Benita Chacko

“We created a humourous music video to break through pandemic’s depressing mood”: Planning Room’s GV Krishnan on vaccine campaign

Sundaram Finance’s latest campaign ‘Oosingo’ aims to tackle Tamil Nadu’s vaccine hesitancy through fun and humour

Tamil music composer Anirudh Ravichander created history in 2011 with his debut song ‘Why This Kolaveri Di?’. Within days of its release, the song, from the Tamil psychological thriller film 3, became the most searched YouTube video in India and an internet phenomenon across Asia. A decade later, he is once again weaving magic with his music- but this time to promote Covid19 vaccinations.

He has created the music for a Sundaram Finance campaign ‘Oosingo’ that urges people in Tamil Nadu to go ahead and take their vaccines against the deadly virus. While many brands have undertaken this social role, this one stands out for its humourous and musical take on the subject.

The brand has created the campaign to increase the vaccination rates in Tamil Nadu, which remains a concern. According to an article in The Times of India, as on October 24, the vaccine coverage in Tamil Nadu remained below the national average of 76% for the first dose and 31% for the second dose. In absolute numbers, TN was below at least eight other states including UP, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The article quotes health secretary J Radhakrishnan as saying, “Most people who want the vaccines have got it. We are now pushing people who are hesitant to take the vaccine to come to the centres. It is taking a lot of effort and time.”

While many factors have contributed to the hesitancy, among them is the death of the popular Tamil actor Vivek a day after he took his vaccine shot. His death in April had caused a major scare in the state, with many citizens doubting the vaccines, thinking that it caused his death. However, a recent report confirmed that his death had nothing to do with the vaccine.

Through the campaign the brand also aims to tackle this hesitancy. Harsha Viji, executive vice chairman, Sundaram Finance, said, “The state government is making an excellent effort in driving vaccination across the state. However, surveys and anecdotal evidence show that a sizable minority of Tamil Nadu’s citizens are resisting vaccination for a variety of reasons. We believe this is a crucial time and we are in the last mile in our fight against Covid. We need to keep up the momentum to educate and encourage our people to get vaccinated.”

The print ad
The print ad

The Sundaram Finance group intends to spend up to Rs.10 crores on this public service programme in a phased manner, across traditional media, digital and social media as well as on-ground initiatives both on its own and in conjunction with local NGOs.

Rajiv Lochan, Managing Director, Sundaram Finance, said, “The Sundaram Finance Group continues to be an integral part of the community and we believe we can help make a difference. As the number of first doses are seemingly decreasing, we feel that this is the opportune time to double down and motivate people to get vaccinated. ‘Oosingo’ is our way of driving the community to think about getting the jab.”

GV Krishnan
GV Krishnan

In a conversation with afaqs!, GV Krishnan, founder of Planning Room, the agency that conceived the campaign, speaks on the need for creating this campaign and how they executed it. He has been the president at MullenLowe Lintas Group. He launched his own strategy and creative firm - Planning Room based out of Bangalore in 2019.

Planning Room, a brand consulting firm, specialises in cracking the "high value idea and creative expression" for any opportunity or problem faced by a brand or business.

The work on the campaign began when the Sundaram Finance Group leadership team reached out to the agency with the brief of educating and encouraging the people in Tamil Nadu to get the vaccine and most importantly to alleviate the fear of vaccination.

But the agency felt that mere education could be boring and preachy and would not solve the problem. It chose music to break through the clutter and emotionally connect while landing the message in an entertaining and fun way. This fresh approach would also change the depressing mood created by the pandemic and bring a smile back.

“The idea 'Oosi Podu Attam Podu' (Get a jab and celebrate) led to the song #Oosingo. And the strategy to create impact and connect was simple- deliver a serious message in a light-hearted way. In every family the children are the more progressive ones. So if we could crack a tune, a song which could get them to sing, shake a leg, create reels and share it on social media, the video and movement could gain good traction. We are happy that people across all strata have taken to this,” he adds.

