When a team at advertising firm Lowe Lintas and mobile service provider Idea Cellular Ltd discussed an advertisement to commemorate the first anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, it wanted the result to be simple and engaging.
Listen to K.V.Sridhar, national creative director for Leo Burnett India, talk about the potential benefits and pitfalls for brands associating themselves with 26/11.
“We knew that every media house would play the images (of the attacks) on a loop,” said Tarun Chauhan, executive director for Lowe Lintas. “The critical thing was to ensure that we did not dramatize it. The film had to be treated in a very subtle manner. It had to be respectful and yet emotionally engaging.”
The ad urges subscribers to talk as much as they can between 8.36pm and 9.36pm on 26 November. It adds that revenue generated during the hour will be donated to the Mumbai police for better safety gear.
Brand stand: MSN, Dr Batra’s and Idea Cellular initiatives linked to the first anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks.
The first anniversary of the terror attacks is being marked by a spate of advertising and promotional campaigns as brands seek to associate themselves with the event. Companies seeking to do so include mobile service providers, consumer products, emergency services to charities, fashion brands and media companies.
It is not uncommon for brands to relate with topical issues. The idea, experts say, is to gain attention by forging connections to events that consumers are following avidly, which can include anything from elections to a big sporting event to financial scandals and even tragedies.
“It is great for a brand to be associated with something that is of interest to consumers,” said K.V. Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India, who added that while the intention may be good, not every brand can associate itself to the terrible events appropriately. “It has to be believable; the brand should have the integrity and personality to pull it off.”
The sensitivities involved in associating with a serious subject means that there is often a fine line between taking a stand and taking advantage.
“We are expressing our solidarity with the people of Mumbai in the best way we know, which is to offer support through counselling,” said Mukesh Batra, founder and chief managing director, Dr Batra’s Positive Health Clinic Pvt. Ltd, which runs a chain of homeopathy clinics. Batra will offer free counselling sessions for patients of post trauma stress disorder for a week starting 26 November and advertise this offering through posters in its clinics and emails and direct mailers.
Eureka Forbes Pvt. Ltd, which makes water purifiers, is also steering clear of mass media. “We want to be perceived as a brand that’s part of a community and wants to give back, not as an opportunistic brand,” said Marzin R. Shroff, chief executive, direct sales and senior vice-president, marketing. The company is looking to associate itself with an event for the Mumbai police that commemorates the lives lost during the 26/11 attacks.
Mumbai-based Topsline Life Rescue Services Pvt. Ltd, an emergency response service, however, is using traditional media. “This is not about advertising; it’s more of a community initiative,” said Vikas Sharma, senior corporate manager, marketing and communications. “We were there when the attacks happened last year and helped save 150 lives. Unfortunately, we couldn’t save more. So, this year we decided to go to schools, colleges and housing societies to create awareness about what people can do in emergency situations such as fire or even a terrorist attack.”
The company helped transport victims of the terror attacks to hospitals and secure locations and offered first-aid to some of the injured.
The firm has tied up with Fever 104 FM radio station for a show called Force 104, which will hand out around 50 free memberships to their emergency service worth Rs3,600 to listeners each day. Fever FM is run by HT Media Ltd, which also publishes Mint.
Other brands such Tata Tea Ltd and Life Insurance Corp. of India have chosen to be associated with a 26/11 website hosted by MSN India, owned by Microsoft Corp.
Some brands are looking to piggyback on the high level of interest in the 26/11 anniversary. Apparel brand Monte Carlo chose to advertise its new fall-winter collection through a mini-catalogue pasted onto the cover of India Today magazine’s 26/11 issue with a file photo of the Taj Mahal Hotel in flames.
Of course, some brands are wary of such associations. Contract Advertising Pvt. Ltd, for instance, decided not to run 26/11 ads for its clients.
“We were concerned that the brands could be seen as milking a tragedy,” said Raghu Bhat, senior vice-president and executive creative director.