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As we welcome the New Year with a lot of hope and cheer, we look back at 2020, which saw uncertainty and disruption in equal measure as far as advertising is concerned. The creative industry saw the worst kind of cost cutting, slowdown in pitches in the early part of the year and complete blackout from certain sectors which were traditionally prominent advertisers. But with Q3 came a ray of hope, IPL and festive season adding that dash of light and positivity as far as ad spends were concerned, campaigns were made, pitch activity was back, work picked up pace-- more so on a project basis and possessing digital expertise became a necessity even for the legacy creative agencies.
In a year when caution was the keyword and meeting revenue targets became challenging, many businesses even went on to shut shop, but interestingly we happened to see a bunch of start ups in the Creative industry-- be it Abhik Santara’s Atom or Deepak Singh’s Vitamin D, Shweta Iyer and Heetal Dattani’s Nine Yards, Kaizad Pardiwalla and Harshad Hardikar’s Spring Brand Solutions or Saurabh Varma’s martech firm Wondrlab which went on to acquire an established mid-sized independent agency, What’s Your Problem. The year has been full of surprises. But mostly it was also a year of path-breaking work, clips for some of which were crowd-sourced, some shot on a mobile phone and edited not from a high tech studio but the confines of one’s home owing to the lockdown restrictions. The creative industry showed exemplary resilience and adapted to the new normal in style.
Here we salute some of that work which shone light in rather dark times, ad makers who made socially relevant advertising which was on point in the new world; and some others which attacked a societal problem head on or simply just stood out for its sheer ingenuity. As we ring in the new year with hopes of a better tomorrow, here’s bringing to you IMPACT’s pick of 10 best socially relevant ads of 2020 and the faces behind it-- the creative heroes who didn’t just solve their client’s problems, but also gave us the most touching films that made a rather depressing year creatively uplifting, while attempting to make the world a better place to live in.

There was no storyboard for the film, ever. The shots, the dialogues and even entire situations, Amit and I kept chiseling and changing until the very last minute. We also had to recreate the lockdown bang in the middle of one of Amritsar’s busiest – and by the time we were shooting – fully open bazaars. That was some undertaking.
Taproot Dentsu and Facebook together have really always felt like one single team, rather than a client-agency relationship. They were as excited by the idea and probably believed in it even more than we did. A lot of the magic in the finished film is really owing to the faith they had in us and the confidence that flows from that. Besides the truly outstanding numbers, it’s the messages from colleagues, friends and rank strangers (who tracked down the credits and got in touch) that were so incredibly uplifting. Besides the compliments, a lot of people had one strikingly similar thing to say, which, I’m paraphrasing – ‘I have been going the extra mile for my people at great personal cost and was constantly worried if I was just being an emotional fool. Pooja is my story and thank you for reaffirming my faith in continuing to do the right thing.’ Few things get better than that, don’t they? Everything that makes advertising one of the best businesses to work in, came true during the making of this ad. What more can a copywriter ask for, except here’s to many more.”

Mondelez is not just a client, they are our thinking partners. I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey with them. Working with them has been a great learning. So as always when we shared this idea with them, they were as excited as us. They backed the idea with all their heart. And it shows. This idea was trending the moment it went live. We had people from different walks of life taking about this. It was shared in our building, colony, school, and every other group. This is a piece that will always remain special for me because it demonstrates what I believe-- technology has heart too.
But all in all, for me, nothing beats a Cadbury seller proudly saying, ‘Mere bagal wala dukan, mere ad main hai.’ This truly covers the real meaning of this gesture.”

After execution, when we finally released the campaign as a tweet from the Mumbai Police, which also contained the aforementioned film, it went viral within just two hours. A great impetus to the campaign’s life out there, as it were. People took over the conversation on social media; even tweeting to the cops with suggestions on where else to do the activity in the city. Even the administration and police departments from the other parts of the country were showing interest in replicating the same. The client team was happy with the response and coverage the campaign got, not just in India but the world over, so much that they wished to extend The Punishing Signal to more signals in Mumbai; but then, the lockdown happened. We hope to do it once things get back to normal.
Personally, I work in a place called Sakinaka – one of the noisiest traffic bottlenecks in Mumbai. It just underscores the fact that excessive honking, especially at signals, is a real-world problem. That’s why The Punishing Signal is special, it’s a creative answer to a real-world problem.”

