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Can 'Punishing Signal' help Mumbai get rid of honking menace?

The ‘honk more, wait more’ message is very catchy and effective at the first glance. But is the idea scalable? asks industry experts to analyse the Mumbai Police campaign and put it in perspective

Known for its active digital presence, the Mumbai Traffic Police, in collaboration with FCB Interactive, has launched a quirky campaign, ‘Punishing Signal’, which attempts to be sarcastically effective and teach road lessons to commuters for honking unnecessarily even when the traffic signal is red.

Launched on January 30, the campaign involves connecting decibel scanners with traffic signals. When the decibel level exceeds a dangerous 85db, the signal timer gets automatically reset for a longer time, forcing motorists to wait longer at the signal. Thus ‘punishing’ them for their impatience with the message—‘honk more, wait more!’

The first leg of activation was tested busy and important traffic junctions such as CSMT, Marine Drive, Peddar Road, Hindmata and Bandra.

A video showing people’s reactions has garnered a large number of views, comments, and shares on social media with requests from other states and cities to implement the concept in their regions.

Robby Mathew

Robby Mathew, NCD, Interface Communications, said, “The message went viral within two hours of the police tweeting it. People have been tweeting the cops with suggestions on where else to do the activity in the city. Police departments from other parts of the country are showing interest in replicating the same.”

The video:

A few industry experts called this idea a righteous move to discipline the city's perpetual honkers but they would wait to see how well the idea is scaled and if it is impactful in the long run.

Akshay Menon

For Akshay Menon, Creative Director of Famous Innovations, the idea is a lifesaver and behavioural changing. He says he loves the way it drives home the final message.

“Very few ideas manage to change behaviour. This one is right up there,” said Menon.

On the other hand, Mullen Lintas’ Chief Creative Officer Azazul Haque views this campaign as a gimmick and not sustainable in the long run.

Azazul Haque

He said, “For activation, it’s quite a great idea. The campaign got eyeballs and entire India is talking about it. I hope that they don’t make it in practice because it will just create a social media backlash. It is an idea where the video has done the trick more than the activation. The practice to punish commuters is not a wise and sustainable idea.”

He said that the idea is not scalable as implementing the concept at thousands of signals across Mumbai is quite impossible. “They might put a few decibel meters at signals but implementing it across so many traffic signals looks like quite a tough task to me.”

Nisha Singhania

But for Nisha Singhania, Co-Founder and Director, Infectious Advertising, the campaign doesn't need to be scalable as it's a one-time activation to drive the message across the city. “Not everybody has to wait at the traffic light to experience and get the message across, if one sees the film also, they get the message,” she said.

Jagdish Acharya

According to Jagdish Acharya, Founder and Creative Head, Cut The Crap, “As an idea, it is not only creative but effective too. Once it gets implemented at a few places in Mumbai, it will stay at the top of people’s minds and remind them at one point of time when they are stuck in a signal."

“It is not enough to only create some buzz around the cause, it should affect people. I think the police should keep rotating the activation to more congested signals where honking is more and should continue it to do for at least a year,” Acharya said. “It will take time to effectively reduce the honking habit of people on a long-term basis.”

Giving insight if this idea will be scaled to other parts of the city, Mathew said, “This is a social experiment by the cops. Depending on the success of this experiment, the administration will decide on taking it to other parts of the city. Already, police departments from other states are showing interest in the idea.

However, Singhania thinks that it is not about punishing people for honking, but driving home the message is the point. “When people see the ad, they get the message. I don't think Mumbai Police wants to punish people and I also don't think the idea is something that should be replicated everywhere for the people to experience it and only when one gets punished, they realise that they don’t need to honk,” she said

According to Acharya, it is something that anyone when gets to know about it will get conscious irrespective of whether they had experienced it or not. “I just honk out of habit, but this initiative can remind me of not honking at least in Mumbai, it will lead to more waiting in the signal,” he said.


Creative Agency: FCB Interface

Creative Team: Fred Levron, Robby Mathew, Mukesh Jadhav, Rakesh Menon, Ravi Ananthan, Mayuresh Vengurlekar, Siddharth Kutty

Media Team: Dhruv Jha, Amit Raina

Account Management: Shailesh Gupte

Social Media: Rahul Shenoy, Shreyas Deshmukh

Films Team: Alpa Jobalia, Mazhar Khan

Director of TVC: Akshay Nair

DOP (of the TVC): Sujay Pawar

Producers: Sukirth Rao, Archana Sarkar, Shwetabh Mishra

Production House: 30ML Ideas Production

Music Partner: Saregama

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