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BBC World Service Trust seeks to ring in a condom revolution

16-August-2008
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BBC World Service Trust seeks to ring in a condom revolution

It’s a word that is usually uttered in whispered tones and any mention is usually accompanied by embarrassed giggles or disapproving stares. But if BBC World Service Trust has its way, the word ‘condom’ would become a part of everyone’s lingo and even mobile phone ringtones.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, BBC World Service Trust has embarked on a two-year project using mass media to make condoms more generally acceptable. As part of the project, BBC has conceptualised an ad campaign featuring the ‘condom a cappella’ ringtone. The campaign, which was unveiled on August 8, shows a wedding reception underway when someone’s mobile phone rings with the unlikely chant of ‘condom, condom’. But instead being shocked or embarrassed, the people present there feel there is nothing wrong with the condom ringtone, as condoms signify smart and responsible behaviour, the hallmark of any winner.

The strategy is to show social support for condoms, as this has a positive effect on use and positions the condom as a product that men use to show they are responsible and care about themselves and their families. The creative idea of the ringtone winning approval from everyone reinforces that condoms mean good sense and those who know it are the real winners in life. The campaign, therefore, focuses on people who are sensible enough to appreciate and understand this, hence, the tagline ‘Jo Samjha Wohi Sikander’ (The one who understands is a winner).

The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is also using the ad to support its condom promotion efforts.

Radharani Mitra, Creative Director, BBC World Service Trust, explained, “Ringtones have become such personal statements that a specially created condom ringtone seemed just the right vehicle to define its user as a sensible person. We have always had a strong interactive, response-oriented element in this ongoing campaign. This downloadable ringtone provides yet another opportunity for our target audience to translate the message into an action point. The very act of downloading and using this ringtone would have a counter-effect on the inhibitions and taboos that can be associated with condoms. And it adds an element of fun and comfort to it.”

The campaign uses a multitude of youth friendly platforms such as website downloads, online games, mobile advertising and downloads, along with TV and radio ads and on-ground activation. The objective is to connect with all age groups and across socio-economic stratas.

The ringtone advertisement is the third instalment of the ongoing condom normalisation campaign. Each phase has used the media in innovative and interactive ways to get people to talk about condoms and accept them as a sign of smart and responsible behaviour. These innovations include a contest where winners received mobile phone with free talk time, an ad featuring a Kabaddi match won by the unlikely chant of ‘condom’, and SMS opinion polls, among others.

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