Piyush Pandey, Balki team up to persuade young voters

By Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | April 09, 2014
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The two ad gurus have pooled their talents to tell our youngsters how much their views - and votes - matter. A look at the effort.

Election season in the world's largest democracy has begun. Voting dates are April 7 to May 10, post which the nation's 16th Lok Sabha will be elected. According to the Election Commission of India, the electoral population in 2014 is 81.45 crore, of which 10 crore are first-time voters. In fact, this election may mark the highest ever political impact of first-time voters.

Trouble is, so far, this section of society is termed 'first-time voters' only on paper. The actual impact of their actions will be felt only if they live up to this title by doing the deed on the day that counts. The Election Commission is concerned that these youngsters may not exercise their right to vote.

So how does one market the general elections to the young voter? Enter CNBC-TV18 and Hindustan Unilever. The two entities partnered with the Election Commission of India for a voter awareness campaign, and roped in none other than creative heavyweights Piyush Pandey (Ogilvy India) and R Balki (Lowe Lintas and Partners) to do the job. Both gentlemen have worked on the campaign within their personal capacity and not as the creative heads of their respective ad agencies.

Every Voice Counts

The two-film campaign is based on the winning case study presented by IIM Bangalore at this year's LIME, acronym for Lessons In Marketing Excellence, an annual B-school competition conducted by HUL and CNBC TV18.

Piyush Pandey

R Balki

Prasoon Pandey

The objective of the campaign is to convey to youngsters that their opinion counts. In the first film, a young Indian student, who is planning to travel to the USA on "voting day," is made to realise that his vote matters. His one-vote-will-not-make-a-difference attitude - one shared by many youngsters in the country - doesn't go down well with the authority at the consulate who is conducting his visa interview. She reprimands his casual outlook with the words, "If you cannot make a difference to your country, what difference will you make to another?"

The second film features a lady facing psychological abuse by her in-laws, for dowry. When she discusses the problem with her family the first time around, her younger sister asks her to leave her husband, only to be silenced by their father who pays no heed to her suggestion. A few days later, matters escalate and the lady, now a victim of physical abuse, tells her family that she wants a divorce. This time around, the father asks his younger daughter what she thinks ought to be done. If only he'd valued her opinion the first time she offered it.

The Winning Idea

By presenting this winning idea, IIM Bangalore won the fifth season of LIME. At the finale of the competition, four B-schools were given a case study challenge by the Election Commission of India. In all, over 10,000 students from India's top 12 B-Schools participated in this marketing challenge.

According to the winners, among the new challenges facing the Election Commission are tasks like motivating voters, helping them make an informed choice, and ensuring they cast their vote in a free and fair manner.

The winning team was given the opportunity to meet with Unilever executives, Ogilvy's Pandey and Lowe's Balki, who enhanced their ideas helped create this campaign.

Pandey, who is executive chairperson and creative director, Ogilvy South Asia, tells afaqs! it was a "fantastic opportunity" for him to judge the teams and create campaign ideas out of the case study prepared by the winning one. The wining case study, he shares, has "more layers of communication" that can be used by the Election Commission, in a sustained manner, through the course of the elections, to attract more young voters.

"The insights and data generated by the boys from IIM Bangalore was the starting point for the campaign," he says, "Balki and I sat together and developed the campaign keeping two major aspects of the voter in mind - pride of voting and apathy towards voting. Both the films are a result of what the case study wanted to communicate to the audience."

Balki, chairman and chief creative officer of Lowe, tells us, the brief given by the Election Commission to the participants was "pretty clear" and that the winners have made "good use of the opportunity."

Says Balki, "It was fun working with the younger lot of free-thinkers in India and executing the kind of ideas they came up with."

Two Emotions, One TG

Both films have been directed by Prasoon Pandey of Corcoise Films, according to whom, the scripts are "hard-hitting" and have used two distinct contexts and sets of emotions to reach the same TG.

We asked Corcoise's Pandey to share some anecdotes about the shoot. The general mood on the two sets was very different, we learn. "One film is light-hearted while the other is soulfully serious. While shooting the dowry film, it was important to get the feeling into their skins. By the time the shoot got over, the set was loaded with soulful emotions. And it was exactly the opposite while shooting the other film," he shares.

Among other things, this campaign marks the coming together of two creative rivals. Speaking about his experience working with Piyush Pandey, Balki likens the process to a "jamming session," the kind musicians get together for. "We met once and mainly communicated over the phone... the synergy worked out well," he tells afaqs!.

For Piyush, it was "fun," as the two came together for a cause. "Business keeps on happening but as market rivals, this time we fought together for a cause and I wish the young voters win this time. They have already shown signs in the first phase and I hope they continue to do so throughout the current elections," he says.

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