Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide a USAID- ICICI project to promote low dosage contraceptive pills in four Indian States.

Children by choice not by chance: Mobilizing 100 million people

Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan and Bihar are the four least developed states in India, contributing to 42 percent of the total population or approximately 400 million people. The average population growth rate in these states is above four percent compared to the total average for India of around 2.7 percent.

Though the awareness of pills as a contraceptive method is fairly high, consumption is among the lowest in the world, at 2.1 percent. These are also the states where population control measures have yielded negligible results.

Thirty-three focus group discussions conducted across these states established that consumers still depend entirely on doctor recommendations when taking oral contraceptive pills. The research also revealed deep-rooted fears and misconceptions, which are a legacy of the earlier high dose pills of the 1950s.


The program was an attempt to change mindsets in a short period of time - two years - and to create a positive environment for the pill as the contraceptive method of choice. The goals and objectives were very clearly defined. The success of the program would be gauged by:

  • Increase in sales of commercially available brands by 25% in the target cities.

  • Gain support of and train doctors, community leaders, chemists and the media to deliver key messages.

Primary audience:
Literate young couples aged 18 to 29 living in the urban areas of the four states.

Secondary audience:

  • 23000 Gynecologists, GPs, pediatricians across the four states

  • 20000 chemists across 25 cities

  • 150 service clubs/social organizations active in healthcare

  • 30 top news publications and the electronic media. Limitations and challenges

  • The combined population of the four states is larger than Germany and Russia's combined population. The sheer size was a major challenge

  • Overcoming the existing mindset of the fear of the high dose pills of the 1950s.

  • A generic promotion, therefore no brand identity.

  • Since both USAID, the funding agency and ICICI, the fund managers, could not take ownership or be available for on-the-ground activities, there was no locally identifiable owner.

  • This was the first private sector initiative; previous programs were government initiated, which made credibility a major issue.

  • Use a top down approach to reach the primary target audience through key opinion leaders

  • Use key opinion leaders as endorsers and active supporters of the pill

  • Create a people's movement through a branded communications program

  • Ogilvy to provide the face of the program

  • Make use of a powerful endorser whose voice would be heard over all others and whose opinion would matter.

The entire target medical community of gynaecologists, pediatricians, and general practitioners - 23000 in number - were sent mailers. The response was above 15 percent. Regular scientific updates are being sent. They were invited to join the program and to counsel their patients on the pill. Nearly 1000 doctors responded to the call. More than 200 top doctors across nine cities were taken through an intensive training workshop by one of India's most senior gynecologists. These doctors provided free counseling. The local publicity arranged by Ogilvy PR prompted couples in the target groups to ask for more information on the pill. Major hospitals and nursing homes are now partners in the program. One of the most successful outcomes of this exercise was that doctors now saw this partnership as a moral obligation and a beneficial way of contributing to society.

To prevent any negatives at the point of sale it was important to train chemists on key issues surrounding the pill. The motivation for the chemists to attend the training was extremely low, as there was no brand promotion and no trade discounts. The Chemist Training Program had to be innovative and highly creative. It was designed to appeal to their social conscience as well as serve their business interest. Over 10,000 chemists across two states were trained since the program was implemented.

To create a true network of "Friends of the Pill", community involvement was essential. Community leaders could filter the message to larger groups and through them to the target audience. Service clubs such as the Rotary and the Lions clubs, who were already active in healthcare programs were briefed in detail. Many of theses clubs adopted Goli Ke Hamjoli, integrating it into their existing healthcare programs. Some clubs have prioritized the promotion of the pill as their prime program in the year 2000.


Media support was critical for the success of the program. A single dissenting voice could raise a barrage of questions on side effects and long-term implications. Although these claims were based on scientific evidence, interpretations could be damaging.

  • Over 150 news clippings gave positive coverage of the program.

  •  A series of six articles on benefits of pill usage was carried by 15 top publications in three states.

  • Large discounts were offered by newspapers in three states for the support advertising for 'Free Doctor Counseling'.

Every stage of the program was researched extensively, beginning with the baseline survey on consumer mindsets. Following the survey pre- and post-testing of all communication messages was conducted to gauge the increase in awareness, to ensure all issues were being addressed, and to ensure there were no areas of ambiguity. Results from the research studies formed an integral part of the overall communications strategy. Communications material as well as ground level activities were structured and fine-tuned around the research feedback.

  • There has been over a 90 percent increase in sales of commercially available brands in areas where the program has been launched.

  • Major pharmaceutical companies have approached Goli Ke Hamjoli to become partners in the program. The media hit rate was over 95 percent.

Goli Ke Hamjoli is a showcase program for USAID-ICIC today