Choices that we make define our beliefs and design our behaviours. A lot of our present-day beliefs or behaviours are the outcomes of choices we had once made. Furthermore, behaviours are what we homo sapiens imitate and invariably recur and spread those in our social realms, without caring for the control in order to reverse their effect. It’s like, if we choose to buy a product to ease our lives, it will arguably ease our lives, and henceforth we may end up changing our behaviour towards a certain activity for it would have gotten eased up due to capability of the product.

Conceivably, our choices are not limited to the products we buy but extend to the rituals we adopt. The rituals, some of which had come from age-old notions; from generations of the past; which have been dictating a lot of our present-time dos and don’ts. One of the choices we had once made was to accept the myth that menstruating girls shouldn’t touch the pickle so that it doesn’t decompose, we also chose to believe that it’s a woman’s job to do everyone’s laundry at respective homes, because that was the age-old notion, also influencing our current thinking and behaviours. These are examples out of many. The ideal opinion is that none stands to be true, but we still end up following those. Mainly because the ones who modelled these, never cared about the social consequences. Over the years, these choices have become chores, at which rarely do we go back and contemplate.

An intervention was much needed in order to steer about a positive change of behaviour from the social issues arising out of inequality between men and women, increasing pressure to perform on teenagers, myths around menstruating women, so on and so forth. The task of intervening in these, is being taken up by one of the ace advertising agencies – BBDO India, by adopting “Make Acts, Not Ads” as their philosophy.

Make Acts Not Ads grows out from the study conducted in 2007 by a team of BBDO planners across the US, Western Europe, China, India, Japan and Australia – on the power and dynamics of social movements and how can brands adopt these. The idea was central to India as age-old notions were deep-seated in the minds of the Indian audience. They used psychographic analysis to establish what makes a social movement successful. A principal finding was that the possibility to drive change in behaviour lied in the fact that brands need not only enter social scenes but also have the freedom to play a pivotal role – freedom to drive change. They had realized that it was no more a one-way communication with the consumer rather a two-way messaging, in which consumers would want to interact with brands and understand what brands have to offer other than just products or services. It turned important for the brands to choose their noble cause, their modus operandi – a why and a way to deliver this purpose. This was meant to stir up the opinion leaders who further moved the cause to the rest of the audience. It’s like the curve of diffusion of innovation, but this time it was more about the cause than the innovation.

But the question is, does this philosophy turned into a plan really change behaviour? Subsequently, BBDO India ensured applying this formula to communications for their clients– whilst these include their 2009 work for PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats titled ‘Cops on Oats’, aimed at making Chennai Police heart healthy and fit. Then in 2011, the BBDO campaign titled ‘Great Wall of Education’ for Aviva that drove people to donate books for under-privileged children. Recently, BBDO India won a lot of acclaim for their work on ‘Women Against Lazy Stubble’ for Gillette India, ‘Touch the Pickle’ to nullify the myths of dos and don’ts for a menstruating Indian woman, their work on ‘Share the Load’ for Ariel to strike down inequality between men and women and urging them to rethink the division of labour when it comes to laundry, and the rest is history.

The reason to believe in the potential of this tactic is simple. It’s not that brands that adopt BBDO’s philosophy, are forging choices by plainly advertising features of a product or a service. Rather brands are intervening in their social issues and helping them a way out of it, to act out of it. The theory of Make Acts Not Ads doesn’t only drive a positive change in behaviours but also serves the consumers a sense of belonging every time they make a purchase. At the end of the day, helping them make better choices by challenging the old ones.

Devansh Thakker
PGPMarComm 2017-18
Northpoint Centre of Learning