A screen-grab from the advertisement The Seatbelt Crew
Which is your favourite campaign and why?
It would be the Seatbelt Crew ad campaign 2014. The two-minute awareness video campaign was an internet sensation and logged 1 million hits in two days. At a busy traffic signal as the light gets red, a bunch of transgenders wearing bright blue silk saris like air hostesses take position and start telling people about road safety over a megaphone. I liked the idea of the campaign, as we see transgenders every day at traffic signals but never see their presence useful. In this ad campaign, they have been used to make people aware about the use of seat belts. Indian roads are unsafe — according to a report by the World Health Organisation only 27 per cent of the drivers wear a seat belt even though it is mandatory.
On what parameters did you base your decision?
Apart from the unique concept in choosing the characters, the way the message is communicated is commendable. Because of these two elements, you can see the storm they have created on social media regarding road safety. More than 4 million viewers have watched this video online and millions more have seen it on television. They have debunked the notion that transgenders don’t contribute to society. On social media, some celebrities have shared this campaign to show support.
What do you think was the key idea the campaign was trying to drive home?
Road traffic today is inherently dangerous, and if you’re driving in India, you need to be more cautious about the potholes also. This is very frustrating for drivers. On the road, it is us who are responsible for the difference between hazard and safety; we need to do our best to mitigate the effects of unwanted situations. This ad campaign also seeks to address the so-called educated people, who live in cities but drive recklessly without caring for their own lives and for others.
Atul Pratap Singh | Director, V Spark Communications
Do you remember the campaign winning any advertising awards? Do you think these awards serve any purpose?
No, I am not sure if this campaign won anything special for this effort. And yes, winning awards matters but less than what a recipient thinks. It helps the agencies make their names known and certainly it gives them money and work. But there are also agencies that have done good work for a long time without getting any awards.
Sometimes there is greater recall for the story than the product or service advertised. Did the ad we are discussing suffer from any such handicap?
It’s no secret that a successful ad campaign plays with people's emotions and that's key in making them successful. Just think about soft drinks — they are bad for you, but ads don’t talk about fat, calories or diabetes. Rather, the focus is on the youth and having a good time. In this advertisement, transgenders have been used differently — while motorists consider them a nuisance when they wait at traffic signals, this campaign wisely projects them as agents of change, as entertainers who use humour to send out a message.
Did this campaign inspire any of your work? What are your takeaways from the campaign?
Yes, there is a reason why I got connected with the campaign, due to my vehement passion for bikes. I have founded RPM India, a motorbike community which makes people aware of responsible riding. One of the most powerful and surprising elements of this campaign was the inclusion of transgenders. And for me, that amplifies the impact of the message they have given about road safety.
Do you remember some of the names who worked on the campaign?
I can’t say the name behind the Seatbelt Crew campaign but it was a combined initiative video by VithU and O&M. Not just this, they have produced various other memorable awareness campaigns.