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Remember Kargil?

November 26, 2006

Winning empathy, genuine empathy, isn’t easy. But when an ad does make that lightening connection, it does incredible things. This one did that, and more.
Remember that black and white photo? Camouflage…webbed helmet. Gun clasped. A transistor radio in the other hand held upto his ear. Typewritten copy, alongside. Black, on white. In poetry format.



He loves Hindi songs.
Just like you.
He hates injections.
Just like you
he cried each time Amitabh died.
Just like you.
He’s been in love once or twice.
Just like you.
He’ll bleed if you cut him.
Just like you.
He’s happiest at home.
Just like you.
He loves the smell of rain on sun scorched earth.
Just like you.
He cheered India at old Trafford.
Just like you.
He dreams for his children.
Just like you.
He’s gone to die for a stranger.
And that stranger is you.’

That was the first ad for the Veer Jawan Fund. The campaign also featured an image of a young soldier holding a gun, soldiers gathered around a campsite.


Another ad was of a soldier trudging his way up the brutal Kargil terrain and a couple of TV spots as well. All aimed at the well earning Indian (so far removed from the grim realities of war). The print ads were the ones that put a lump in the throat.


The quantitative results? The campaign had garnered the fund Rs 20 crore within weeks of it’s release.
The agency which created the campaign wasn’t one of the big agencies in India. It was a small Delhi based agency ranked No. 46 at the time (rating as per the A&M Agency Report.) The creative direction was by Nitin Beri, a partner at the agency. But the credit goes to the entire team.


How did they think of it?
When the first tri-colour draped coffins came home, the Capital team, like millions of other Indians who’ve never contemplated the prospect of sacrificing anything much – let alone dying for their nation – knew that they had to do something to contribute to the national effort.
‘We decided that the best tribute we could pay to them was to collect as much money as we could for their families,’ says Sunil Sachdeva, Director, Capital.
How did they do it?
The team’s only ammunition: Advertising. Emotions. Words. Images. if ever these were needed to move people, it was now. No more hiding behind desks. Mo more cannon deafness. Action.
The idea was presented to the Ministry of Defense. It was that very day that the six disfigured bodies of Indian soldiers had been flown into Delhi. The sense of outrage in the city was palpable. The Capital team was met by a calm and determined joint secretary (E), Arvind Joshi. The presentation was made and Joshi assured the agency that the mechanics of the Fund would be sorted out immediately. It was. Within three days, the agency got to meet Lt Gen S.S Grewal, and he made the approvals almost instantly. The same day, fervent appeals were made to over a hundred national newspapers and magazines to carry the three add print campaign free of charge.
Nearly 30 publications responded, including some of India’s most prestigious. Almost all of Capital’s clients came forward to sponsor the campaign in the well read publications which didn’t give free space.
The television commercial was sponsored by Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL), and almost all the main channels were kind enough to carry the spot at prime time. The total ad space/airtime used (both paid and unpaid ) was estimated at Rs 4 crore.
It didn’t go in vain, and thank the creative for it. Of the dozens of Kargil ads in the media, this one stood out. This was not a bugles-and-trumpets job. It was about people. The copy was poignant. Painful. Powerful. Death doesn’t normally find place in ads. Least of all voluntary death. Neither does the burden of guilt for something so weighty, so magical, so cherished – life. Which is why the last line had such an impact. It was a life so much like one’s own, cut so tragically short. And why? Someone, surely, should want to know. Which is why the last word had such an impact. You.
The thought lingers. It might just as well have been ‘you’.
Rarely has an indication of what it costs – in human terms, that is – to keep ‘you’ safe, sent so clear a message. And got so prompt a response.
There were those who felt that the jawan’s characterization was too ‘sissy’, The sharpest criticism, however, is not that the crying-when Amitabh-dies bit appears incongruent with bravery (tough guys do have hearts and do produce tears), but that the pronouncement of certain-death expressed in the last two lines could demoralise a soldier who gets to see the ad.
Not everyone agreed. It works the other way round they felt. That’s what’s sacrifice is all about. Very few can do it. People with hearts and guts. In any case, the ad was not meant to spill over from it’s target audience.
And it’s evident that Capital didn’t just pull the character of a hat. The ad was created with true bleary-eyed emotion. Some of the team members come from army backgrounds and understand not only the trauma undergone by the loved ones of war martyrs, but also the callous attitudes of successive governments towards them.
Besides, what’s important is that the ad won the ‘unknown solder’ considerable empathy and met it’s fund collection objective.

(This was published in the Advertising and Marketing Magazine (A&M) under the title – Fodder For Thought. )

For another individual campaign – Raymond – The complete man

Related articles: advertising standards in india and/or the tag advertising

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2006 4:51 am

    Congratulations on being designated Best Blogger of the Day. I wish you every blessing and joy.
    Shirley Buxton

  2. Jehangir noor permalink
    November 27, 2006 10:33 pm

    Nita, I liked the Kargil article very much, like your other writing it’s from the heart.
    Whenever I think of the Kargil Ad its with goose bumps, misty eyes and a lump in my throat, and I don’t even cry when Amitabh dies in the movies.
    I think the Kargil Ad was Capital’s finest achievement ( and I think Toney will agree with me on this )

  3. Shilpa permalink
    November 29, 2006 6:45 am

    Well written — nice!

  4. January 28, 2008 3:43 pm

    I just thought to search for this poem and I am so glad to see it. I do remember Kargil days. For our tomorrow, they gave their today.

    Thanks Mrudula. I am glad that someone remembered this poem and thought to search for it! – Nita

  5. October 8, 2011 9:25 pm

    HiiNita…i saw these ads for the first time, and your article touched my heart….thanks a ton for being the reason why i got to know about it………….this campaign’s just amazing….anybody with a heart would feel…..

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