Starring: Mumbai Police

By Rashmi Menon , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising
Last updated : March 21, 2013
The public service campaign uses real police men and women to convey a solemn message.

With women's safety becoming a focus area in the media, various debates have raged on the issue, with a lot of fingers being pointed at law enforcement agencies for their role (or lack of it) to tackle the problem. Taking up the issue, Ogilvy Mumbai has launched a public service message in collaboration with Mumbai Police, which attempts to restore people's faith in the police force and also tackle the issue from a different angle. The campaign's message 'Mumbai ko ladkiyon ki izzat karna sikha denge' (We will teach Mumbai how to respect its women) - leaves little room for doubt about Mumbai Police's intentions and commitment.

The five-film campaign directly tackles the issue of women who tolerate abuse or harassment because they are either afraid of the abusers or are uncomfortable reporting about it in a police station. It also addresses apprehensions about police insensitivity to the problem.

The television commercials feature different ranks of male and female officers in khaki uniforms. Each one of them looks directly at the camera and talks first to the women, assuring them that their complaints will be taken seriously and will be redressed. It goes on to feature the same officers repeating the same message to men, this time with a note of warning that those who do not heed, will not be spared.

The first film has two constables and an assistant sub-inspector telling women that although their officer is an intimidating man, it is only towards men. They urge women to not hesitate in visiting a police station. Another film has a woman sub-inspector telling women that if they are tolerating abuse because they feel uncomfortable narrating it to male policemen, then there are many police women in different police stations who can help them.

The next two films show inspectors telling women to not stop from complaining because the harasser/abuser has threatened them with powerful contact. They then warn the men to watch out as their threats of power will not work anymore. The last film features a senior inspector stating that no matter what the language - Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi or English - their complaints will be lodged and taken seriously, with a note to men to watch out.

In between, the TVCs also show Mumbai Police's emergency numbers, 100 and 103.

The thought for the campaign emerged after the Delhi rape case, explains Harshad Rajadhyaksha, group creative director, Ogilvy. During a discussion on the issue of increase in harassment and abuse against women, Rajadhyaksha and Kainaz Karmakar, also group creative director, hit upon the idea of a public service interest ad campaign. After an internal approval, the duo approached Sadanand Date, joint commissioner (law and order), Mumbai Police. "He (Date) gave us a patient hearing, where we stated our intention. He liked it a lot. He then told us about the ground reality and how precisely to aim the messages," recalls Rajadhyaksha, appreciating Date's active role in fine tuning the script with his input and also his support in holding an audition for his department's men and women to feature in the films.

Harshad Rajadhyaksha

Kainaz Karmakar

Karmakar says that the team came up with several ideas before zeroing in on this one. "If we had only addressed the women, it would have been just an assuring message. Talking to harassers/abusers in the same film conveyed that the police are serious about protecting women. It works better for women, who are watching the part where men are addressed, as they are reassured," Karmakar explains.

The idea to use real cops emerged to give additional boost to the message. However, executing the idea was not easy. Rajadhyaksha informs that Code Red Films co-founder Gajraj Rao, who directed the films, carried out a massive audition and shortlisted the seven who ended up in the ad films.

"We knew getting real policemen and women to emote in front of the camera was going to be a tough task. So, Gajraj conducted a two-day crash course by calling a friend from the theatre and teaching them the basics of acting," Rajadhyaksha reveals.

Karmakar praises the selected officials' cooperation and says, "I haven't seen this kind of dedication even in professional models. The police men and women went out of their way to give their best to the project."

The campaign had a grand unveiling ceremony on March 8, International Women's Day, by the Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and the chief justice of the Bombay High Court at the Gateway of India.

The films were initially launched on Star Pravah and on social media platforms. Rajadhyaksha informs that more channels are coming forward to air it and all the film theatres in the city will show the films soon.

Not surprisingly, the response has been tremendous. The videos received 2,000 Likes and over 3,800 Shares on social media channels in five days. The campaign also had a cascading effect with people instigating their city's police force by tagging them to the video links. Interestingly, both Rao and ad photographer Avadhut Hembade collaborated in the campaign without charging a fee. Hembade's photos adorned the outdoor campaign including hoardings and BEST buses.

To increase departmental sensitivity and involvement, a corresponding set of films showing ordinary women addressing the police force was also circulated for internal viewing amongst the police department.

Action packed?

Priti Nair

Anand Halve

Priti Nair, director and founder, Curry-Nation, likes the idea of using real cops committing to the viewers. However, she wishes that the aspect of using real policemen and women could have been made clear. "I know their titles and names were shown but they have been shot like models. Even the dialogues could have been crafted less like an ad," Nair says. She adds that the solid impact of the commitment is not fully felt because the campaign could have addressed some specific areas.

According to Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll, a majority of public interest ads are born out of good intention but are absolutely useless. While this campaign is marginally different from other public service ads, it doesn't address the problem, Halve feels. "The public service bodies can say what they want but for the ad to be effective, it should provide information that people can actually use. For instance, publicise or put a mobile app with mobile numbers of police officials, so that everyone can download. Empower the public," he suggests.

He adds that a more effective way could have been to put up names and faces of police men/women who arrest eve-teasers or abusers every week, or make heroes out of people who report an incident. "Show me the action, don't tell me the intention," he says.

First Published : March 21, 2013
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