To raise awareness about their need for more teachers, Indian NGO Akanksha Foundation experimented with a message barter. The children who benefit from Akanksha schools and teaching centers would promote Bollywood celebrities’ movies and books for free. In return, they would ask celebs to promote their need for more teachers.
Background: Akanksha Foundation
Akanksha Foundation focuses on providing high quality education to children from low income communities. The NGO operates 15 schools in partnership with local municipalities and 40 after-school training centers. Learning is imparted in English, and the overall focus is to help students maximize their potential and rise to a higher income bracket as adults.
Graduates from the Akanksha schools score better than students from economically privileged backgrounds – a fact that not many are aware of.
To support their expansion plans in Mumbai and Pune, Akanksha needed to promote their need for great teachers – but on a low budget.
Enter Message Barter. A social experiment that aimed to leverage the wide reach of celebrities in the Indian entertainment industry.
Akanksha filmed videos of its students promoting the works of three celebrities who have vast followings online: actors Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar and author Chetan Bhagat. Individual videos show the students recreating famous scenes from the super hero movie Krrish 3 and the biopic of an Indian athlete Bhaag Milkha Bhaag in public locations. In the third video, the students held up signs inside an Indian bookstore, pointing passersby to Chetan Bhagat’s latest book. The videos end with one young student addressing the celebrities (“Hi Hrithik Uncle”), showing off their promotional efforts and asking the celebrity to talk about their need for more teachers.
‘Forcing’ celebrities to become brand ambassadors (for free!)
Akanksha emailed the videos to celebrities and asked them to promote their cause. Most celebrities responded immediately, sharing the videos on their social networks and commenting on the cuteness of the videos. They also lent their vocal support to the cause and invited their fans to share word and apply to teach at Akanksha.
Some celebrities, including bigshot Amitabh Bachchan, also spoke about the videos on national TV.
The campaign reached 18 million people, increased web traffic by 400% and more than doubled teacher applications. The Message Barter also helped the NGO ‘break the ice’ with the celebrities, opening a door for possible collaboration or even simply sharing in the near future.
Raising the profile of low-income students.
The campaign was in part inspired by the quality of education these students receive. The advertisers behind the campaign admitted their surprise to learn that the students spoke flawless English – and this is something they wanted to highlight in their communication.
Chitra Pandit, Director of Development and Communications, Akanksha, says:
“The Message Barter campaign had a clear purpose of getting people to come and teach in Akanksha schools. We hope more people are inspired to join the teaching profession and provide the education that all of India’s children deserve, irrespective of their backgrounds.”
This post is part of the People’s Insights monthly brief for June + July.