Friends of the Pill – Building Brand Communities with an Attitude


‘Goli ke Hamjoli’ or Friends of the Pill, is a behavior change campaign aimed at changing the very nature of women’s thinking on the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) and its benefits to overall reproductive healthcare and specifically child spacing. Being a category campaign, Goli ke Hamjoli talks about the overall benefits of the low dose oral contraceptive pill and provides informed choice on available brands in the market. In 2003, the campaign took on the multi-pronged objectives of increasing pill usership as well as intenders and growing the category over the previous years. The key insight that the campaign sought to address was the feeling of vulnerability, lack of control vis-à-vis childbirth and pressure on the woman to be the archetypal provider. “I feel so alone when it comes to birth control”.

The campaign, which focused on building a community of support for the pill users, employed a complete 360-degree process communication to reach out to married women in a nation-wide drive across media platforms. Through TV, Press, Radio, PR and on-ground one-on-one special events, the OCP category grew by 48% since the campaign launch in 1998 and by 5% over 2002.


India has a population of more than a b illion. While nearly 50% of Indian women are in the reproductive age group, less than half of them practice contraception. 78% of conceptions are unplanned, and 28% are unwanted. A typical Indian woman is still groomed to believe that her existence centers around her family. When she marries, she doesn’t just marry an individual, but an entire family system, without the freedom of choice in matters of reproductive health. It is expected that she will bear a child at the earliest as motherhood is seen as important for acceptance in the family. The need to space children or stop them completely comes low on the priority list. In the absence of any formal education on contraception, the decision about the method largely rests on the husband. The space between kids is never planned and use of contraception is largely erratic. Specific to the pill, most women have heard of it, very few have actually used it. There is lack of proper education about how the pill works and misconceptions aplenty about its ill effects. The husband, with respect to contraception, is careless, at best indifferent to contraceptive use.

The key insight: The relationship with category of oral contraceptive pills is characterized by fear, mistrust and lack of knowledge For the woman, there is a feeling of vulnerability, lack of control vis-à-vis childbirth and pressure to be the archetypal provider. “I feel so alone when it comes to birth control”.

Goli ke Hamjoli (Friends of the Pill) is an integrated communication campaign to induce behavioral change and positive disposition towards the pill amongst women who are keen to space their families. Over a 4-year run from 1998 till 2002, while awareness on the pill gradually increased, pill adoption and usage continuation by women wavered. All were aware, but a significant proportion was still not using the pill. The greatest mindset block can be summarized as: “I have heard about the benefits of the pill. But I have also heard about its side effects. So I am not very sure if I should choose it or not.” Thus in 2003, Goli ke Hamjoli (Friends of the Pill) campaign was customized, designed and executed into one of the largest ever mass media advocacy, public relations and special events programme amongst women communities.

Challenge: Get Oral Contraceptive Pills accepted as the best form of contraception.

Objective: The campaign objectives for 2003 were an organic extension of objectives since 1998. While year 1 created relevance for the pill in the lives of women, year 2 softened the barriers on pill perception in the minds of women, year 3 nudged the Indian women in to action and year 4 incentivized the women to change. Year 2003 intended to pursue the advocacy route to convince women to change.


• Women in child-bearing age, currently not using any contraception / using other methods, SEC A-D
• Influencers, Media, Key opinion leaders, Relatives, Doctors and chemists
8 high population states in India, contributing to almost 40% of total Indian population
Friends of the Pill – Building Brand Communities with an Attitude


• Mass Media – Overall awareness on the pill through TV, Print, Channel Fillers, Radio.
• Special events (on-ground) – engaging women constructively in discussions on the pill.
• Public Relations – Overall media management and doctor relationships.

The agency, while understanding the complexities of women’s disposition towards the pill, devised a testimonial route to reach consumers and their influencers through interventions across consumer points of contact and media. Television commercials openly talked about happy pill users and their testimonials on pill benefits. On-ground work with women’s communities was devised in such a manner that happy pill users were trained as brand ambassadors and conducted interactive and educational sessions on the pill amongst women in the community. Termed Hamjoli Baatcheets (or Friends of the Pill Conversations), these special events ensured that women are personally introduced to the pill and followed the pill regimen. Hamjolis (Friends) made certain that there is no attrition, while simultaneously ensuring that local influencers (families, in-laws, husbands) are communicated to in an engaging manner.

The agency utilized their national doctor network relationships to ensure that lady gynecologists attended Hamjoli Batcheet and answered technical queries on the pill, thus guiding the 80-strong Hamjoli force in developing their course work on the pill and human reproductive biology. We supported on-ground efforts by designing Hamjoli training modules and communication collaterals that Hamjolis used in their community meetings with women to influence positive behavior on the pill. On-ground teams in turn worked fed back the most effective consumer insight on pill ambassadors and testimonials route through ongoing interaction with women and their influencers. Agency teams also facilitated one of India’s leading news channels to cover the Goli ke Hamjoli on-ground batcheets and to create a prototype for a TV talk show that utilized the Hamjoli Batcheet model.

It is important to note here that Goli ke Hamjoli was a multi-partner campaign even on the client side. USAID funded the campaign, ICICI Bank managed the funds and spends and Commercial Market Strategies (CMS) worked closely with the agency as a technical monitor. CMS field staff with a national presence ensured continuous monitoring of on-ground deliverables. Against this backdrop, working towards a common overall goal, agency teams ensured a seamless coordination from strategy to execution to deliver the most compelling results on a difficult brand category and an environment of inhibited consumer mindset.


Behaviour Change over the Years

• Women starting pill usage in the last 1 year: 4% in 2003 – Campaign reached 2001 levels of 4% against a backdrop of 1% in 2002
• Continuing Users: 7% in 2003 – Retained at 7% levels
• Current users: 11% in 2003 – 3% up from 2002
• Dropped out in last 1 year: 1% – down by 1 % compared to 2002
• OCP Intenders: 12% in 2003 – highest in the five-year period

On-ground Pill Advocacy

•A 15% growth in women who were keen to, and indeed tried the pill after attending the special events. Research by CMS among women who have attended Hamjoli batcheets found that 11% of all those who attended started pill consumption. This was the largest such growth in an on-ground activity amongst women and their peers.
• Press coverage in all leading local, regional and national newspapers; television coverage through specific capsule on Friends of the Pill movement and celebrity-endorsed talk shows.
• Requests for conducting more Friends of the Pills Conversations for women as well as colleges even after the campaign ended.
• Friends of the Pill campaign successfully engaged men through focused men’s group conversations.
• Neighborhood chemist engagement.

OCP Sales (Source: External Research by ORG)
OCP Category has grown by 48% since 1998 and in Year 2003, it grew 5% over the previous year.
Social marketing brands have maximized on category growth, grown by almost 67%.
Commercial low dose brands grew by 22%.

Got a question? Want to know something more? We’ll be glad to hear from you:
Ms. Jayoti Lahiri, Secretary General
Public Relations Consultants Association of India
D 1003 Wembley Premium Towers,
Rosewood City, Gurgaon Sohna Road, Sector-49
Gurgaon 122 009, Haryana, India.
Phone: (0124) 4290174
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