K.I.S.S. in the time of Corona
Everyone knows we should be wearing masks – they have become the ubiquitous symbol of the fight against the Coronavirus. But how do you get people to actually do this, asks Geeta Rao.
Last fortnight, Ogilvy’s Piyush Pandey shared his own home video, where he asked people to make their own masks and try this with a dash of creativity – his own mask had a signature ‘Piyush’ moustache painted on. That was a charming personal video asking people to become a ‘Mask Force’ to reckon with. Then the idea spun into something larger – co-opting members of the Indian cricket team into making and sharing their own masks. It was a bid to create a nation-uniting ‘mask’ force and by inviting Team India to convey this message, the project went up several notches. We all know how India feels about cricket, so when the current Captain of the Indian Cricket team invites you to join him, it may be difficult to refuse.
Team Mask Force created by Piyush Pandey and Ogilvy is a simple film. It has our cricketers urging us to wear masks and to have a bit of fun while at it by making our own statement masks just as they are doing themselves. You couldn’t have asked for a more impressive line-up of cricketers to convey this message. On a personal note though, I have to say I missed MS Dhoni. And since I must always make a gender note, BCCI gets a huge shout out from me for keeping up with gender inclusion – it was especially nice to see Mithali Raj, Harman Preet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, who are icons themselves share equal and prominent air time with Virat Kohli, Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma. It was wonderful to see Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar (still India’s numero uno sweetheart) sport their own masks. No. 10 for Sachin, a brick wall for Dravid – the subtext of creating masks with their own foibles or nicknames was an inner joke, but of course we all got it. And just when I thought this might shift the focus from hand washing, there was Sachin coming back to remind us that hand washing and social distancing were still non-negotiable.
While everyone clearly had fun making the film, I would have liked to have had a sneak behind-the-scenes peek, say Sachin’s kids photo bombing his shot (yup I am a fan girl!) or some fun ‘outtake’ style shots, but these are Corona times, where the camera person is likely to be one of the family and everyone has to be framed in a way to make remote editing easier. Even filmmaking techniques have to be simplified when you are going across the country with ten personal mobile phones at work for you. But going by the number of likes and shares that Team Mask Force has garnered, everyone is having fun.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, eventually we have to close the loop in any public service communication – to see how people get impacted. So Team Mask Force’s success is not just in the 5,000-odd retweets that Virat got when he posted the film on his timeline in the first two days or the 21 million people who may have caught it on Sachin’s handle. Or the entire amplification with BCCI, Government of India and cricket fans involved that will ensure its reach across the world, literally. Its success lies in the fact that it got people to fashion their own masks. It seems to have certainly revved up our enthusiasm for creativity and vanity. When you make your own mask you certainly want to wear it. I caught a few samples – a wrap round one, a no scissors one, siblings twinning with masks, 8-year old Jahnavi meticulously making her own mask, Geeta and Harbhajan Singh setting couples goals by inviting three other couples to the mask force challenge and so on.
Everyone knows the old advertising abbreviation K.I.S.S., which stands for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’. Not because the consumer is stupid. As the world outside gets more complex, we need the communication to get simpler. The number of food posts of comfort foods that flood our timelines on social media at this point tell you a story, don’t they?
But more than that, what strikes me most about this communication is a core insight. The insight that people feel helpless when situations get out of control, but everyone wants to do their bit. It is very important to ask people then to join the team and not just cheer for the team. We know it from management schools and working in large corporations. But as citizens, we need to feel that too. That's why being a part of Team India and Team Mask Force seems to have resonated with us.
(The author is a Mumbai-based advertising and media professional.)