Given the over 60,000 cases of dengue fever reported in Pakistan in the last five years (Source: Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Government of Pakistan, 2016) Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan launched an awareness campaign in an effort to reduce the incidence of the disease on March 23, to coincide with Pakistan Day. This CSR campaign – called Dengue se paak Pakistan – has been tied in with the company’s premium pesticide brand, Mortein.
According to Fahad Ashraf, Director Marketing, Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan, “Mortein is a part of the household insecticides or pest control category which is further subdivided into flying insect and crawling insect killers, and constitutes products that are safe to use in and around the family. This does not include insecticides used for commercial purposes such as in agriculture.”
Before Mortein entered the market in 1996 – and soon acquired a lion’s share (Nielsen Pakistan estimates Mortein’s share at 46% as of the end of 2015) – the category was dominated by King Chemical Corporation (a local, family setup that operates out of Jodia Bazaar), Coopex (an international brand owned by Ciba-Geigy) and a handful of smaller brands.
Ashraf explains that pest control products – coils are the oldest and most commonly used type – have been available for more than 20 years, but there was a lack of awareness about how household pests such as mosquitoes and flies endanger people’s health. Both crawling and flying insects were perceived as a nuisance rather than a threat and none of the main category players took any preventive action.
What makes this campaign the first-of-its-kind is the fact that a nationwide health awareness initiative was conceived and executed in collaboration with an international NGO specialising in healthcare solutions and all four provincial governments.
It was the malaria scare that gripped Pakistan almost 15 years ago, followed by several dengue outbreaks in the last decade that triggered a substantial increase in the usage of mosquito killers and repellents. This change in consumer behaviour was accompanied by an increase in demand for more potent yet safer pest control formulations. Although coils and mats were the most commonly used variants, Mortein revolutionised the industry in Pakistan by bringing to market DDT-free aerosols and liquid vapourisers that offered continuous protection without triggering adverse allergic reactions.
Having captured a significant share of the market, “the brand objectives,” Ashraf says, “shifted towards creating healthier lives, happier homes.”
Consequently, the marketing budget was divided into product advertising (to achieve top of the mind awareness and increase sales) and CSR-based category development initiatives. The current campaign falls in the latter category. The reason why an awareness cum preventive campaign was launched at this particular time is that the months of March and April are the peak breeding seasons for mosquitoes and hence the threat of a dengue epidemic is at its highest.
Dengue se paak Pakistan is not Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan’s first attempt at educating people about the dangers of flying insects and the precautionary measures to take. The company has been involved in various on-ground and on-air, non-profit activities whereby its field force would visit villages across Pakistan telling people about the health hazards insects pose while providing them with safety tools against mosquito bites.
What makes this campaign the first-of-its-kind is the fact that a nationwide health awareness initiative was conceived and executed in collaboration with an international NGO specialising in healthcare solutions (Plan International) and all four provincial governments.
The campaign was implemented in two phases. Initially,16 teams were tasked with the objective of identifying the most at-risk dengue areas. Having done so, each team visited a designated location where they taught people the four-step process of reducing and eventually eliminating the dengue threat: clear the piles of trash that accumulate and keep the neighbourhood clean, cover or drain all puddles, use quality pesticides (where incorporating the Mortein product range is emphasised) and encourage people to form collaborative partnerships to ensure continued prevention and protection against dengue.
So far, the teams have concentrated their efforts in areas in Karachi considered to be dengue hotspots, such as Qayummabad and Orangi Town. The teams will then focus on interior Sindh and then on to the northern areas.
According to Ashraf, “the goal was to develop simple yet engaging content about what people need to do in their individual capacity to prevent the spread of dengue, and deliver it to them through a platform with the maximum penetration and reach.”
As a result, instead of opting for traditional ATL channels, the brand, along with its creative agency Manhattan International, decided to create what they have dubbed an ‘anti-dengue anthem’. The rationale being that since Pakistanis have a distinct cultural taste and appreciation of music, an anthem would be the ideal way to communicate the steps people need to take to keep themselves, their families and neighbourhoods safe.
Once the agency finalised the lyrics embodying the spirit of Dengue se paak Pakistan, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was brought on board as the vocalist, since he not only has the most powerful, but also the most well-recognised voice in Pakistan. Composed by Waqar Ali, the anthem has been broadcast on television across 27 channels and has already had more than two million views on digital media; Ashraf expects this number to increase exponentially in the next few weeks. Although the brand has not taken the campaign to print or OOH yet, there are plans to develop radio spots that will be aired in rural areas where television density is low.
Despite the fact that dengue-related deaths are in decline thanks to the awareness and clean up drives, Ashraf feels that there is a lot that remains to be done to accomplish the vision of a dengue-free Pakistan.
However, there are financial as well as logistical challenges hampering the scale of the campaign and the health benefits that can be delivered to people. Since most of Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan’s portfolio constitutes imported products, the heavy import duty and tax structure has considerably reduced their profit margins. Given that CSR activities are funded by the revenue the company generates, there is concern about whether the campaign can be sustained in the long-run.
Looking ahead, Ashraf adds that “despite the challenges, Mortein and Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan are committed to the vision of a more health-conscious Pakistan; however, we require continued government funding and community support to make this a regular annual initiative.”