Social service ads could perhaps fall into two broad categories: those that urge you to feel differently and those that urge you to act differently. The former could include changing habits or attitudes – urging you to not drink & drive, urging you to quit smoking, save the environment etc. The latter could include messages that compel you to take some specific action – reduce driving speed by 5 km/h, have a designated driver for night outs, calling a cab instead of drinking & driving etc. I find messages that fall into the latter category more compelling and effective.
Here is one such campaign on domestic violence, from Breakthrough. Created by O&M, Mumbai this one asks the viewer to not simply ignore incidents of domestic violence when one sees them, but interfere. The interference called for is expressed as ‘ringing the door bell’. In one such commercial, a bunch of kids playing cricket in a typical chawl in Mumbai overhear a heated argument – a drunkard husband is harassing the housewife for money. The kids ring the bell with the excuse of their cricket ball fallen into their house.
Will it work in reality? I think it raises awareness but its effectiveness depends on a lot of social issues. In middle class neighbourhods in India, maintaing an outward appearance is important. Even if there are cases of domestic violence, the woman would perhaps hide the fact. In the lower economic strata where people live in congested neighbourhoods, there is no concept of privacy. Every household knows everything that happens in other households. So urging one to ring the bell and ‘interfere’ would perhaps make sense. The action asked for from the viewer is simple and cuts across classes.
I also like the way in which the message has been distilled: domestic violence is not simply a woman’s issue. Men can make a difference and all it takes is a simple act. The project has a website, where you can view the print ads and learn more about the campaign.
As always, comments on social advertising in general and this campaign in particular are welcome.