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Swachh Bharat Mission: Shame the Offenders

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | November 05, 2014
A high-visibility TV campaign has been launched to create awareness and also initiate action under the ambitious Swachh Bharat initiative.

India, one of the world's most culturally rich countries, often draws flak for being polluted and dirty. In a bid to hold a mirror up to society, prime minister Narendra Modi announced the 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' (Clean India Mission) on October 2 urging citizens to chip in. The BJP-led government also launched the first ever television campaign to create awareness about this initiative among the masses.

Swachh Bharat Mission campaign

Executed by Grey, the central idea of the campaign is to 'shame' the offenders, who have no qualms about throwing garbage, littering and urinating in public. The commercial features people from different walks of life polluting public spaces and being cheered - or rather jeered - by the people who have observed their dastardly act. This is the first phase of the campaigning, demonstrated by a 60-second TV commercial, which will be aired in 10 languages across all major networks.

Samir Datar

Malvika Mehra

Samir Datar, VP & branch head, Grey Delhi states that while people are very particular about keeping their homes clean they do not think twice before littering areas outside. "We believe that the idea of shaming people who litter, is a compelling idea and can become a very effective behaviour change tool, once it gets traction in social media and ground activation," he notes adding that there will be subsequent communication that will further amplify and point out such behaviour. Datar says that the campaign goes beyond just creating awareness about the initiative and aims at achieving a behavioral change.

Meanwhile, Grey Group India's national creative director and EVP, Malvika Mehra explains why they have chosen 'sarcasm' in the campaign to drive the message. "Despite countless messages by the government, we still see a total lack of involvement from our brethren for the cause. The sarcasm in the film is an attempt to drive home the point harder by now literally 'humiliating' the offender, albeit nicely. Hope such efforts lead to a Swachh Bharat indeed," she adds.

The commercial, which will be dubbed in 10 regional languages, has been shot in three days in Wai (near Pune) and Mumbai. Bollywood actor Anupam Kher has done the voiceover. Rahil Patel of Razorblade Films has directed the ad while the music has been created by Niriksha Ajay Kakade. The Swachh Bharat Mission has also gained traction on social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook with renowned personalities from sports, entertainment, politics and business circles participating in the initiative.

The Clean India Campaign is a national level campaign covering 4,041 towns. The aim is to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure. This campaign aims to accomplish the vision of 'Clean India' by 2 October 2019, the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.

Not enough

Our experts believe that while the campaign marks a departure from 'sarkari ads' it will need to take a more bold tone and on-ground execution to drive the message to the public.

Prathap Suthan

Prathap Suthan, chief creative officer and managing partner, Bang in the Middle, sees it as a well-timed idea, which needs to be shown to as many people as possible. "I would encourage the Government to send out teams across cities who would actually do this and enact this in real life. As a country we lack the enthusiasm and initiative to stand up and oppose wrong doers. We respond to examples. And when someone does that, others will follow," he opines.

He, however, is not sure if general public will get the sarcastic tone that the commercial has as it only works when the audience is educated and evolved enough to understand the resultant guilt and shame. "I would certainly like to see more films that compliment people who do the right thing," he says adding that there should be a series of films (digital variants) showcasing the urban upper middle class neighbourhoods who also litter without care.

For Sujata Anandan, political editor, Hindustan Times, Mumbai edition, the campaign, although in right direction is just too 'mild' to initiate action. She believes India needs far more intense communication to drive the Clean India message across. "While the campaign features pertinent issue of littering and urination in public places, I believe we as a society need more than just naming and shaming to achieve a clean India," she says.

In a society where people are used to keeping their homes clean and dumping garbage in public places, strict clinical measures are required to achieve tangible results. Anandan exemplifies how the government of Singapore levies a fine of up to $1,000 for littering pointing out that until the Indian government takes stringent measures against littering not much can be achieved on a mass level.

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