Ogilvy's End Acid Sale campaign - when an ad turned into activist

Ogilvy & Mather’s campaign, titled ‘End Acid Sale’, done for Make Love Not Scars, a non-profit organisation, created quite a stir when it was first released on YouTube. The campaign is a series of video tutorials, where Reshma, a survivor of acid attack, imparts make-up tips. This was probably the first time when an acid attack survivor came out in the open without covering her scars to make a bold statement.

Hence, it came as no surprise that this campaign bagged two Golds at the Effies India Awards 2015, held last month. The campaign won the Golds in the Direct Marketing and Effie for Good categories.

Indian advertising is moving towards a more sensitive approach to social issues. In fact, Creative Abbys this year will see the introduction of a separate category to recognise work done in to promote gender sensitivity.

In conversation with Adgully.com, Kainaz Karmakar, ECD, Ogilvy & Mather, and Harshad Rajadhyaksha, ECD, Ogilvy & Mather, speak at length about making of the End Acid Sale campaign, getting Reshma to face the camera boldly, how the social campaign has gone beyond being a mere communication medium to actually helping in the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors. Excerpts:


End Acid Sale campaign



Adgully (AG): Were you expecting this campaign to put up such a good show at the Effies?

Kainaz Karmakar & Harshad Rajadhyaksha (KK & HR): We were hoping that this campaign would get some recognition, because the public response that we got for this campaign has been overwhelming. We had expected 25,000 signatures, but we crossed 3 lakh signatures. So when we were going through all the numbers and figures, it was such a strong contender for winning big because while it was not done with the idea of winning anything, it was done with the idea of getting 25,000 signatures. But when the results came it was so strong that we were hoping that it would pick up something really big and we are really glad it did because when good work done with good intentions picks up big it encourages people to do more such work.


AG: The ‘End Acid Sale’ campaign highlighted the horrible consequences of acid attacks and created awareness about why there should be a ban on the easy availability of the substance. How did you come up with the idea of getting survivors of acid attacks come forward to highlight the issue?

KK & HR: Harshad (Rajadhyaksha, ECD, Ogilvy & Mather) and I work as a team. There are two kids in our team – Harshit and Deepanjali. They came up with this idea. We were very passionate about the cause of doing something about the ban on open sale of acid and for a long time they were working on it and were coming up with lots of ideas. But we were not getting our hands on the one thing that would be really powerful. They came up with this idea and after this they presented it to Make Love Not Scars, who got Reshma on board for us.

The minute we heard the idea we knew that it would definitely touch people and get us the kind of response we needed. Before this campaign, acid attacks were just a ticker at the bottom of the TV screens on news channels. Now it is a subject of conversations, a documentary is being made on Reshma.


AG: How are you carrying forward this campaign as it has huge social implications?

KK & HR: The campaign has broken in phases. The first that we broke were the three video blogs of beauty tutorials, couple of months later we broke we the outdoor campaign. During Christmas we had Reshma singing Christmas carols asking people to sign the petition. Parallely, we will be collating all this and making a petition to the Prime Minister of India.


AG: Apart from Reshma, have you also roped in other survivors of acid attacks? Are you also assisting them in their rehabilitation and assimilation back into the society beyond the campaign stage?

KK & HR: A couple of very good things have happened. Reshma is the face of the campaign, but the benefit of the campaign is not restricted to Reshma alone. The campaign has not been a fund raiser, the objective of the campaign was to get signature chain that would lead to ban on open sale of acid. But enough funds have been raise and sponsorships have come in for rehabilitation to happen for a lot of people. People themselves have volunteered and donated without us asking. That has already happened and that money is not being used for Reshma alone. That money is for the rehabilitation of every person who has gone through this unfortunate event.


AG: How are you identifying the survivors or are you tying up with NGOs?

KK & HR: We can’t even take the money. All we can do is put the communication out and all the funding goes to Make Love Not Scars directly. Ogilvy is not in any financial transaction, we are only the communications partner for them.


While giving shape to this campaign, what were the challenges that you initially faced in the making of the campaign, in fleshing out the campaign?

KK & HR: The first biggest challenge was to get Reshma to be on camera and talk so boldly. The second biggest challenge was money. Unlike normal clients, these clients are not someone with huge amount of funding for making a communication campaign. So automatically we had to think of an idea which was simple enough to execute and powerful enough to get the response. But the biggest challenge was we had no idea how it would turn out. Normally when we shoot an ad we know that these are the areas involved, but when you are shooting with a survivor of such a big tragedy and if she is going to talk about something as radical as beauty tips, you have no idea how it is going to look and feel until you are done with it. We were all on the edge of our seats. We didn’t want her to do anything that she was uncomfortable with. It was quite a journey taking her along and getting her in front of the camera.



News in the domain of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Business of Entertainment

More in Exclusives