An interesting thing that I remember is that in one of the sessions we mentioned that if sleep is a genuine problem that women face, and as we urge and encourage men to share the load, can we also do something that helps women fall asleep faster and better. And we discussed the idea of creating a unique ASRM (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) video using the whirring of a washing machine. And in a lot of cases these ideas live in conference rooms and die in PowerPoint presentations, but in case of Share The Load our clients totally back these ideas and our amazing agency partners make these ideas happen. We tied up with one of the world’s best ASMR artists and created an ASMR video with the two sounds that could really help women relax – the sound of their partner sharing the load and whirring of a washing machine.”

Since it was a film made to generate funding for a cause, convincing the client wasn’t a problem we faced. And the impact we got was unexpected. When Amitabh Bachchan shares a film on his Instagram account, you know the kind of reach the film will get. Post that, many more celebrities and influential voices went on to share the film and there were many million organic views and shares of the film across various digital channels.”

The song has played a significant role in making the film so likeable. But interestingly, we had not thought of having a song when we shot the film. It was only when we had the offline edit in front of us that Prasoon suggested we have a song. And he penned the lyrics, ‘laaton ke bhoot jab kabu na aaye…’.
The team at Perfetti absolutely loved the output. A complete 360 campaign is getting built around this thought. And very soon you are going to see more executions across other mediums. The response for the ad has been really good. Within minutes of the launch of the ad during the India vs. Australia match, viewers were tweeting about the ad, creating memes.”

The whole film came into being in two years’ time. We presented the idea to the client, wrote it and then the project went into market research. We have put a lot of heart and hard work into this film. To showcase it to the client, we booked a huge viewing room. I knew it from the moment I saw the film that it was going to go places. I don’t have a blue tick account on Facebook but when I shared the film on my personal FB it got 14,500 + shares, it was bizarre. God was in the algorithm. Ratan Tata himself shared the film on social media. And the message spread beautifully amongst the masses. Public figures, such as Sachin Tendulkar, Boman Irani, Vidya Balan and Riteish Deshmukh shared the film on their social media handles.
The term manual scavengers as the world calls them, should be completely abolished. They die at an average age of 55 years because of exposure to toxic gases in manholes and drains. The PMO said they will be putting aside a large amount of money for the rehabilitation of the sanitation workers to largely rid people of this hard job by mechanisation.”

When the production team saw the edit for the first time with the music; I was told that quite a few people present in the room teared up. Post release, a friend reached out from the US mentioning that a lot of her friends told her that their kids value their devices a lot more after watching the video and that felt really special. We knew it then that we had made a film that evokes the right emotions and has the potential to push people to take the necessary action.”

But all said and done, we Indians love our Big Fat Indian wedding – from our sangeets to mehendi to the receptions and the after parties, our weddings are a non-stop party. And our idea was to create all this in the virtual world as well. To get the 1st couple to sign up was a tough task, but we managed to find a couple which was ready to embrace the concept of an online wedding. The next challenge was the mahurat, which was only 14 days away. The couple had only one wish – they wanted to have their Big Fat Indian wedding experience. And as we say at Leo Burnett ‘Karna toh padega’, the entire team came together and planned this couple’s wedding as their own family wedding from mehendi to make-up artists, from sangeet practices to dhol-walas, from the pandit to the DJ to organizing a virtual after party, we went all out! The wedding was a big success. Post that we had more couples signing up to conduct their weddings online. Infact in one of the weddings we conducted, the couple was in two different cities – the boy in Mumbai and the girl in Bareilly.
The initiative is now turning out to be a service that the brand is planning to offer, it was an idea which solves for the current times and sets up a new revenue stream for the future.”

From idea to completion for this film took about 3-4 weeks and the whole process of training the actors in ISL was very interesting and actually motivated me to learn it myself. As far as the client’s reaction is concerned, they were so touched that they were in tears, no exaggeration there. People were applauding, congratulating and hugging each other. I think we managed to capture the soul of the brand and put it on reel. The film got over a million views (organic) within hours of release.”
“The ad I absolutely love is that by Facebook - More Together, the Pooja Didi one. I like the performances and the complete authenticity of not just the ad or the way it has been shot but because it’s also so true of Facebook. All through the pandemic, these Facebook stories of hope have kept us all going.”
Swati Bhattacharya
“I really like Savlon’s campaign-- the Artist for global hand washing day. And another one I loved is the Facebook – Pooja didi ad. In a year where we have mostly heard words like hopeless, pathetic and tragic, along comes a piece of communication that warms your heart, makes you believe in the goodness of people, and helps you shed tears of joy. It’s beautifully written and masterfully executed.”
Arun Iyer
Founder & Creative Partner, Spring Marketing Capital

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Tags : creative agencies Neeta Nair Covid 19 ads admakers powerful