There's something about me and movies. I just can't make it to the movie hall in time. And most of the time, I don't regret it! At least, I am spared of the moral science lesson that precedes every movie in India. The moral science lesson that non-smokers love to ignore and smokers don't even acknowledge - the government's anti-tobacco ads.
Originally made to drill sense into people, these ads disgust every last one of us with their sickening visuals and one dimensional writing before the start of every movie.
But that shouldn't be a problem, right?I mean, what better than:
And death... to convince people to give up tobacco consumption!
It indeed is a great and thoughtful gesture! Except it's not the '80s anymore. If loss of life was a deterrent, there wouldn't be one million tobacco induced deaths in India annually.
Or if cancer was scary enough, 52.3% Indians wouldn't be exposed to second hand smoke at home.
With that out of the way, let's also take a moment to acknowledge that these government anti-tobacco ads lack imagination just like Donald Trump's words lack sense.
From cigarette packs to tobacco products, there are enough (read horrendous) warnings to scare people off. So why is it that the rate of tobacco consumption is only increasing? Are people not scared for their lives?
Are they not affected by what happened to Mukesh? Or how much tar their lungs have soaked in? Or how their families are repelled by their incessant coughing? Or are they not watching these ads at all!?
The answer is, nobody gives a fuck about these ads. And that, Mr Arun Jaitley, is god's honest truth.
According to a research by ICICI Lombard, an insurance firm:
On-screen warnings have royally failed to change the smokers’ behavior. 72 percent of smokers surveyed said pictures or plain packaging would have no effect on their smoking habit, and just 24 percent said they would be compelled to quit by an increase in “sin taxes.”
Now there are two ways to deal with it: One, you demonize tobacco products even more and hope and pray that the audience starts to care. Or, you invest in smart messaging.
And the thumb rule of smart messaging is: don't shove it down people's throats. Movie halls are the last place people would care about government ads and it shouldn't take a non-smoker writer to break it to you. Agreed, these are people who have paid a bomb to lock themselves up in a dark room for three hours, and yet, it doesn't justify suffocating them even more with the predictable and mundane writing of your ads.
In all fairness, there should't be anti-tobacco ads playing in the cinema halls at all. But since it's World No-Tobacco Day, we'd save this argument for some other time!
Here're smart alternatives for better and effective anti-tobacco messages which will ensure much higher audience engagement:
While we get the fact that most of these ads are made in order to target the rural strata of the society who have to be singled out in a straightforward manner, the ironic part is that they're not visiting the multiplexes to see these ads!
And to sensitize the urban class, whose lifestyles are way beyond repair, these government ads have to step up their game & hire better writers. Because the current lot of ads are evidently outdated and redundant.
This World No-Tobacco Day is another golden opportunity missed by the I&B ministry to catch everybody's attention on the very day that is dedicated to the cause.
Maybe you have something in store for us, maybe you're planning something big, but whatever it is, it better be worth the movie goer's time because in order to bring about change, you have to be a part of the change.