Jiyo Parsi: Celebrating Parsi Progeny

By Sohini Sen , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 18, 2014
In a recently released print campaign, Sam Balsara's Madison BMB humorously urges Parsis to get married and have children.

While India's population grows exponentially, the numerical strength of the Parsi community dwindles. To arrest this decline, Parzor Foundation, with a little help from Bombay Parsi Panchayat and the Ministry Of Minority Affairs, has come up with a print campaign that, quite simply, urges Parsis to get married and have children. The campaign does so by leveraging some endearing typicalities of the Parsi community.

Jiyo Parsi campaign

Sam Balsara

Shernaz Cama

Raj Nair

Parzor Foundation is a Delhi-based NGO that works towards preserving Zoroastrian heritage.

Madison BMB is the creative agency behind this humour-laden effort, titled 'Jiyo Parsi'.

The campaign attributes the dwindling numbers of the Parsi community to four main factors, namely, an increasing preference for staying single, for marrying late, and for having only one child, and, of course, to infertility. While the campaign speaks about each of these reasons, it focuses on in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) for which the government is offering financial help to members of the community, under the Jiyo Parsi scheme.

"The Parsi community in India has gone from 1,14,000 people in 1941 to just 61,000 people in 2001. And more disturbingly, for every 800 deaths there are only 200 births in the community. We thought, instead of making it just about IVF, we should talk about the entire issue, about the way the entire Parsi population is on the decline," explains Sam Balsara, chairperson and managing director, Madison World.

Just to put this into perspective, recall that India's population reached a billion in 2001 and is likely to surpass that of China by 2025.

"While doing our research," explains Shernaz Cama, director of the UNESCO Parzor Project, "we came across some places where, hundred years ago, around 1,000 Parsis used to live. But now they are just deserted villages. The whole point of the campaign is not about marriage; instead, it is about having more children, because that can keep the population stable."

Balsara points out that while the oft repeated advice to get married, when given by a concerned, well-meaning relative, tends to fall on deaf ears, a campaign around it might, somehow, be taken more seriously by the TG. The irony of the situation is not lost on Balsara - this is a mass media campaign that is targeted at just a handful of Parsis, who're based in different parts of the country.

At present, the campaign is running across Parsi publications. With the help of the DAVP Ministry of Minority Affairs, it may get extended to mainline print media in the days to come.

While the issue it is based on is a serious one, the campaign itself is humorous, even satirical at times, staying true to the famed 'Parsi nature'. According to Raj Nair, chief creative officer, Madison BMB, the idea behind the creative was simple - leverage the "Parsi sense of humour" to address the problem at hand.

"'Why so serious?' we asked ourselves," says Nair, "We decided, as a team, to put the messaging out in a way that wouldn't be bleak or morbid. On the contrary, we decided to go the other way and use humour as a weapon."

Swapan Seth

Partho Sinha


Says Swapan Seth, CEO, Equus Red Cell, a WPP-owned advertising agency, "I think it is based on certain fundamental insights into the community. That is what makes it incredibly real and effective. It is laced with self-deprecating humour which is also the leitmotif of the brand - 'the Parsi'. Overall, a glorious effort."

Partho Sinha, creative head, DigitasLBi, Publicis Groupe-owned digital marketing and technology agency, feels the use of condoms should not have been discouraged by this campaign.

"Should one now expect to see ads that discourage the use of pants in order to have a baby? We all know the Parsi community is an intelligent one. We don't need to tell them not to use condoms in order to procreate. They know that."

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