One for the Road
Enforcing traffic rules, Akshay Kumar style.
For those who break road rules with impunity, here is something that will make you stop and think. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) has used humour via a new ad campaign featuring Akshay Kumar. Titled ‘Sadak Suraksha Jeevan Raksha’, the campaign highlights the use of the rather crude, but common line - ‘Tu jaanta nahi mera baap kaun hai?’ - frequently used by those on the road who indulge in making a mockery of traffic rules.
The tongue-in-cheek narrative, scripted and directed by R. Balki and produced by Hope Productions, strikes a chord. The campaign is a collaborative effort involving Bharat Dabholkar, Kiran Vernekar, Sayali Kulkarni, and Divya Radhakrishnan through Helios Media (the media agency for the account).
“It was an instinctive campaign with very instinctive insight - people think that they own the whole world, thus the line - ‘Baap ka Road’. I did an in-depth study of how people break rules before scripting the storyline,” Balki explains, acknowledging that MORTH gave him a free hand. It was a simple brief: ‘Tell people not to break traffic rules’.
Recalls Balki, “The moment I told them the idea (storyline) they were really excited. In fact, it was like a client who knew what to communicate and the power of communication.”
In terms of research, the creative team had the backing of MORTH’s data from across India. The cause of accidents reported was a parameter to determine the communication. Newer issues - wearing seat-belts and mobile phone usage while motoring - had to be highlighted and it had to reach out to the youth, in particular. Approval from Nitin Gadkari, the minister, was instant.
“We worked for a year-and-ahalf, putting out various routes for development and tests. We shot a film with Gadkari and followed it up with the Akshay Kumar campaign,” informs Radhakrishnan, managing director, Helios Media. She adds, “Sayali (Kulkarni), vice president of the BJP youth wing, Mumbai, who has been doing a lot of work in the social space, approached the central ministry to create a communication for the youth on road-safety. On getting an in-principle approval, she approached our consortium wherein
In terms of research, the creative team had all of MORTH’s data from across the country.
“Akshay and I had great fun doing Pad Man. We had the same kind of fun doing this sociallyrelevant campaign.”
Dabholkar (creative lead) along with Vernekar and I put the whole project together through Helios Media.”
The campaign has a special focus on radio, outdoor (the point of use space), digital (appeal to the youth), and TV (for the masses). With multiple legs, it will be released in eight languages. So, why Akshay Kumar? “Akshay is currently a face of social messaging across his body of latest work in Bollywood. Also, he cuts across generations of audiences, given the phase of life he is in,” explains Radhakrishnan.
Interestingly, when the Helios Media team approached the Bollywood star for the campaign, it was Akshay who proposed Balki’s name. The Pad Man star accompanied the creative team while the campaign was pitched to Gadkari.
“Akshay was going on vacation in June, but he gave me a day’s time. From 7am to 1pm we shot all three films, back to back. Akshay volunteered to do this campaign, without charging money,” informs Balki, adding, “We had great fun doing Pad Man together. And we had the same kind of fun doing this socially-relevant campaign too.”
HIT OR FLOP?
Government campaigns - such as Polio Mukt Bharat with Amitabh Bachchan and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, with Vidya Balan - are melodramatic or serious. We sought experts’ views on this campaign.
According to Sirish Suveer G, vice president, Publicis Ambience, “the choice of Akshay Kumar is a masterstroke. The humour, yet seriousness, is flawlessly delivered. My personal favourite is ‘Lokmanya Tilak’; the build-up by Akshay Kumar has sufficient intrigue and the protagonist’s expressions are classic. It builds in the shame beautifully.”
Ayan Banik, head - brand strategy, Cheil India, feels that the insight - ‘road kisi ke baap ka nahin hai’ - is very potent and relevant in a country where we tend to take public property for granted and flout rules and regulations, thinking it’s our birthright to do so. He awards it full marks for latching on to a very relatable and relevant insight to highlight the most common rules flouted by motorists. “We have been exposed to various forms of public service messaging around roadsafety for over four decades. The challenge was how to reiterate an oft-repeated messaging and yet make it engaging and interesting to watch. The campaign does full justice to that,” says Banik.
He adds, “It’s not just drivers and riders. Often, traffic rules are flouted by pedestrians too. The expectation is that there will be another set of communications with equally powerful insights and execution that will sensitise pedestrians about responsible roadsafety behaviour as well.” ■