The new ad (that everyone is talking about) for Project Streedhan #InvestInIron, a CSR initiative by the Dutch health-based MNC, DSM Nutritional Products, is a healthcare advisory at its core. The film, targetted at urban women, asks them to consume more iron-rich foods. Reports indicate that India has the highest prevalence of anaemia — with half the female population in India being anaemic. It is a condition where the body lacks sufficient red blood cells and this is mainly caused due to deficiency of iron in the body.
However, what stands out about the campaign film is that it hasn't been crafted like a typical healthcare (issued in public interest) sort of an ad. The ad completely cuts out the 'doctor with the steth hanging around the neck' visual. Instead, the minute-long film features brightly clad models relishing food backed with a peppy folkish lyric. The music has been directed by Debasis Shome and sung by Madhupourna Ganguly. The visuals of women enjoying food makes clear the fine line between sexualised and non-sexualised visuals. Crossing the line would leave us in the heavily sexualised Slice ‘Aamsutra’ territory.
The campaign, crafted by FCB Ulka, was launched during the Diwali-Dhanteras season. The film urges women to take a step beyond investing in gold and invest in their own iron, i.e. eat more iron-rich foods and get rid of anaemia. 'Streedhan' in the Indian religious and cultural context means that the wealth or belongings that a woman has earned or received as gifts, which exclusively belong to her.
Swati Bhattacharya, CCO, FCB Ulka, says, “As communicators we always like to put out work that will be watched and shared, and not just get a green or a red in research. Making a public service ad or selling a soap doesn't make much of a difference.” Bhattacharya reveals that it started out with the statistic and the target audience. “A statistic that reveals one out of two women are affected means that divides such as rich-poor, educated-uneducated, etc. don't apply,” she adds.
Having worked on the sexualised Slice 'Aamsutra' campaigns featuring Katrina Kaif, Bhattacharya adds, “It is strange that when such imagery is created for male audiences the world is okay with it and when you try and create visuals of uninhibited no-holds-barred eating for yourself, it rattles people. It's the patriarchal gaze with which even women watch women. It's nice sometimes to break those rules.”
Speaking on the creative freedom required to execute a campaign such as #InvestInIron, "If you truly want to connect, you cannot impose too many dos and don'ts on a creative person. I am glad that all my clients at the moment understand that.”
Veneet Raj Bagga – chief creative officer and director of Onions Creative Media, the house which executed the film, tells afaqs! that unlike CSR films that end up "looking like an apology," the aim was to make it look appealing to connect to the masses. “One of the tasks was to match models and their presence with the rural settings and then balance the line between sexual and sensual,” Bagga reveals. "Getting the music track right took almost two weeks. I suggested the line 'Loha chak le, sona ban ja, apna hi tu gehna ban ja' and was worried if it would be approved, but Swati (Bhattacharya) managed to push it through,” Bagga reveals.
“The one line brief during the shoot was 'go ahead and eat like nobody is watching'. The models had to do a lot of eating to find the right balance of sensuality. I would have failed if I were unable to tilt it towards sensuality,” Bagga says.
Here's another elaborate video from the campaign..
KV Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer of Hyper Collective (a cross-disciplinary innovations company) or Pops, as he is fondly called, mentions that the tradition of 'Streedhan' instils a sense of financial security. He says, "People look a streedhan as providing security to their daughters so that she can be financially independent. It is a very strong concept in itself. The ad conveys that the real 'streedhan' is in providing good health so that the 'daughter' can stand up and fend for herself. But because of the way it has been presented, it seems really superficial. There was an insight that wasn't flushed out properly and the narrative could have been built better. For now the ad is just the statement of a fact. It could been sharpened and exploited since the metaphor of gold was selected."
"Behaviour change needs strong insight and the target audience needs a strong enough reason to accept that the gold isn't important. Also, it has been such that in our society, the more sacrifices a woman makes the better she is in the eyes of the society. Even sacrificing her glass of milk for her family makes her great. The woman doesn't think that she should have the right nutrients for good health or to bear a healthy child and puts the welfare of her husband, in-laws and children before her own. It's not easy to change such a mindset. Embarking on such a task needed better homework,” Pops signs off.
Ramanuj Shastry, former chief creative officer, Saatchi & Saatchi, and co-founder and director at Infectious Advertising, says, “The ad doesn’t look like a classic PSA communication, which is a good thing. Being all preachy and gloomy doesn’t always cut it. It’s very contextual, coming at a time when everyone is gold-obsessed and making people think about the iron in their women. So the ad does get its message across. The sensuous quality of the track and visuals makes it stand out."
Chraneeta Mann (former Rediffusion Y&R, Leo Burnett) co-founder The Mob says, "I think it's great that it doesn't look like the regular Public Service Ad. The fact that it's got sensual shots of great looking women, pampering themselves and not a man or their children is what is getting it noticed and talked about. The wind blown hair, beautiful lighting all shake the norm of a Public Service Ad a bit, but all for a good cause."
"The messaging of investing in iron instead of gold is a great take on Dhanteras. The depiction of unapologetic women gorging on healthy food or fruit, cooking a great meal for themselves and revelling in the power that it gives them comes across clearly. The sensuality of the visuals reflects even in the composition of the rustic soundtrack. I think one often tends to overintellectualise a film and the whole film and just react from the gut, I'd say it's a clear message of women empowerment, and it works," Mann adds.