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What was the problem?

Swachh Survekshan is the world’s largest urban cleanliness survey, held by the Government of India every year in all 172K sq km of urban India. That’s a large breadth to cover, and naturally, the organisation ran into some trouble communicating the right message to the right people at the right time.

For version 2021 of this survey, the problem was two-fold:

  • Gather feedback from at least 16 million citizens - The key goal of this survey (like any other survey) was to get people to care enough to provide feedback on the condition of their cities. It would enable a massive change - holding authorities responsible for their jobs. The previous years’ surveys had seen less than 10 million respondents out of a total population of 498 million people. That's a 2% response rate. The goal was to get it to just over 3%. 

  • Inculcate ground-level behavioural change - This was arguably the bigger challenge. Getting people to fill out a survey is one thing, but getting them to segregate their waste, reduce consumption, and participate in actively creating a circular economy? That’s a whole other deal.

Did we mention that all of this was to be done during the pandemic?

What did we do?

We went back to the basics. Our biggest disadvantage was the sheer volume of people. Our biggest advantage - the sheer volume of data.


Market Research

The first step of using this data was to draw valuable insights from it, both qualitative and quantitative. This helped us answer questions such as what our audience was thinking, what they were doing, and most importantly, why they were not already making changes that would potentially change the planet's future, for themselves and their children.


Out of all the answers we got, the most crucial was the simplest one - they didn’t know how to. They didn’t know where to start, and what sort of impact it could have. It was the oldest problem in climate action communication - “if we are this far gone, does it even matter?”.


Good Old Segmenting, Targeting, and Positioning

Using our market data and its inferences, we did what the oldest book on marketing would tell you to do - we segmented the audience according to their behaviour (not their gender or age or location, but that’s a topic for another day), targeted the ones that aligned with our goals and not simply because they existed, and crafted our position based on what we wanted them to think and do. This gave us 4 kinds of audience to work with, and 4 different ways to speak with them, all to encourage the same two things - consume mindfully and hold your authorities responsible to do their jobs.


Implementing Our Strategy

Here’s when we chose the channels, the messaging, and finally, the campaign. From TVCs to digital, we created a media mix and divided our resources accordingly. Channels also included influencer engagement, on-ground BTL activities, and engagement of activist groups to maximise influence.


Our key message was to inculcate a sense of responsibility, and to do so, provide answers to the questions the audience was already asking - what can I do, and why should I do it?



Remember we talked about two goals?

One - gather survey responses from 16 million people, and

Two - inculcate ground-level behavioural change.


We received 40 million survey responses - the largest public movement towards sustainability. We overshot the goal by 250%.

As far as ground-level change goes, these results followed:

  1. Waste processing went up over four times from 18% in 2014 to 70% in 2021.

  2. There was 100% door-to-door waste collection in 97% of the wards. 

  3. Source segregation of waste started being practised by 85% of the target audience.

Creative Collaterals

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