Sunit Roy

You and a sex worker are not as different as you think, shows Red Label

In this short film titled 'Taste of Togetherness', HUL's Brooke Bond Red Label showcases a recently executed activation.

We have all grown up believing that some people are 'bad people'. Ever wondered what happens when you meet one of them?

Recently, Brooke Bond Red Label set up a 'share a free tea' stall at Churchgate station, one of the busiest railway stations in Mumbai. The message at the stall read "Free chai piyo naye dost banao" (drink a cup of tea for free and make new friends). Hidden cameras and microphones were installed to capture every little thing that transpired inside the stall. The on-ground activity was carried out just for a day.

You and a sex worker are not as different as you think, shows Red Label
In the video, a woman (an insurance agent by profession) is sipping a cup of tea, when a sex worker (or 'call girl' as colloquial slang goes) enters. They start conversing.

What comes as a shocker to the insurance agent is the fact that the woman sitting in front of her is a resident of Kamathipura (Mumbai's famous 'red light' district). The agent thinks of moving away, but stays back. Later, she explains in the video, "It looks indecent to leave a cup of tea, served to you, without consuming it."

The two women end up bonding with each other and even compare notes on insurance plans for their children. The agent realises over the course of their chitchat that the sex worker is also a working woman just like her, who harbours concerns about her daughter's wellbeing, just like she does. The video, created by Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai, has registered over nine lakh views on YouTube, so far.

You and a sex worker are not as different as you think, shows Red Label
Shiva Krishnamurthy, general manager - tea, marketing, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), while talking about how the activation grabbed the attention of commuters at the station, tells afaqs!, "The tea kiosk was set up at the main platform, and was large enough to accommodate a simple setup of a table and chairs. The kiosk encouraged people to sit and share a cup of tea while talking to each other. We had hundreds of people who were intrigued by the stall and a lot of them visited the stall too."

According to Krishnamurthy, the film brings alive the most important learning from this social experiment - how absolute strangers with very different social backgrounds are able to connect with each other over a cup of tea. He adds, "Brooke Bond Red Label has always been about bringing people together. Over the last couple of years we have brought this idea to life through our 'Taste of Togetherness' campaign, wherein we have challenged the deepest prejudices that keep us from forming new bonds. This film is a continuation of that campaign. The stories we share, or the ones we will share in the future, will also be based on the same principle."

Industry Speak

The campaign furthers the brand's 'Common ground is just a cup away' philosophy. We asked a few communications experts what they made of this on-ground effort.

You and a sex worker are not as different as you think, shows Red Label
You and a sex worker are not as different as you think, shows Red Label
You and a sex worker are not as different as you think, shows Red Label
Shobhit Mathur, executive creative director, Hakuhodo Percept, says, "It's really good to see brands with so much at stake trying to create a difference in the society. Campaigns like these certainly help break social stigma and give people a different perspective." However, he goes on to add, "My only problem with this ad is that it still looks staged. It lacks the authenticity needed to shake people up."

Spandan Mishra, head, strategic planning, Rediffusion-Y&R, Mumbai, says, "It's an excellent, gutsy, well executed idea, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a milestone. Exposing a person's biases has been taken up by quite a few Indian brands like Dabur Gulabari, Titan Raga and Chevy Beat. But yes, it's a very international style of advertising, made popular by the likes of Dove Real Beauty Sketches." He finds the 'some people are bad' thought a bit tacky.

Pooja Rawat, associate vice-president, Lowe Lintas, opines, "The protagonists are an interesting duo but the experiment itself seems somewhat engineered starting with the protagonists themselves, the call girl's no-hesitation attitude about her background, some deliberate pauses and force-fitted dialogues about tea, and the typical common ground of children. To top it all, there is hardly any suspense in the video once you know the two characters."