CCO Santosh Padhi talks about devising a new product to help athletes with amputations – and its gorgeous launch film starring Major DP Singh
Now that the 2016 Paralympic Games are well under way, the ad industry is (finally) being forced to confront the issue of representation of people with disabilities in advertising. But Indian agency Taproot Dentsu has gone a step further in a new collaboration with adidas – they’ve devised and launched a new product designed to make life a little easier for athletes, professional and amateur, who have undergone amputations. ‘ODDS’ allows people to buy pairs of running shoes made up of two left or two right shoes, rather than having to waste shoes by buying a standard pair.
The product has been launched with a beautifully-shot film starring Major DP Singh, a long distance runner and war veteran who suffered near-fatal injuries during the Kargil conflict in 1999. He’s also now known as India’s ‘first Blade Runner’ and was the first Indian amputee to complete a half marathon using a ‘blade’ – and now he runs an NGO called The Challenging Ones. The adidas team feel that Major Singh’s incredible story typifies the brand’s own values of inclusiveness, that of ‘no athlete left behind’.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Taproot Dentsu CCO and co-founder Santosh Padhi to find out more about the project.
LBB> What was the seed that led to the 'Odds' idea? Was the client hoping to do something to coincide with the Paralympics or was there more to it than that?
SP> This is an Olympic year, so it's obviously a very important year for any sports brand. adidas was planning to do something, and around the same time we came up with this wonderful idea. They blended together perfectly.
LBB> The idea of calling the campaign and product 'odds' is an interesting one - not only does it deal with the fact that disabled sports people battle difficult odds but it also directly confronts prejudice. What sort of conversations did you have around the use of the word 'odd' and why was it the right one to use?
SP> Simplicity in communication is important, especially when you are coming with a new product. We wanted to keep it simple yet make it stand out. ODDS seemed like a great name that did justice to both the physical and emotional side.
LBB> What sort of research did you do into the lives and struggles of para-athletes when developing the idea? And why was Major DP Singh the perfect person to star in the ad? Can you give international audiences an idea of how important and inspiring he is in India?
SP> When we had this product idea of two left and two right shoes for the para-athletes, we thought that it was important to launch the product with an emotional connection and in a big way. We were looking for a group of para-athletes to be the face of this campaign, as each of their bouncing back life stories with different life graphs could have added a completely new emotional multi-dimension to our campaign. Our search got us to Major DP Singh, a war veteran and a marathon runner.
After meeting Major DP Singh we felt that he symbolised everything that ODDS stands for. He was the right protagonist and his life story takes the idea to the next level.
I feel we are extremely lucky that we got somebody like Major DP Singh. Apart from being a great human being, he is good looking, super fit, full of life, intelligent and has a great understanding of creativity. All of these qualities really helped us during the three days of shooting.
LBB> The film is beautiful - who directed it and what did they bring to the story?
SP> It was produced by Nomad films, one of the most reputed production houses in India. Veneet Bagga is the director of the film.
Let me touch upon one of the key things of the production: in spite of running behind schedule Veneet wanted to spend some time with Major DP Singh before the shoot. So we delayed the shoot by a few days at the director’s request just to make sure the director understood the protagonist well. Such things really cannot be measured but really add to the end product.
LBB> How does the film fit into the other work you do with adidas and their overall strategy in India?
SP> Taproot does quite a few projects during the year other than the 50% fixed retainer brands with us. These projects are the DNA of the Taproot brand, and this is one of them.
adidas has launched propositions such as ‘Impossible is Nothing’ and ‘All In’ in the past. The brand believes in a simple principle: no athlete should be left behind. If you look at ODDS, it too fits into their philosophy and brand beliefs, otherwise they wouldn’t have gone ahead with it
LBB> With the Paralympics, we've been seeing several brands working with disabled actors and Paralympians - do you think the ad industry will improve its representation of people with disabilities in its content?
SP> As they say, when God takes away one thing he gives back something. Whether someone is blind, or is an amputee or anything else, we need to celebrate their personal abilities. They are real heroes in every sense. The more we promote their strength, the more awareness there is in the consumer and brand world and, in turn, there’s more chances for brands to be open-minded. This will give countries new heroes to admire and not just new faces for brands.