Alokananda Chakraborty

PSI awards condom usage project to Percept / H

Following a multi-agency pitch, PSI/India has awarded Percept with an awareness project that involves promoting the concept of safe sex through the use of condoms

Following a multi-agency pitch that involved some of the country's largest advertising agencies, PSI/India - the Indian arm of the Washington DC-based Population Services International (PSI) - has awarded Percept / H's Delhi office with the communication responsibility for a new large-scale, mass consumer-based awareness project that involves promoting the concept of safe sex through the usage of condoms.

Sharing the news of the win with agencyfaqs!, Amitava Mitra, branch director, Percept / H, said, "The pitch for the project happened roughly a month-and-a-half ago, and we were competing for the business with the likes of JWT India, O&M, Lowe, McCann-Erickson, Rediffusion | DYR and FCB-Ulka. The pitch was a big affair, and was attended by people from the Bill & Melinda Gates team (the new project is being funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), as well as people from PSI. The decision has now been taken in our favour."

PSI is a non-profit and non-governmental organization with interests in the fields of reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention, and maternal and child health, and works in over 60 countries across the globe. Lowe's famous ‘Balbir Pasha' campaign promoting AIDS awareness (which also won a silver Effie last year) had been created for PSI, it may be recalled. Mitra reveals that the new project is similar to the ‘Balbir Pasha' project, but "will be on a much larger scale". The project is targeted at middle- and lower middle-class audiences, and aims to get individuals who patronize commercials sex workers (CSWs) to use condoms regularly.

Commenting on the win, Mitra says, "All the big agencies that participated in the pitch have worked with PSI at different points in time in the past. So, in a sense, we were the outsiders. But they finally gave us the account because they found that our understanding of the target audience's (males from the lower SECs) mindset matched their own understanding, and we were able to meet PSI's expectations in terms of delivering a strong and focused message." Mitra adds that the focus of the project will be on the national and state highways, with the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu being the primary target regions. He also reveals that the communication - which would involve press, television and "a lot of below-the-line activity" - should break by end-May.

Speaking about the communication idea that Percept has developed for PSI, Mitra says, "These are extremely sensitive issues, and there is no point in getting into communication that gets pulled off the air because the government or a rights group finds it offensive. At the same time, the communication had to be bold and upfront. We had to factor all this in and make sure that the target audience gets the message. And to make sure that even less educated people get the message, the communication will be very pictorial and symbol-led." Mitra adds that the agency has hit upon a strategic insight that can work around the general apathy and I-don't-care attitude that plagues the target audience. "There is no point in trying to tutor or scare people - it doesn't work with this SEC. However, the one thing they treasure is their manhood. So if you tell them through bold symbols that their manhood is under threat, you touch them where it hurts. That is the approach we'll be using." © 2004 agencyfaqs!