers to the Census is the fact that people, out of lack of familiarity, don't open their doors to the enumerator," says Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, Mudra Group, which is why there arose a need to design a friendly mascot to represent the enumerator. The TVCs perform a dual service. They are not just educational, but are calling people to take action, as well.

Furthermore, digital media such as Facebook and Twitter are also being leveraged. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh (one of the first to be enumerated in the process), has also put up the campaign on his Facebook page, appealing to the nation to participate in the Census.

The Facebook page for the Census 2011 contains a photography contest for the masses, as well as for professional photographers, encouraging them to submit photos clicked by them depicting India's 'strength in numbers'. This aims to flip around the negativity surrounding India's huge population figures. The winners stand to win cameras and other prizes, and the professional photography winners' photos shall be published in a coffee table book, inaugurated by the Registrar General of India.

The Twitter page contains interesting facts about the Census, to get people talking about it. Further, the Census website has been refurbished. Apart from television and digital, other media include regional radio stations encouraging people to participate, outdoor hoardings and bus panels/shelters.

On the ground level, the agency has created an outreach module, which includes street theatre and other outdoor devices implemented by the various State Census Directors.

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