N. Shatrujeet

Indian Army: Offering a 'winning' proposition

The latest advertising for the Indian Army attempts to correct perceptions of the Army as a career option by highlighting the army man’s role in civilian life

Strange problem the Indian Army has. On the one hand, every second town in India has its army-men-as-heroes story that is part of folklore. Stories about how an army man (or a bunch of army men) descended from the barracks and set the town straight by fighting some injustice in the system (as showcased in umpteen Hindi movies). Or about how the army ‘helped put out the big fire in the market, when the fire engines failed to turn up'. And such stories are usually recounted with awe and reverence at the army man's bravery.

On the other, such stories inevitably conjure up a rough-and-ready image of the army man, someone who is all brawn. So, paradoxically, while these stories generate ample respect for the army man, they also perpetuate the idea of the army being a ‘tough guys'' career option. One reason why the Indian Army is not attracting enough ‘sophisticated, officer cadre' talent.

There are other, bigger reasons too. One being that the Army is a bad paymaster - especially when compared to the kind of monies being promised in the management/tech-sector. Another big concern is that the average army man's ‘family life' is pathetic (as if the 12-hours-a-day work culture in corporate India allows for a lot of ‘quality family time'!). And then, of course, the popular perception that the Army, as a career option, is passe.

Naturally, the Indian Army needs a huge image makeover. And this is the task that the latest advertising campaign (created by Lowe, Delhi) has set out to achieve. Consisting of nine press ads and five television commercials, the campaign aims to "bring about a change in perception, and talk about the reality of army life, the pay package etc," says Guneet Singh Lehl, vice-president, Lowe, Delhi.

A look at the commercials, very briefly. The first film (‘street fight') is about the kind of implicit respect an army man commands among civilians. The ad shows two people engaged in a scuffle. An army man (in uniform) walking by sees them, stops and just looks at them. Noticing the army man, the two civilians disengage and quietly go their respective ways - very civilly.

The second commercial (‘accident') shows the scene of a road accident. As onlookers gape mindlessly, an army man chances upon the accident and immediately takes charge of the situation by helping the victim. The ad is interspersed with shots of the army man at the battlefront, helping an injured soldier. Clearly, the idea is that the man's army experience helps him even in civilian life.

The third commercial (‘factory') sells the Indian Army's Short Service Commission (SSC). The ad talks about how an ex-army man (an SSC candidate) who is working in a factory at the management level helps break a strike in the factory by motivating the factory workers to resume work. This film too is interspersed with shots of the man motivating fatigued soldiers at the front. Here, the accent is on people management.

Then there is this ad where an army engineer, attending an engineering class while on study leave, proves his knowledge of the latest engineering breakthrough, winning the attention and respect of his professor and fellow students. "Sometimes, engineers don't know they have a career in the Army," says Lehl. The last is an ad that shows the army man as a happy husband and father. To neutralize that ‘no family life' perception, of course.

"This campaign is aimed at attracting top-quality youth to join the Indian Army officers' cadre - what they call ‘youth with OLQ' or officer-like quality," says Lehl. There is no doubt that the army is short of talent in the officers' cadre. While official figures aren't available, media reports suggest a shortfall of 12-to-13-and-a-half-thousand officers in the captain and major ranks, against a maximum capacity of 40,000. "This is mostly because quality youth doesn't consider the Army as a career option," reveals Lehl.

Lehl believes this campaign addresses each perception problem. "The pay is not low. We are, in fact, trying to say it will give you a better lifestyle than any other career can. Some think family life will suffer; but the army takes more care of the family than any other profession does. It has schools, colleges, Clubs, Army Wives Associations… It gives more organizational support than one could hope for. It is not fuddy-duddy. The Indian Army is one of the most modern and hi-tech. And it is definitely not for the ‘rough type'. We are saying, you don't have to be a Rambo to be in the Army."

‘Respect in civilian life' is the common thread in all the ads. That, and the army man's ability to master situations. "We asked ourselves what would motivate people to join the Army," says Balki (R. Balakrishnan), executive creative director, Lowe. "And we realized that there is a pride when an army man says ‘I am an army man'. And civilians immediately recognize and respect this pride. So we said, let us make this pride true by saying you can be a winner in all aspects of life because the Army equips you to be a winner. And every aspect of army life has some role to play in non-army life. It teaches you how to deal with people, it teaches crisis management, it makes you a better citizen… It makes you a winner." Therefore, the new slug for the Army reads, ‘Be an army man, be a winner for life.'

Interestingly, all five ads have real army officers as models. "The army man is a role model by himself, so why have models dressed in uniform?" asks Balki. The ‘battle' or ‘action' sequences in the ads are well executed, courtesy filmmaker Ravi Udyawar. "Ravi has a big part to play in this campaign," says Balki. "He storyboarded each ad, frame by frame. And cameraman Hemant Chaturvedi (of Bollywood flick Company fame) too showed a lot of commitment in capturing the spirit of the Indian Army. I personally think this is because the Indian Army has an inherent attractiveness. It demands passion."

Agency : Lowe, Delhi

The Team :

Creative : Munish Dhawan, Shantanu Chatterjee, Shubha Menon, Pramod Puranik, Kenneth Augustine

Servicing : Guneet Singh Lehl

Filmmaker : Ravi Udyawar

Camera : Hemant Trivedi

Music : Ram Sampath

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