Suraj Ramnath

"We did not make this ad to sell the product," Anuraag Khandelwal on his new ad for H&R Johnson

We spoke to Khandelwal, ECD and creative head, Soho Square (Mumbai) about the second phase of the Red Ramp Project campaign.

On a busy day in most metros, people are generally in a rush to get to work, get their work done; and go back home. In between that space, how many of these individuals would stop to help a visually impaired person at a railway station, bus stop, metro station or even assist them in crossing the road?

Integrated lifestyle solutions and tiles company, H & R Johnson, has recently launched the second phase of their CSR initiative, the Red Ramp Project campaign. The digital ad film has been conceptualised by Soho Square, an agency from the stable of Ogilvy India, directed by Vibhu Puri and produced by Escaping Elephant.

"We did not make this ad to sell the product," Anuraag Khandelwal on his new ad for H&R Johnson

H & R Johnson's digital campaign - Red Ramp Project, Part 2Globally, 'tactiles' are used on walkways, footpaths and railway stations to help the visually challenged navigate easily and safely; India has yet to use them extensively in public spaces. This ad focuses on the need of tactiles for the visually impaired and tells a story of Adwait Marathe, who has been blind since childhood. The background song the viewers will hear has been sung by Marathe who is also a trained classical singer.

"We did not make this ad to sell the product," Anuraag Khandelwal on his new ad for H&R Johnson

Anuraag KhandelwalTalking about the challenges faced during the auditions and while shooting the ad, Anuraag Khandelwal, executive creative director and creative head, Soho Square (Mumbai), says, "We wanted someone who is visually impaired and not an actor. We were not making this ad to sell the product. We wanted to cast the kind of person we were making this ad for. We had a lot of auditions in Pune, Gujarat and other cities. It was almost 80 auditions after which we came down to Adwait. During the auditions, they didn't know what was happening."

He adds, "We had to explain the whole concept to them. What really got to me during the shoot was that we kept telling Adwait he was touching the shirt to his face and to just smile when he did that. Adwait didn't really know what a smile was. We had to explain that a smile means you're happy, the expression that reflects on your face. It was something so simple, but he wasn't prepared for that."

In the first leg of the campaign, the brand spoke about ramps on beaches. We asked Khandelwal how he zeroed in on the issue of infrastructure for the blind for the second leg.

He says, "We did the Red Ramp Project two years back; we did glamorous ads with Katrina Kaif and we will continue doing those because that is the business part of it. But the client was really keen on helping out in a certain way and how it would be done with tiles. That's when we came up with the first project which was about accessibility. The second one has also come from their tactiles product which is laid out at railway station platforms all over India, but people don't know what it is. People think it's just for decoration. The whole idea came from there; people are not consciously aware of them and don't realise what they're there for."

"We did not make this ad to sell the product," Anuraag Khandelwal on his new ad for H&R Johnson

Making of Red Ramp Project - Part 2 featuring Katrina KaifKhandelwal points out that tactiles for the visually impaired are already present on the streets of Europe and America. "It is not that people in India don't want to help; it's just that they don't realise. This is just to get the conversation started and hopefully involve the government," he says.

In the past, H & R Johnson has done the whole glam routine - ads with a celebrity (Katrina) romancing the tiles, glossy shots, high production value... all in a bid to highlight the aesthetics of the product.

We asked Khandelwal if moving away from that sensibility to this one (socially conscious, purpose-led branding) was a conscious decision? And what prompted the move?

"Yes it was a conscious decision and it started two years back with the first phase of the campaign. Tiles are mundane and don't evolve much. Once it's cemented, no one even sees it. This is not about the company, but about the message and I thought that it's a good fit, that the ground beneath our feet is the foundation. It started from there. The client wanted to do something for the underprivileged and we started with this."


Let's take a moment to observe the shift in sensibilities there. In the past, the same tiles brand has done aesthetics-heavy ads like these the one below:

"We did not make this ad to sell the product," Anuraag Khandelwal on his new ad for H&R Johnson

H & R Johnson's 2014 TVC featuring Katrina Kaif - Bas Yahan, Sirf YahanThen a couple of years back the first leg of the Red Ramp Project was launched, with this brand film:-

"We did not make this ad to sell the product," Anuraag Khandelwal on his new ad for H&R Johnson

H & R Johnson's 2015 digital campaign - Red Ramp ProjectAnd now we have a film that talks about infrastructure for visually impaired citizens of India and weaves the product into it.

What does the shift from glossy, let's-make-love-to-the-tiles execution to this socially conscious sensibility say about the segment and marketing trends, overall? Having a purpose and communicating it, appears to have become mandatory for brands today.

We asked our reviewer if consumers are more likely to choose a brand that stands for more than functional benefits, over one that doesn't?

"We did not make this ad to sell the product," Anuraag Khandelwal on his new ad for H&R Johnson

Joono SimonJoono Simon, chief executive officer and chief creative officer, Brave New World, an integrated communications and digital agency, says, "Building social capital through associations with relevant causes isn't new. In most cases, campaigns such as these are executed as tactical interventions with defined goals. Although a brand replacing their standard USP-driven communication with well-directed social commentary is quite a bold step, I'd still believe that Johnson Tiles would be wary of a complete detour. As I see it, this approach at best, is going to be a parallel track. I'd like to see how Johnson Tiles takes this forward."


Advertising Agency: Soho Square Advertising & Marketing Communications

Head of Office: Samrat Bedi

Creative Team: Anuraag Khandelwal - Executive Creative Director and Creative Head

Ankur Jain - Creative Director

Sanjay Ujawane - Creative Director

Tiyasha Ray - Creative Controller

Account Management Team:

Mohit Ahuja - Senior Vice President

Arkin Diniz - Account Director

Nisha Dias - Account Supervisor

Production House: Escaping Elephant

Vibhu Puri - Director

Dileep Nair - Producer

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