A Cannes Lions Winner? Mukhota masks as safety devices in India

Mukhota mask on Indian fishing boat

(Ed. note: Who doesn't like a little prognostication for awards season? To that end, and leading up to our coverage at Cannes, we engaged ad schools and asked them, along with some of The Drum's editorial staff, to weigh in on specific creative, if it will win a Cannes Lion and, if so, which ones. Feel free to add your own comments and we'll see who is right at the end of the month.)

In Indian culture, local villagers carry masks called Mukhotas on their boats to ward off danger and evil spirits. It is a staple of the culture and Kinetic Worldwide saw an opportunity to take what already exists to address a large problem for fishermen: accidentally crossing over the border from international waters. Stories of fisherman going missing from the Indian Sea are not uncommon — nor is imprisonment. In April, Pakistan arrested 59 fishermen for fishing the country’s water. In March, Pakistan sent 179 prisoners back to India, underscoring the scale of the problem. Some fishermen have lost their lives as a result.

Work in India founder Salim Mulla told Afaqs, "We read several reports on fishermen going missing at sea, and hence, took it as a challenge to do something that could save so many lives. We will be conducting awareness sessions at various fishermen colonies to inform them about the existence of 'Mukhota - the device’.

The device itself is simple. A GPS device is embedded into a Mukhota mask, alerting the boater of their location in real-time, giving them ample opportunity to turn back. So far, over 2,000 Mukhota masks have been distributed to local fishermen across the coast of India and have been activated over 15,000 times in multiple regions, proving so successful that the Indian Coast Guard has recommended the concept be implemented across the entirely of India.

Kinetic has submitted the work to the Cannes Lions in several categories. The Drum and School of Communication Arts 2.0 weighed in on whether or not it will walk away with a Lion next week in Cannes.

Doug Zanger, North America Editor at Large, The Drum

Sometimes the best solutions are simple — and sitting right in front of us. Those “why not?” moments are far too infrequent, but this idea is about as relevant as it gets. There’s nothing flashy, no celebrity endorsements or huge budgets. This is an idea that works within a history and culture, allowing a tool, oft-used for consumer-centric endeavors, to do what it is we are supposed to do in this business: solve a problem. And it’s a big problem that is being solved — so much so that it is moving up the chain to more direct discussion and action from those in power.

Prediction: Gold (Public Health & Safety), Silver (PR Lions: Charity & not for profit)

Alex Pugh, student, School of Communication Arts 2.0, London

This is a fascinating marriage of ancient beliefs and modern technologies. Using an already existing ‘channel’, in this case masks used to ward off ancient spirits, and hijacking it to solve a problem is the Holy Grail of communications aiming to solve real-world problems. Much can be said of “making the world a better place” through advertising but in the West it usually revolves people stuffing their mouths less or providing Wi-Fi on the Tube. Very First World. These fisherman were getting thrown in a gulag for Pete’s sake! And this campaign solves that. That’s worthy of an award in my book.

Prediction: Gold (Public Health & Safety, PR Lions: Charity & not for profit)

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