Shreyas Kulkarni

BBH India takes on hate forwards in new digital film

Made by independent director Kunal Sawant, the digital film addresses hate forwards on WhatsApp after the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi.

The smartphone, dark and silent, suddenly glows in colour. You look towards it and there's a message on WhatsApp, a forward to be precise. You read it. By the time you're through, you're convinced of what it says, forgetting that it's just a forward.

You end up forwarding it to people you know will feel the same way you did when you first read it.

It all happened in March, when at least 2,000 people, including some from Southeast Asia, attended a religious gathering of Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi. Some of the attendees later tested positive for the Coronavirus, while many others ended up carrying the virus back to their home states.

As the news spread, WhatsApp saw an explosion of hate messages, not just towards the group, but also towards the religion (Islam) itself. From blaming them (the attendees) for the Coronavirus to other forms of hateful messages, a single event was used as an anchor to demonise an entire community.

Now, BBH India, along with independent director Kunal Sawant, has created a digital film detailing the event's chronology. Unlike other ads or digital films made during lockdown, this film makes use of emojis. It shows how a simple hate forward against anyone can boil up to unimaginable circumstances and lead to a lot of hurt and pain. The film ends with a simple 'Delete Hate. Forward Love.' It's something we all must remember or keep in mind the next time we receive such a message.

Kunal Sawant
Kunal Sawant

“It all actually began with a forward that I got in a WhatsApp group talking about 'how Tablighi Jamaatis are spreading the Coronavirus'. As usual, a heated debate ensued. Such is the power of an unthoughtful forward. This struck me like a bolt. I thought why not spread the message of not forwarding unnecessary divisive stories,” says Sawant.

Russell Barrett
Russell Barrett

Russell Barrett, CCO and managing partner, BBH India, added, “This one works because it comes from life, from a very real need to express a point of view. Sensationalism sells, but it also creates tremendous negativity. At a time like this, the last thing we need is hate. Simply forwarding this brand of hate does nothing but create more ill will and negativity.”

Talking about how the ad was pieced together, Sawant says, “The execution I thought should be through the same language which people use on social media to showcase their emotions. Emoticons or emojis.” He then got in touch with Barrett, both having worked closely together from their Leo Burnett days to BBH. Barrett was immediately sold on the idea, and 'Delete Hate. Forward Love' was born.

Barrett says that the use of emoticons and the message that was obviously of the moment were perfectly crafted. “We chose to have an end line that complimented the idea, rather than explain it, and we made sure we got the voices and the sound mix just right,” he says.

We're told that Barrett and Rahul Kulkarni (head of production at BBH) got a couple of BBH employees to record their voices on their phone from their home for the film.

“There are countless forwards that create anger and hatred in people. Fake news is floating around. So, it’s each person's responsibility to think before they share something with people,” Sawant signs off.

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