Tac­ti­cal Move

Anu­raag Khan­del­wal talks about the sec­ond phase of the Red Ramp Pro­ject cam­paign.

The Brand Reporter - - ADVERTISING - By Su­raj Ram­nath su­raj.ram­nath@afaqs.com

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.

Glob­ally, ‘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.

Talk­ing 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. afaqs! Re­porter 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.”

Khan­del­wal 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.

afaqs! Re­porter asked Khan­del­wal if mov­ing away from that sen­si­bil­ity to this one (so­cially con­scious, pur­poseled 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.”

EX­PERT SPEAK

Let’s take a mo­ment to ob­serve the shift in sen­si­bil­i­ties there. In the past, the same tiles brand has done aes­thet­ics-heavy ads fea­tur­ing Ka­t­rina Kaif. Then a cou­ple of years back the first leg of the Red Ramp Pro­ject was launched and 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.

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

Joono 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.” ■

“We wanted some­one who is visu­ally im­paired and not an ac­tor. We were not mak­ing this ad to sell the prod­uct.” ANU­RAAG KHAN­DEL­WAL

The ad fo­cuses on the need of tac­tiles for the visu­ally im­paired.

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