They got Anirudh on board to compose the music and Enjoy Enjami fame Arivu to write the lyrics. Both sang and performed together in the video. Satish Krishnan choreographed the song, Manoj Paramahamsa did the cinematography and it was directed by R Ajay Gnanamuthu, with the production managed by Shahir Muneer and Vishu Ramaswamy, founders of Divo, a digital entertainment company. In the two weeks since its release it has already garnered over 30 million views on YouTube.

The music video addresses several important concerns around vaccination, including which vaccine to take, Covaxin or Covishield? Not only is the message clear but it is also delivered through simple and hilarious lyrics. The core message of the song is ‘Go get a jab' but it attracts attention through its humourous format. It takes on the look of a superhero genre as the two vaccines are dressed as superheroes beating up the ‘bad guys’ (Coronavirus). The catchy music is based on ‘koothu’ beats, a folk dance form from Tamil Nadu popularly seen in Tamil films.

“We created a humourous music video to break through pandemic’s depressing mood”: Planning Room’s GV Krishnan on vaccine campaign

The video features several elements that we became familiar with during this pandemic and even mentions some of them- second wave, oxygen cylinders, vaccination certificates. While these words are associated with a tragic time faced by the country, this video manages to weave them into the narrative in a comic manner and without seeming offensive to people’s experiences.

It is not just the humour that grabs one's attention. For the Tamil audience, the characters in the film are also of great interest. The video is dotted with familiar faces that have popular references and are almost a part of their homes. Just spotting their favourite actors playing humorous characters in an ad film can be quite a draw. Apart from Anirudh and Arivu, famous comedians, Vijay TV Robo Shankar, KYP Bala, Thangadurai, and Deepa from Cook with Comali fame also feature in the video.

There is always a risk of diluting the essence of the message while delivering it in a humorous and fun way. The music may catch on, the lyrics may stay on everyone’s lips, but the message may just slip. However, Krishnan feels that Gnanamuthu and the team got the balance right, with the video being full-on-fun with the message intact.

“There is no dilution in the message. In any creative product, as long as the messaging is tight and sharp, with the right tone of voice we can break clutter in an interesting way,” he says.

"In any creative product, as long as the messaging is tight and sharp, with the right tone of voice we can break clutter in an interesting way."

With the campaign gaining popularity in Tamil Nadu, the brand is considering spreading the message to other parts of the country where the vaccination rates are still low. Krishnan is confident that the same video can effectively deliver the message everywhere else as well.

“Sundaram Finance Group's vision is to increase the vaccination rate and help the government reach 100% vaccination across the country. We think this video is working, so we may take it across to other states as well. The reason we chose music to deliver this message is that it cuts across geography, language and cultural barriers. My sense is if this can work here, it can work anywhere in the world,” he adds.

While the campaign is created by Sundaram Finance, at no point does the messenger become louder than the message. The brand logo sits in a corner, not demanding your attention, and there are no subtle brand placements during the film.

“This is very typical of Sundaram Finance group. The leadership team was very clear from the very beginning that the message should have all the prominence. Also from a creative standpoint, any brand integration would have been very forceful and would not sit well with the whole idea,” he says.

"The leadership team was very clear from the very beginning that the message should have all the prominence."

Speaking of the challenges in conceptualising and creating this campaign, Krishnan says that for him the biggest breakthrough was getting the right kind of music. “The important thing was to get the tune and the tone of voice absolutely right. The messaging had to come through, but the music had to be interesting and catchy,” he adds.

His other concerns were getting the right cast and crew and ensuring their availability. The rains also threatened to wash out the two-day shoot at Binny Mills last month, but they got lucky.

"The idea was to work on a theme that is funny, quirky and also thought provoking. We hope we have communicated the intended message in an enjoyable manner," said Gnanamuthu, the director.

"The song is full of energy and created in a comic book style. Once the kids' love it they will make the elders hear it and thus educating them too," said Satish Krishnan, the choreographer.

Need a full service agency for your project? Choose among 70 such agencies on afaqs! Marketplace now. Click here.

Have news to share? Write to us