We spoke to the media brand's director about the multi-platform 'Lost Votes' campaign.
A lot of brands tend to 'speak up' around election season. And English daily -The Times Of India - has also been doing the same for quite some time now. Ad campaigns launched around this time push citizens to step out, take some time off their usual routine and cast their vote. What's intriguing about TOI's latest election-related ad campaign is the fact that it speaks about Indian citizens who live in India, but are unable to cast their votes since they are away from home.
In the campaign "Lost Votes", TOI highlights the fact that of the estimated 814.5 million eligible voters in the country, 281 million did not cast their vote in the 2014 general elections.
"The BJP, which got the largest number of votes, had just under 172 million (votes). So the single largest party in the elections was really the Non-Voters Party. What could be a bigger tragedy in a democracy?" reads the campaign page on the TOI website.
Voting, for Indians residing in the country (apart from a few exclusions like government officials), requires each person to be physically present at the polling booth to cast a vote. While almost all of the previous campaigns from TOI and other brands (TATA Tea's Jaago Re campaign is an example) urged the lazy and negligent voter to step out and vote; this one actually puts the onus on the government to implement a process so that the migrant population (those who have left home for work, marriage etc.) can cast their votes too.
Census 2011 data suggests that a significant part of the migrant population (454 million) in India constitutes women who migrate post marriage. This is followed by employment, education and business.
Speaking about the campaign, Sanjeev Bhargava, director - Brand TOI, TIMS and Mirror brands points out that consumers are driven towards brands that make a real difference to their world beyond just the functionality.
"This is even more true for newspapers. Newspapers carry a large responsibility on their shoulders. They are the only medium that delivers news which is carefully curated and validated. Credibility is our biggest asset," Bhargava says.
A TOI webpage dedicated to the "Lost Votes" campaign doubles up as a signature-campaign space where visitors can digitally register their support for the campaign.
"An issue of such high public interest needs to be registered officially. Heavy support to the campaign by the public at large will be a validation of the need for reform in our electoral system. With the general elections around the corner, this was the most pertinent constructive issue we could raise to public consciousness and we hope to drive it to a positive conclusion," Bhargava adds.
Crafted by JWT, TOI's agency on record, the campaign is currently being run on both traditional and digital mediums. Print has been used to create the impact and awareness of the detailed issue while other media like TV and radio are being used to augment reach and create involvement. Outdoor is selectively being used to boost awareness in specific locations and digital media is used to create interactivity, discussions and the gateway for eliciting support from the public at large.
Sambit Mohanty, NCD, JWT, explains that the brand's brief revolved around the question - What is the point of telling people to go vote if we can't enable them to do so?
"It's this challenge that the brand team shared with us that led to the 'Lost Votes' campaign," Mohanty says.
"Our biggest challenge was to get the articulation right - being copy driven, the campaign had to be a perfect balance of logic and emotion. The copy also needed to be simple enough to warrant translation into languages without losing its meaning or essence," he adds.
The creative team took its time getting the look for the campaign in place. "The pen and ink etching style is something we zeroed in on after a lot of trials. The film too, will be out soon," states Mohanty.
Vishal Mittal, group creative director, Dentsu One, considers the campaign a much-needed initiative and involvement of a newspaper like TOI creates a nationwide impact.
Mittal says, "These kinds of campaigns definitely create a favourable image for the brand. The brand comes across as a responsible one... one which doesn't hesitate to represent something; to stand up for something which will help the nation.
"And in today's age, it's extremely important for brands to come across as responsible. People want to be associated with brands which have a point of view. Moreover, media brands face a lot of criticism, a lot of flak. So, it becomes even more important for them to lend themselves to such social-led campaigns," adds Mittal signing off.
Romit Nair, creative head, FCB Ulka - Bangalore points out his personal experience with the issue TOI has raised in the campaign. “I have a voter ID of a particular city and I haven’t lived there since 2008 which means, unfortunately, I haven’t voted in 10 years. It did make me wonder as to why this hasn’t happened yet. As an initiative, it definitely works. I think it’s a really powerful idea and only a brand like TOI could pick up an issue of such a magnanimous scale,” Nair shares.
“Only a percentage of people vote every year. This is something that we always read in the news. What’s really beautiful is that a brand has suddenly taken a piece of the bad news that they print every year and found a way to solve a larger problem,” he adds.
“People take notice of something good that someone is trying to do. In most cases, the goodness gets noticed. I think, maybe, brands have learnt that going the ‘social causes’ route could be another way of building themselves,” states Nair.