Ogilvy India goes on social campaign overdrive at Indian religious event Kumbh Mela

Ogilvy India created promotional campaigns for several of its brands at the recently concluded Kumbh mela [fair], a religious festival held in North India.

Billed as the single largest religious gathering in the world, the several week long festival saw an estimated 220 million people visiting the city of Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad), according to India’s Ministry of Culture.

The biggest crowds gravitated towards the mela during the various ‘shahi snan’ [royal bath] days when it is considered auspicious to take a dip in the Ganges.

The mela has traditionally been a part of the event calendar for Indian marketers, a great opportunity to address a vast, otherwise not easily accessible population that lives in the Indian hinterlands.

Apart from its religious connotations, the mela also finds many of India’s more price-conscious consumers in a greater mood to experiment.

And so, even if marketers stay an arm’s length from the religious fervour driving the pilgrimage, they have attempted to find social niches that they can wedge themselves into. Ogilvy India claimed it had addressed the opportunity afforded by the mela in a far more rigorous manner this year.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Ogilvy India’s chief creative officer Sukesh Nayak said: “We met the administration and were briefed on areas where they needed help, like transport and sanitation.

“We brainstormed, reached out to marketers and only worked with clients interested in partnering in a legitimate way. There had to be an idea driving everything we did, or else it would seem like just another rural marketing initiative.”

For bathing soap Hamam, a South Indian brand from Hindustan Unilever (HUL) that is going national this year, Ogilvy created temporary changing stalls, a standard offer from brands to pilgrims wishing to take a holy dip in the Ganges.

But it also went a step further to address a well documented problem. Women taking a dip frequently worried about lecherous men in the vicinity. The proliferation of mobile phones brought the additional risk of being illicitly photographed.  

And so Ogilvy and Hindustan Unilever created 5,000 waterproof sarees, distributed at one of the prominent bathing ghats through the duration of the festival. Speaking about the initiative, Nayak said: “Hamam’s #GoSafeOutside platform is about providing safety not just as a soap benefit but a holistic benefit.”

Unilever India’s general manager for skin cleansing Harman Dhillon added: “We want to help improve the sense of safety people feel when they are outside: by raising awareness, kickstarting conversations and facilitating solutions.

“The waterproof sarees are not just a solution to help preserve the modesty of female pilgrims. They are also a shout out to society to be more respectful and discrete about how they view women.

“If men can take the holy dip without the worry of unsolicited attention, society needs to adjust its mindset to allow women to do the same.”

For the Red Label tea brand, Unilever and Ogilvy created ‘Tea for Trash’, a vending machine that doubled up as a trash dispenser.

People were directed to dispose some part of the 200 tonnes of garbage estimated to be produced at the festival in a responsible manner, by putting it into the device. On doing so, they were rewarded with a cup of tea as soon as the sensor within the machine detected a deposit.

Red Label also used Kumbh Mela as inspiration for an ad that addressed a very real problem: impoverished families abandoning elderly relatives at the festival. The film was created by Brooke Bond’s media agency Mindshare and produced by Vanilla Films:

Red Label – Lost

Brooke Bond Red Label #ApnoKoApnaoDirector : Harshik SuraiyaProducers : Vinit Bhatt, Chintan PandavCinematographer : Vinit BhattCreative Adviser/Lyricist : Akshat TrivediAgency: Mindshare FulcrumTeam Unilever: Shiva Krishnamurthy, Gauravjeet Singh, Bincymon George, Sankara Narayana, Tejas Shah, Team Mindshare: Amin Lakhani, Premjeet Sodhi, Sairam Ranganathan, Harshdeep Chhabra, Ajay Mehta, Parama Bhattacharya, Ruchir Bajoria, Ankita Israney, Kiran konsam, Neeraj Ruparel, Rajesh Rao, Virendra Bapardekar, Mohini Poddar, Shalini Shivhare, Rohan ShettyMedia Partner: The Logical Indian, Amar UjalaCast : Bharat Bhushan, Pankaj VishnuSupporting Cast : Pankaj, VivekChief AD : Harshal GaglaniAD : Harsh PatelAD : Aman LakhaniEditor : Chintan PandavLine producer : Jayesh AvasthiProduction Assistant : Swati Tiwari, Chandni KapadiaLocal Line Producer : Gyan PandeyFocus Puller : Vinod JaiswalStoryboard : Girish MalapStylist : Priya SinghMusic/Vocals : Pankaj AwasthiNimish Shah : Music producerFlute : Avadhoot PhadkeColourist : Vineesh Vijayan (Nube)

Posted by Vanilla Films on Friday, 1 March 2019

As part of its ‘Start a little good’ corporate campaign, Unilever outfitted boats that ferried pilgrims into the river with mesh nets by the side to pick up the trash that may have been thrown overboard or otherwise be present in the river.

A few years ago, Lifebuoy had run a polarising campaign, printing messages about the importance of washing hands onto rotis (Indian flatbreads).

This year, Lifebuoy put its messages on the plates instead of the actual food and erected several handwash stations. The company also marked the hands of pilgrims visiting public toilets with a dye, instructing them to not stop washing till it came off entirely.

Indian auto brand Bajaj launched its new Platina ComforTec 110 motorcycle built around the proposition of a smooth ride. These bicycles formed part of a squad that ferried elderly pilgrims around the mela. The squad included 40 motorcycles offering around 15 to 20 rides per day. For tyre brand Ceat, Ogilvy created ‘Safety Banner’. A set of standup banners or standees as they are known locally, doubled up as a stretcher for those in need, a traffic control barricade or even a makeshift changing room.

Nayak said: “The credit for this goes to (Ogilvy India west office leader) VR Rajesh and his team.

“Usually, we wait for a problem to come to us. But he had the vision to understand that if such a big event is happening, we should be not just facilitators but content creators. He met the authorities concerned and made it happen.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing