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“Ram Naam Satya Hai” – a death chant for smokers

“Ram Naam Satya Hai” – a death chant for smokers

Gaurav Baid, a fellow member of the Adrants Facebook Group, posted this clever ambient campaign from India of unknown vintage.


As the helpful supers explain, in India it is still legal for shops to sell loose cigarettes. So, like the bottle openers that used to be installed on every Coca-Cola or Pepsi cooler in the days before twist off caps, so does every smoke shop have an electric lighter for the convenience of buyers.

To surprise smokers at the peak moment of their drug fix, Ogilvy installed new lighters that broadcast the Hindu chant, “Ram Nam Satya Hai” (The name of the god Rama is truth) which Wikipedia describes as “commonly chanted while carrying a dead body to the cremation ground in India and Nepal. This recitation implies that the dead body no longer sustain the truth (breath) which is Ram Nam. The dead body devoid of the breath or Ram Nam has no value whatsoever.”

See the results after the break.

Clearly, in a culture where such chants carry great spiritual value, it affected smokers like an electric shock. The message is understood, but will this change behaviour?

In my opinion, this is not a very sustainable campaign. How many cigarette sellers will really want to install a device that punishes their best customers?

But as is the case with most innovative ambient and guerrilla campaigns I see, I find primary campaign the value is not derived from the installation itself (which tends to be very localized and short-lived) but from the video case study wich can then spread virally. In a world addicted to reality television, these “candid camera” reaction videos make good advertainment.

As an aside, on the topic of cultural context, as a Westerner I got an inappropriate giggle from the client’s logo:


Yes, that is a man with a crab on his crotch.

Cancer Patients Aid Association
Ogilvy India
Adrants Facebook Group

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more