Laura Jordan Bambach: Jugaad can change the world

Laura Jordan Bambach is chief creative officer at Mr President, a London-based independent creative agency. She has been a prominent voice in the industry for over 20 years, winning numerous awards for her work at Mr President, which won The Drum’s Agency of the Year and the AdAge International Small Agency of the Year while under her stewardship. She was also previously a president of D&AD.

Bambach is a strong advocate for diversity in the industry, and is the co-founder of SheSays – a global volunteer network that works to encourage more women in the creative industry. She is also the co-creator of the VOWSS, which showcases the world’s best work by women and the co-founder of The Great British Diversity Project.

How Jugaad can change the world

No country has taken the idea that marketing can change the world to heart quite like India. Maybe it’s the “be the change you want to see in the world” belief attributed to Gandhi. Or the fact that for many people there’s no safety net, so you need to take the initiative, or things won’t happen. There’s a sense in India that you can fix any problem with hard graft and creativity – a DIY/make-of-it-what-you-can attitude that leads to great ideas being applied to everything.

In colloquial Hindi, this way of working is called Jugaad: an approach to solving problems and changing things for the better through hacks and workarounds – frugal innovation. Solutions found by looking for the answers in what’s around you. It’s a creative approach that feels very close to the way I like to solve problems in my own work. It has a real maker attitude – of discovering through doing. And it embodies the agile and entrepreneurial spirit that we’re going to need more of to drive the world, as well as brands, forward in these challenging times. Hate something, change something, make something better (thanks Honda).

It’s a spirit that runs through Indian culture, both from individuals and brands. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved recently on two jugaad projects with incredible Indian creative people; one as a guest of the inaugural Shortlist awards, and the other working with social activists on Plan International’s global launch of Girls Get Equal. In these travels, I’ve seen a lot of new work that feels a little bit jugaad in its commitment to hack Indian culture for the better.

Gender equality has been a key conversation, both domestically and globally, over the past year, as it involves confronting gender-based violence, supporting new family roles, freedom of expression and healthcare. Only a few weeks from International Women’s Day, it seemed like a fitting place to start.

How has some of this spirit of jugaad been embraced by brands in India, to create the change they want to see in gender equality?

Building on a phone contract to make women safer on the street.

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'Sakhi' is a new mobile safety service to give women the confidence and reassurance to be more independent. Available to all women on the Vodafone network, it allows women to programme up to 10 people to call automatically in an emergency and share location information. It also provides an emergency top-up so that you can call someone if you feel threatened, even if you have no credit. The power of these simple hacks can’t be underestimated. Plus, the launch film was also made by an all-female crew!

Adding to an everyday product for the safety of girls

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One of India’s first Ayurvedic soap brands with a heritage of over 80 years, Hamam soap has always supported mothers around looking after their children. But as Indian mums take the step from wanting to cocoon their daughters to wanting to empower them, the brand has stepped up and given mothers an active role in creating a safer space for them, through the Mothers’ Safety Force.

All the advertising inspires mothers to think about what else they can do to keep young women safe. And they’ve also hacked the soap wrappers themselves, with infographics to help women stay safe like Theatre Self-Defence Class – #GoSafeOutside. It’s Indian women, for Indian women.

Hacking a symbol of celebration to make it a symbol of acceptance

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The Times of India is no stranger to controversy, and their work focused on the Durga Puja festival, ‘SindoorKhela’, has created unimaginable joy for hundreds of thousands of women. (SindoorKhela is a subset of the festival). Historically, only married women have been able to participate. If you’re single, widowed or LGBTQ, you can’t take part in the festivities or visiting temples. The Times of India created a new symbol – the double-dotted bindi on the forehead and promoted the new inclusive celebration.

Laura Jordan Bambach is chief creative officer at Mr President, a London-based independent creative agency. You can follow her on Twitter @laurajaybee.

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