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Gender inequality is more rampant in rural areas: BL Agro’s Richa Khandelwal

Reveals why the brand with largely rural TG chose to challenge gender norms with its campaign

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When was the last time you saw an ad featuring not one, not two, but three mainstream male actors in the kitchen, donning aprons to cook up a storm? BL Agro’s latest brand film for its flagship mustard oil brand Bail Kolhu, aptly titled ‘Rasode Mein Mard Hai’ does just that by showcasing the three versatile talents of Pankaj Tripathi, Manoj Bajpayee, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui cooking with flair-relishing and savouring every step of the process, right down to serving their preparation. 

While several brands have championed the cause of gender equality before, what makes this particular campaign special and sets it apart is the fact that it is led by a brand rooted in the HSM (Hindi Speaking Market) hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh with a target audience that comprises primarily of rural and semi-urban consumers. The name Bail Kolhu itself has a strong native ring to it with its genesis ingrained in the traditional process of extraction of the ‘Kachi Ghani’ or mustard oil.

So what led the desi edible oil brand to undertake this atypical campaign for its cooking oil product? BL Agro spokesperson Richa Khandelwal tells IndianTelevision.com in an exclusive chat.

The brief given by the brand

“We wanted to take a very different path than the usual suspects,” says Khandelwal, adding, “Rather than picking up one of the regular marketing concepts, we wanted to associate Bail Kolhu with a social agenda to create an image of a brand that genuinely cares and thinks about its customers.”

Talking about the title, Khandelwal says, “We, along with our creative agency, Leads Brand Connect, played around with quite a few hashtags and titles, such as #HaathBataaoSaathPakaao, before we set the seal on #RasodeMeinMardHai, because it both resonates well with the semi-urban and rural population and has a stark appeal and recall value.”

The campaign was an in-house collaborative effort of the creative, production, and media teams, with Leads Brands Connect executing the entire TVC, from concept to film production.

Enlisting the three Bollywood actors

"Hailing from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the trio was a brilliant brand choice because they are idolised in this Hindi-speaking belt," says Khandelwal. 

With the problem of gender inequality more rampant in rural areas, the three Bollywood actors become the perfect fit. “We could have enlisted any celeb face to break the doctrine that men can’t share the load in the kitchen. But we specifically chose Pankaj Tripathi, Manoj Bajpayee, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui because they were the right megaphones for the concept,” she tells.

The TVC is the launchpad for the first leg of the campaign, which will last three months, and which was unveiled by actor Pankaj Tripathi at a press conference in New Delhi to get the conversation rolling.

"Launched earlier this month, the campaign has led to a knock-on effect with people from all walks of life and consumer cohorts responding to the ad film," says Khandelwal. "While women are applauding Bail Kolhu for championing the cause that men should be cooking too, men are actually beginning to think about it," she adds.

The thought behind the concept

Interestingly, Covid-19 became the germination point behind the #RasodeMeinMardHai concept to advocate the fact that men should be cooking too, reveals Khandelwal. "During the initial lockdown men actually became active participants in the kitchen, gradually taking on cooking chores. But with the waves dying down, the situation bounced back to the pre-covid era, with only 6.1 per cent of men participating in the kitchen," she says, adding that, "essentially, the plight of women did not change an iota."

The limited portrayal of men in ads centred around the home and kitchen has further served to reinforce the belief that cooking is solely a woman’s responsibility. “By talking about it through more responsible advertising, we wanted to normalise the issue and bring about functional change,” Khandelwal asserts.

Media marketing strategy behind the campaign

The TVC is largely focused on television with the time-slots chosen for the TVC not par for the course. The brand is going aggressive on spending on news channels to capture male viewership on TV, while the #RasodeMeinMardHai campaign is digital-first. The ad spend ratio is 60:40, with the smaller portion dedicated to traditional media and the larger portion to digital media.

Khandelwal says since radio is also a potent medium in the markets where Bail Kolhu has a major presence - largely in rural and semi-urban areas - the brand will focus on the radio for its marketing campaign. “Besides jingles, we are roping in RJs to promote the messaging and contests for listeners.”

A long-term goal

The campaign is not a one-off to nudge the industry towards more progressive gender narratives or tokenism for the just-passed Women’s Day, emphasises Khandelwal. “We’re going to make it a key focus area for the brand to give the messaging more breathing space.” The brand plans to turn it into a multi-year agenda where it will move from the ground up to bring true winds of change. In the pipeline are also outdoor activities that become the “rocket fuel to bring real and tangible” transformation on the ground.

“Although names cannot be disclosed at such an early stage, expect to see more macro-influencers and more celeb faces. Since it’s a social cause, a multitude of people are interested in contributing, not for monetary gain but for the cause itself,” adds Khandelwal.

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh-headquartered edible oil and food products company has been on an aggressive market expansion mode and has since expanded its horizons into the nearby territories of Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Delhi, and recently also ventured into the Southern state of Karnataka.

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