Ideas Conviction

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How Ogilvy and Star mobilised people to bring about change

“When Star briefed us on the project, I remember thinking that it was the wrong timing, the wrong day, the wrong duration,” says Walter Noronha, SVP, Account Management at Ogilvy and Mather.

“Nobody wants to watch something so heavy on a Sunday morning.” It was 2012, and Noronha and his colleagues had just come on board to help us promote 'Satyamev Jayate', our new talk show ‘with a difference’. Aamir Khan had already signed on to host the show, a first for Indian television. The debut season was planned, 13 hard hitting episodes that tackled issues like dowry, female infanticide and casteism. Everyone was convinced that the show had the potential to make a positive change in the country. The only problem was, how do we get the audience to watch such a show?

“The biggest challenge for a show like this is how to communicate the seriousness of it to people without them switching off. We had to make people aware that 'Satyamev Jayate' isn't just a show. This is an initiative that they should care about.”

Gaurav Barjatya, Vice President, Marketing at Star

And we had to do it without giving away any details about the content, a tough task even for the most entertainment-heavy show. “It took months of nightly meetings at Aamir’s house, almost every day,” remembers Khushnuma Daruwalla, SVP, Planning at O&M. “I think ideation for everything else stopped when we were working on it, you could be in a meeting or on call any time of the day. But we finally managed to come up with a way to promote the show without giving away the content.” The tagline was: Dil Pe Lagegi, Tabhi Baat Banegi, an 8 ad campaign focusing on two things. The first was Aamir. The second – the idea that we need to talk about what’s happening in the country.

“It was about the conversations that we need to have, conversations that affect you, me, and the nation,” says Walter. “We made people curious, and they started watching it.”

The campaign paid off, with the first season getting much higher figures than expected for a show that tackled such serious issues. When the second season started in 2014, we faced a different challenge. The show and its tone had been established, but there was no novelty factor to fall back on. Consumer feedback told us that they found the show ‘emotionally draining’. So instead of trying to bring in new viewers, we chose to focus on the existing ones and try to keep them engaged and committed to the cause. “The idea was to remind them why they should watch the show. If you care for the country, if you want to do something for the country,” says O&M Executive Creative Director Azazul Haque. “That was the genesis of Jinhe Desh Ki Fikar Hain. It was a bold move, because we knew we would be polarising the audiences. But Aamir backed us, so we took the stance and it paid off.”
We could see the impact that Satyamev Jayate was having on the country. People’s video testimonials were flooding in. Responding to our episode on disabilities, the state of Gujarat had made all its government offices barrier-free, with ramps and other measures to increase accessibility. We could see the change in our daily lives as well.
One of the ads in the second season campaign featured Aamir looking out at a traffic signal in front of his house and commenting on who would be a viewer, according to who obeyed the law and traffic signals. A short while after the ad appeared, O&M Executive Creative Director Mahesh Gharat – who had conceptualised that commercial – stopped at a traffic signal at two in the morning. Suddenly, one car sped by, ignoring the red light. “A 60-65 year old man saw that guy breaking the signal, stopped the car and said ‘how are you breaking the signal? Haven't you seen Satyamev Jayate?’”, remembers Mahesh. “To see people taking that message and living it, that's actually what inspired the third campaign.” “There was a lot of negativity, people thought change wasn't possible,” says Azaz. “We wanted to say that you can change things just by doing the right thing in your daily life.” We did that with the Mumkin Hai campaign, a series of light-hearted ads that showed normal people standing up to make a difference. They featured the tagline ‘Satyamev Jayate aa raha hai’ (Satyamev Jayate is coming), to showcase how the programme had become a movement for change.
For everyone who worked on it, Satyamev Jayate was more than just a show. It was a way for them to do their bit for their country and society. “All of us were emotionally attached to Satyamev Jayate, it was more than just a campaign,” says Azaz. “All of us – Ogilvy, Star, and Aamir – were all in it together, there was no ego or friction between us, because we were all working towards a common objective.” Gaurav sums up the experience of working on the show best when he says, “A show like this opens your eyes. To be a part of an initiative where you could see changes happening and your messages resonating with the country, it's a different feeling altogether. It made me realise that life is not about doing things for yourself, but about bringing a real change in other people's lives.”

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