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MTV India and Ogilvy use karaoke to help dementia patients

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By Amit Bapna | Editor-at-large

December 13, 2021 | 7 min read

Here is how MTV and Ogilvy launched ‘memory karaoke’, a creative solution backed by the combined might of technology and music to aid Alzheimer’s patients

‘Memory karaoke’ launched by MTV and Ogilvy

‘Memory karaoke’ launched by MTV and Ogilvy

It is not often that music is put to use beyond just entertainment and rarely for a purpose beyond audio gratification. Recently, Viacom-owned MTV India joined hands with Ogilvy to launch ‘Memory Karaoke’, aimed at helping people with early Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the most prolific modern-day disorders.

To give the initiative on-ground sustenance, MTV collaborated with the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) as knowledge partners. ARDSI is affiliated with Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) and has an active presence in India

The campaign video

The genesis of the campaign

The statistics around Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia are quite horrifying in their ubiquity. Yet it remains a medical ailment on which there is limited awareness and knowledge, thus making life tough for both the patient and the caregiver.

As per data, India has 5.91 million people affected with a form of dementia, of which over 65% of people are affected with Alzheimer’s disease in 2021, and by 2030 over 7.6 million people could be affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s. It is heart-breaking for the patient as well as the caregiver to see the memory of their near and dear ones fade away with scant options to make the suffering any easier.

Talking about the initiative, Anshul Ailawadi, head, youth, music, and English entertainment at Viacom18, says,We were sure of giving wings to this idea, bringing it to life and taking it to the MTV universe and beyond. It was only when we began researching that we realized that it wasn’t just the patient but their immediate family and extended circle who were also affected.”

It did not end there, as it was realized that many team members had first-hand experiences of handling family members who have suffered or are suffering from dementia. It was a unanimous conclusion that forgetting small details about oneself isn’t something to be laughed at or joked about and this is how ‘forgetting isn’t funny’ came to life, adds Ailawadi. The solution to the problem at hand was found in music.

Akshay Seth, group creative director at Ogilvy Mumbai, says about the initiative, “The memory karaoke aims to aid memory enhancement in persons with early Alzheimer's and also to create a daily routine for the family and the caregiver to spend some joyful together time practicing.”

How does memory karaoke work?

While normally simple things are taken for granted, with Alzheimer’s and dementia, forgetting small details like one’s own name, where they live, who they live with become the challenges – and not just for the person but also their families and caregivers. This is exactly what the memory karaoke addresses, says Ailawadi, “to help those living with early Alzheimer's cope with the memory loss.”

‘Memory karaoke’ is a custom-created karaoke, with four foot-tapping songs on the microsite mtvmemorykaraoke.com. The songs comprise the commonly forgotten information by those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s such as their home address, name, meals, etc.

The custom-created karaoke tracks are meant to enable the patient and the caregiver to sing along songs with these important details. While they hum along as the lyrics appear on the screen like in karaoke, the person over time will be able to remember their information enjoyably and musically.

Along with helping remember the vital details of the patient, the idea behind the campaign is also to raise awareness about this progressive disease.

Giving the campaign musical legs

The campaign has been focused on creatively educating the audience in a way that they’d understand a complicated disease. The media plan included a film created with the patients using the platform, teasers leading up to the launch of the platform, partnerships with doctors and some key influencers for a wider reach.

Ailwadi adds, “To help land the message in funny ways GIFs and memes - the language of the youth - were deployed.”

Alongside, Viacom leveraged its network strength and the presence on the OTT platform Voot to drive awareness about the initiative.

The songs have been written by Ogilvy, composed by Tarana Marwah, an Indian composer, singer-producer, and instrumentalist, who has also lent her voice for the tracks on memory karaoke. Marwah has a personal connection with the initiative - her grandmother, too, was living with Alzheimer’s.

Behind the scenes

The astonishing effect that music can have on those living with early Alzheimer's is where the idea for its deployment came from, says Ogilvy’s Akshay Seth. But the main push was to make the songs customizable, to benefit each user basis the symptoms of their affected family member. This is where the integration of tech came into being, allowing important relevant information to be entered as lyrics of the song, he adds, thus, creating a personalized version of the track for every user to practice daily.

Ronin Labs helped put the technology into action for this initiative. Its co-founder and CEO, Sumeet Basak, says, “we are proud of being able to put AI to use in the creation of customizable karaoke videos to help improve memory recall through music.”

While technology and advertising have been at the helm of commerce, it is good to see the two come together for larger social good.

Expert speaks

"Alzheimer’s is considered as the global crisis of the century with every three seconds somewhere in the world somebody is developing dementia", says Dr. Vidya Shenoy, secretary-general of ARDSI.

The need of the hour is more advocacy that will create more awareness in the community, she feels. As an integrative therapist and dementia care specialist her concern is always to better the quality of life not only for those with dementia but also their families and caregivers who bear the onus of caregiving.

It is critical to look for a solution to this problem, especially with the elder population getting lost or straying from home, she adds.

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