Aishwarya Ramesh

VMLY&R India’s Mukund Olety on how the award-winning Maxx Flash’s Killer Pack was conceived

The agency designed a packaging for mosquito coils - which would kill mosquitos when thrown away. The entry won a Grand Prix at Cannes Lions 2022.

VMLY&R India emerged as one of the big winners at Cannes Lions 2022, alongside Dentsu Creative and Ogilvy. It won a Grand Prix for its entry Killer Pack for VMLY&R’s client Maxx Flash mosquito coils. Overall it earned a Gold Lion, two Silver and two of Bronze Lions for its work.

There was one insight that the company identified - that its team built on too. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) data revealed that there were almost 400 million dengue cases in India - and some of these could have been preventable.

Maxx Flash’s Killer Pack is designed to kill mosquitos within a 45 square feet radius. It prevents breeding in garbage dumps and landfills by acting on the source of the problem - mosquito larvae.

In a conversation with afaqs!, Mukund Olety, chief creative officer at VMLY&R India, stated that the agency worked with Maxx Flash on a project basis.

When they were doing research for one such project, the team found information about a particular kind of bacteria, which kills only mosquito larvae and is harmless to everything else. The research also revealed that this bacteria had been recommended by WHO, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and all international bodies to fight against the mosquito problem, the world over.

“We thought that we could use the bacteria as a tool to fight against the mosquito menace. We were naturally inclined towards using Maxx Flash’s packaging to carry out this project. We discussed if it could have been an ad, a poster, or something else. But when we’re doing something for the product itself, we thought the execution should be in the packaging,” he says.

Mukund Olety
Mukund Olety

Olety explains that as far as the mosquito life cycle goes - though they’re inside the house, the breeding ground is outside.

“While the mosquito coil was solving the problem inside the house, the main problem was outside. Many times, packaging gets disposed in garbage dumps, dustbins, on street corners, etc. We asked ourselves, what if the packaging itself could double up as the solution to the problem?” This train of thought led to the creation of the Killer Pack for Maxx Flash.

Amit Srivastav, director, Maxx Flash explains the research that went into understanding the consumer mindset. “Behavioural habits are not easy to change. Habits such as littering and garbage disposal. We thought of turning this problem into a solution where the consumers can just dispose The Killer Pack at their local breeding grounds and this can help stop the spread of dengue and malaria at large,” he says.

Olety reveals that the team tried different ways to bring the idea to life - including figuring out ways to infuse the paper with the bacteria. “But when we did that, we found the efficacy decreased as soon as it touched a moist surface.”

Ultimately, the team found another solution - to infuse the printing ink for the packaging with the bacteria.

A breakdown of the Killer Pack
A breakdown of the Killer Pack

“We also created a deboss section within the packaging. When you see the picture of the coil embossed on top of the packaging, the bottom is slightly debossed. When the packaging hits a moist surface - the bacteria in the ink gets released. When it’s exposed to moisture over a period of time, the bacteria in the emboss and deboss sections get released. So, it is both instant and long-lasting.”

Olety also states that there’s been an increase in sales for the company after the entry won at Cannes Lions this year. The brief was originally to nudge the brand towards becoming a D2C business. “We’re now looking at how to leverage these accolades and the publicity to scale up the brand.”

Srivastav calls the impact of the Cannes Lions win 'massive' from a brand awareness standpoint which in turn increased search and online sales. "There are many mosquito repellent players in the market. Any new player entering this segment finds it difficult against the already established players. To be able to stand out within this category is a great start. We would like to continue this momentum and in parallel explore launching a liquid repellent with the same innovative packaging," he says.

Other products that will have 'Killer Packs'
Other products that will have 'Killer Packs'

Olety notes that Maxx Flash was willing to experiment and go ahead with the idea - after a few rounds of convincing, of course. “They had concerns about printing, sourcing bacteria, etc. But in terms of the idea itself, they were sold.”

Olety admits that cracking the idea was easy, but the execution was tough. “Our biggest issue was getting access to this strain of bacteria and sourcing it. The client had to get the bacteria from a lab in Kolkata and transport it by road.”

Their woes didn’t end there. Once they started attempting to infuse the bacteria with the ink - they ran into more issues. “The density of the ink changed altogether and we were scared that we’d jam the printing machines - four or five of the machines we were working with outright refused to print the Killer Pack.”

Ultimately, they had to resort to screen printing to bring the Killer Pack to life. They also tried infusing the bacteria on many different types of paper (different textures) before opting to go with the product’s original packaging to create the Killer Pack.

“One of the reasons the Killer Pack won big is because people could relate to it. It was not seen as an India-only problem or an India-only solution. Countries in Africa and Southeast Asia have mosquitos and may lack the infrastructure to deal with the problem. It’s a low tech idea and a simple innovation - that’s why it works so well,” Olety explains. Srivastav mentions that the company intends to import these packs to other countries in the future.

He doesn’t discount the role of technology in creativity, though he emphasises on the importance of the idea. “Tech is an enabler for creativity. At Cannes Lions this year, we proved our capability of using tech to tell a story and were rewarded for it. Take Ogilvy’s ‘Shah Rukh Khan’s My Ad’, for example. It was a well-executed piece. None of our wins were for traditional ad films.”

Before going to the market, the product was tested for two months – initially by the National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control (NCVBDC). The feedback was that wherever the Killer Pack was being used, there was a reduction in mosquito, dengue and malaria causing larvae.

The states in India where the Killer Pack is available
The states in India where the Killer Pack is available

The Killer Pack is available on Amazon and in retail stores across the country. It is also available wherever Maxx Flash mosquito coils have a distribution presence. It is priced at Rs 150. It is available in 7 states across India through brand distributors and via e-commerce.

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