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HP Lubricants and Leo Burnett India introduce #RoadsThatHonk

The world’s first anti-collision vehicle management system uses radar technology at dangerous bends to alert drivers about approaching vehicles by honking. The project, launched at a dangerous hairpin bend in J&K, will be taken across India to make the roads safer. The campaign has been conceptualised by Leo Burnett India

Click on the Image to watch the TVC.

At a steep curve on National Highway 1, at Jammu & Kashmir’s Patnitop, one would actually hear the roads honk when two vehicles approach each other from the opposite direction. This because of an unusual technology installed by HP Lubricants – it is the world’s first anti-collision vehicle management system that alerts drivers about approaching vehicles. Conceptualised, designed and executed by Leo Burnett India, the technology is named #RoadsThatHonk, and is aimed at making highways safer across Indian roads.

The project was launched on NH1 in North India, along the Jammu-Srinagar Highway, notorious for hairpin bends that makes it one of the most dangerous highways in the world (source: National Geographic). #RoadsThatHonk is named after the installed SmartLife poles that use radar technology across dangerous bends, alerting speeding drivers to slow down and avoid collisions. The poles are installed at key intersections, and use an advanced networked device to combine wireless technology, radar systems, and an anti-collision warning system -- all powered by solar PV modules.

Rajdeepak Das

Announcing the innovation, Rajdeepak Das, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia, said, “Leo Burnett India has always believed in humankind – we believe that creativity has the power to change and save human life. #RoadsThatHonk is rooted in a fundamental human need. For the first time ever, we have innovated a unique technology that helps make even the most dangerous roads safer for every driver, thereby saving precious lives.”

From insight to installation

The brief to the agency was to present the brand with a purpose of making roads safer. “Just believing in something isn’t always enough, both the brand and we wanted to make it come to life. And hence #RoadsThatHonk was born,” added Das.

It is not an easy task to come up with a technology and an idea of this kind in a matter of few days. The campaign took around a year to see light of the day.

Commenting on how the insight was generated, Das said, “We believe that the best way to define a problem is to live the problem. We’ve all been to hilly areas with bad terrains, had difficulty in navigating sharp curves, seen needless, gruesome accidents. In fact, we are always told to ‘drive safely, sharp curve ahead’. But apart from telling drivers to be careful, no one really thought of a way to make sharp curves and hairpin bends safer for them. We married common sense and technology to warn drivers of both sides of oncoming traffic, thus reducing the number of accidents significantly.”

Was it at all difficult to persuade the client?

Das answered, “HP Lubricants has always aimed at making roads safer for drivers. #RoadsThatHonk is an idea that is perfectly in sync with the brand’s vision, and the brand was on board with the concept right from the beginning.”

With great innovations come big challenges, talking about the challenges, Das said, “At the outset, it was challenging to identify the most dangerous hairpin bend among thousands in India. Each one was worse than the other. The next challenge was to identify and develop the right technology and design for the SmartLife poles. The third most important challenge was to actually set up the poles at the hairpin bends in a terrain like Patnitop on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.”

In the next phase, HP plans to identify more dangerous hairpin bends that are in need of SmartLife Poles, to make more Indian highways safer for commuting. They may come up with 18-20 more poles in the future.

HP Lubricants and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) plan to take this technology to major highways in the country.

Peers review the campaign

Saurabh Uboweja

Saurabh Uboweja, Brand Guru and CEO at Brands of Desire, has a point to make. He said, “From how I look at it, there are a few positives and negatives to the campaign. Firstly as a concept it is good, they have picked up a social cause which is good too. Although reducing road accidents doesn’t have anything to do with lubricants directly, I think it is positive to not have a direct linkage, especially if you are trying to do a social campaign. I would also like to give them the credit for being creative and trying to use an intelligent system.”

But Uboweja also finds the campaign largely pre-meditated. He said, “The thing with brand building is that it should never come across as marketing. There is a thin line between brand building and marketing and here it comes across too blatantly. Secondly, as an idea I think while they are contributing towards solving one problem they are creating another – sound pollution. If you think about it, the really savvy drivers who drive on the hills, their accident rates are very low and they will start to get distracted by this, for say 90 per cent of the drivers. It is a massive distraction. So for me it’s a huge let down from a safety point of view as it creates new risks.”

Analysing the campaign, Uboweja added, “It is going to be hugely damaging, if they run it as a big campaign. If you look carefully there is so much emphasis on the horn. People might start associating the brand with the horn. They have created a sound identity, which was completely unintended. Horns are creating noise pollution in all the developing countries, so essentially it is a negative identity that they are creating.”

Abhinav Kaushik

Abhinav Kaushik, Senior Vice-President, Dentsu One, is in awe of the campaign, “Most of the lubricant brands operate at the rational level, at best some tap the emotional drivers. Rarely do we see brands catapult to a level where they talk at the ‘societal level’ and influence consumers so deeply that they create an inseparable bond with them. This brilliant activation from HP Lubricants is a powerful and stirring example of how brands need to connect to the society and the nation at large. And not just do a tick-mark CSR activity. This really sets a benchmark for other such brands within the category and outside to move up the notches and create meaningful and life-connecting engagements.”

Pramod Sharma, Executive Creative Director, Rediffusion Y&R, said, "Advertising is slowly moving towards 'Sensvertising'. Innovation is the future. It’s a great idea that reduces the risks of accidents. Implementation will be a challenge. But with a client such as HP, this can be done on a large scale. (A not so similar idea won at the Cannes two years back where a pre-programmed radio frequency intercepted your vehicle's radio frequency and alerted you of dangerous curve). HP idea works for me as it can be huge. Imagine this getting installed on almost all the highway curves. Superb!"

The TVC:


Chief Executive Officer, Publicis Communications India and Leo Burnett, South Asia: Saurabh Varma

Chief Creative officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia: Rajdeepak Das

Chief Strategy Officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia: Dheeraj Sinha

Executive Director and Branch Head, Mumbai: Rakesh Hinduja

Creative Team: Gunjan Poddar, Arvindh Lochan, Himanish Ashar

Business Head: Sidheshwar Sharma

Account Management: Hirosh Mulky, Rumi Behramkamdin, Manish Verma

Production House: Prodigious India

Executive Producer: Vandana Watsa & team

Special Credits:

Yuktix, Founder: Rajeev Jha & team

Secretary, PHA: Lovenesh Sathe

Project Director, NHAI: M.T. Atarde

Gammon India: Rohit Khajuria

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