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Cannes Ad Fest: Highway branding of Leo Burnett's road safety campaign

We look at Leo Burnett's 'Roads that Honk' that received plaudits for safe roads innovation

Viveat Susan Pinto  |  Mumbai 


Anyone who has travelled in India or is even familiar with the country is well aware of the huge risk that its roads present. India has the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst when it comes to road mishaps, with nearly 1.3 lakh people killed annually due to accidents. Driving is a hazardous job in the country, even more so in remote and mountainous roads where overloaded vehicles, rash drivers and hairpin bends make for a fatal combination. How does one reduce the risk of accidents on such routes? 

This was the problem that public sector company decided to grapple with. It took up one of the most dangerous roads in the country, one that it was familiar with and also known to be exceedingly accident prone, the Sharp curves and hairpin bends are common here since the winds its way through several narrow turns leaving motorists driving blind most of the time.

The company worked with its ad agency India and came up with an anti-collision vehicle management system called ‘Roads that Honk’. The goal was to make roads safer, in an innovative way that would also further the company’s identity as a concerned government-owned entity.

Conceptualised, designed and executed by Leo Burnett, the innovation uses special poles called ‘SmartLife’ poles that are advanced networked devices. The poles have presently been placed on either side of a hairpin bend on the (they could easily be repurposed on other kinds of roads in other parts of the country).

The poles run on wireless technology and have an inbuilt radar system and an anti-collision warning system powered by solar photovoltaic modules. A pole can detect vehicles, register their speed and then send out a warning signal to the partner pole on the opposite side. The two poles thus ‘communicate’ with each other to caution approaching vehicles with a ‘horn’.

Since its launch in April this year, the local police which oversees the 110-kilometre-long says that road mishaps, which numbered at least two to three per day on this stretch, have come down. Chander J Singh, deputy superintendent of police, Chenani Range (of the J&K police) says, “The has various hairpin bends and vehicles often speed at these turns resulting in fatal accidents. ‘Roads that Honk’ is a great innovative technology which will help save lives and make our roads safer.”

In a column recently for the Business Standard, Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer at Leo Burnett, South Asia, said, “The solution (Roads that Honk) feeds on Indian behaviour, where honking is the language of the road, using technology, design and manufacturing to solve a real problem. This idea, which was one of the seven winners at the Cannes Lions Innovation awards this year, gives advertising new material to play with, beyond words and visuals.”
Sinha, an ad veteran, who has worked with agencies such as McCann, EuroRSCG and Bates earlier, says that initiatives such as these amplify the innovative spirit of the product, doubling up as its brand message.

“This kind of marketing is a win-win for everyone. People benefit from the brand’s commitment of doing something real, brands build a lasting platform that is not limited by a quick burst of media spends, and agencies get to elevate the purpose of their creativity beyond just a headline and a television commercial,” he says.

That the campaign walked away with a in the innovation category at the Cannes Ad Fest 2017, the first such for an Indian agency so far at the festival, besides a Bronze Lion in the design category is the ultimate compliment it can receive.

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First Published: Tue, July 04 2017. 22:10 IST