21 October 2016 13:36:19 IST

Creativity for a cause

A screen grab of the video on depression, created by The Live Love Laugh Foundation

Communicating to create awareness of the many issues that confront us is the need of the hour

Can a single ad change the fortunes of an agency? Does it become even more significant when it is done for a cause and not a brand?

Saatchi and Saatchi’s ad, done before many of you were even born, is worth taking a look at.


Why was this ad so successful? Well, because it was the man who needed to use protection while having sex but he was usually careless about it, because he wasn’t directly affected. The woman, on the other hand, faced the consequences of the male’s casual attitude. The ad shocked the male and made him sit up and take notice. Yes, creativity works for social causes and helps the agencies get awards and recognition. This particular ad made it to the cover page of Time magazine as well.

Depressing but true

Mental health awareness in India is pathetically low. Somehow, it is okay to be diabetic but not okay to be depressed! We have enough instances of people who think marriage is the cure to mental illness! For Christ sake, is there a limit to ignorance at all!

It is important to communicate that it is okay to be depressed, and that it is an illness like hypertension or diabetes. It needs medical care, attention and sessions with a counsellor who is listening empathetically, and without judging you. But the biggest problem is lack of awareness, and some drug store psychiatrists who think they have the solution to all life’s problems!

Strange, isn’t it, that people who cannot manage their own lives proclaim to the world on how to live life. It is in this context that I would like to draw attention to two things that have happened recently. The first was Deepika Padukone’s interview, a celebrated movie star who seems to have been privately battling (depression).

I take my hat off to her for going on a public forum and sharing the dark pit that she went into; and highlighting how the support of her family was crucial in handling it. But the first step to solving the problem is accepting that you have a problem. Which is precisely what the high profile actor did by telling the world at large that the problem is real. It is here and can affect high and low and that it can be treated.

The second thing is a recent communication I saw on YouTube about depression, a well-made video that I have shared widely on my social platforms.

The emotive film makes you realise the trauma that affected people go through and their reticence in sharing it even with close friends. The problem is here and to stay. And given the fact that we lead such stress ridden lives and are pursuing our careers so aggressively, we are even more prone to ailments like these.

But the first step is awareness of the problem and the communication that creates interest, which would eventually lead to some corrective action.

What else can be done?

It is easy to pat ourselves on the back about what we have been doing, but the reality is that we have miles to go before we sleep. There are hundreds of issues and possible social causes that are confronting a vast and diverse country like ours.

Yes, we do have CSR but can corporates get involved in an active and focussed way on certain important issues of mental health? It could be depression or even sexual harassment, which reminds me of an older commercial which is still worth watching.

What is the problem?

Yet, a problem exists in creating communication for social causes. Agencies often have to fund it themselves and we all know how starved they are for cash. They have great ideas but compromise on execution and create communication only to enter it for awards.

The quality of execution will change dramatically if money is invested in the production of TV commercials or YouTube video. Can there be a concerted attempt by clients and agencies to identify some key causes and create communication, like the depression one we just saw? Can the government intervene and maybe incentivise advertisers when they invest in such communication?

Yes, we know government too spends a lot of money on communication but till recently, their work has been pathetic and hardly capable of moving anyone — least of all the person affected.

India is a vast country with diverse problems. Issues like mental health have been given a back seat as we are still battling basic issues. Sadly, life does not often progress sequentially but parallely. And we as a society are suddenly being made to realise the criticality of an ailment like depression.

We cannot wish it away but we at least need to create awareness of the many issues that are confronting us. For this, we need communication and interesting ads. For which we need a different way of finding resources to create communication.

Let’s think about it. It’s really important.