Ashwini Gangal

UNICEF: "Ab Padhna Pakka!"

The campaign popularises the Right to Education Act; the total advertising spend for this campaign is approximately Rs 20 crore.

UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) has come out with a new advertising campaign, based on the 'Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009', which officially became a Fundamental Right on April 1, 2010.

UNICEF: "Ab Padhna Pakka!"
UNICEF: "Ab Padhna Pakka!"
UNICEF: "Ab Padhna Pakka!"
UNICEF: "Ab Padhna Pakka!"
UNICEF: "Ab Padhna Pakka!"
While the press ad to announce the RTE (Right to Education) Act was released on November 14 last year, the ad films were released last month. The total advertising spend for the 'Right to Education' campaign is an approximate Rs 20 crore.

The goal of this initiative is to ensure that each child in India is aware of his/her right to free and compulsory education. The five-film campaign aims to highlight the ease in accessing quality and equitable education for children in the 6-14 age group. Thus, the main target group of this campaign comprises parents of children within this age bracket, and other stakeholders such as members of the village panchayat and teachers.

Previous memorable communication efforts on part of UNICEF include campaigns centred on the issues of polio, HINI flu, water and sanitation, and cleanliness. The most recent campaign was the one to promote the concept of the Census in the country.

Of the five TVCs, one is a theme film, while the others address one education-related social problem each, such as social inclusion and discrimination, gender, social mobilisation and physical disability, amongst others. All films are crafted from the child's perspective. Each film ends with the words "Ab Padhna Pakka!"

The campaign has been put together by the DDB Health & Lifestyle (part of DDB Mudra) team, comprising creative heads Anil Verma and Partha Majee. The copy is by Brajesh Kumar, and the film's team includes Tapan Sharma, Michael Remedios and Anil Sonavane. Chrome Pictures is the production house, and the films have been directed by Hemant Bhandari. Urvashi Guha, vice-president, DDB Health & Lifestyle, Delhi, was instrumental as the project leader on this campaign.

Besides the five TVCs, the media mix includes communication across radio (also in regional languages), print and posters. On television, the reach is across 33 channels, ranging from educational to news channels. The campaign is also being aired across prime regional TV channels, depending on their TAM ratings.

Additionally, a RTE FAQs booklet for children is also being used to spread the word. The book aims at highlighting the history of education in India. "The booklet acts as a ready reckoner to inform the public and various implementing agencies about the duties and responsibilities on part of the central and state governments," informs Guha. The book is being adapted in 12 regional languages, in order to get the message across to the masses.

One of the consumer insights used during the ideation stage of this campaign is the fact that children are inherently curious about the world around them. "With equitable and quality education, the children will be provided with fuel to express their imagination and quell their curiosity," shares Guha. The communication strategy seeks to influence the current attitude and behaviour related to children. Another insight was that people are unable to visualise the benefits of proactively seeking primary education; the campaign tries to show these benefits to the target group.

Message received?

Industry professionals appreciate the campaign, but also point out its pitfalls.

UNICEF: "Ab Padhna Pakka!"
UNICEF: "Ab Padhna Pakka!"
Mythili Chandrasekar, senior vice-president and executive planning director, JWT India, feels the message on 'Right to Education' does come through, cumulatively. "The uniformity in the casting, the look and the feel works in unison," she says. "The 'Curious Child', though done before, is always charming as an insight and am sure will touch any parent," Chandrasekar continues about one of the films in particular. "One could definitely watch it again," she says. But, she feels that the theme film doesn't really achieve anything

About the others, Chandrasekar says, "The girl in the wheelchair nudges the mother to act. It is not clear if being differently abled or caste discrimination are the only reasons for not going to school, school absenteeism or dropouts."

Chandrasekar is of the opinion that presuming this campaign is meant to persuade the real target group, a strong "reason to go" would have added value. "How will education change your life and give you the progress you want?" she questions, saying that the motivation was missing in this campaign.

Prathap Suthan, chief creative officer, iYogi, says they're well-made films, right from casting and locations, to the acting. "But, there's a sideways look at the campaign," he claims, before sharing some of his observations. "My assumption could be wrong, but if TV households aren't the homes that are keeping children at home, then why use television as a medium?" Suthan wants to know. "If it's only for spreading the RTE, then why so many commercials? If there are multiple issues and aspects to be tackled, then shouldn't those be more provocative than just these pleasant ads?" he asks.

Suthan goes on to explain that according to him, the problem with kids not being sent to school comes directly from two primitive reasons -- children at home translates into more hands that can be employed. Moreover, girls anyway stay at home and are denied education.

Suthan further explains his stand. "Like I said earlier, these commercials give out the right message to the wrong audience. Show me one among us who will find the time and patience to educate the poorer lot and motivate them to send their kids to school. Ideally, commercials could have been made for us -- how we can contribute and take the message to the people. We should have been provoked into pushing our drivers, and maids, into sending their kids to school."

Suthan concludes that he personally feels like converting the current commercials into reality and suggests the campaign needs to be supported by a lot of BTL (below the line) work, on-ground activations, rallies, and events in the actual problem areas, in order to be effective.

"The spirit of education being a right, and a demand to be educated has been compromised. This was an opportunity to drum up positive aggression, not sweet looking films and jingles," he says. He feels the commercials ought to have been strong motivational films that empower children to seek out and get their education.

Pointing out that we need immediate action and immediate behavioral change, he says, "I am not sure these current films would initiate that kind of explosive surge. Sure I sound radical, but these times and these issues need powerful solutions, methods, and means."

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