Guess which Indian ring tone is being downloaded the most all over the world? No, it is not the latest Bollywood chartbuster, but a public health message that goes “condom, condom”.
Its makers are amazed by the popularity of the ring tone. It was launched last month and aims to promote safe sex. The promoters believe that using a condom is the best way to tackle the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.
India has an estimated number of 2.5 million people living with it.
“It is a hit internationally. Nowhere in the world are we aware of a ring tone for a product,” said Yvonne MacPherson, country director of the BBC World Service Trust, the international charity of the BBC.
“The ‘condom a cappella’ ringtone is really innovative. What is amazing is that India has started the trend of a ring tone which carries a social health message. People are excited about this ring tone internationally and are looking to India for this,” said MacPherson.
What has perhaps caught the imagination of the people is the fresh voice, sound and music, which are totally Indian.
“I think the ring tone has international appeal. It has quirky music and sound,” she added.
In the three weeks since its launch, the makers have already received 2,57,744 SMS requests for download and over two million hits on the website.
The ring tone can be downloaded by SMSing “CONDOM” to 56887 (download charges apply) or free from anywhere worldwide on the website www.condomcondom.org.
The ring tone has been composed by Rupert Fernandes and sung by Vijay Prakash, who is a professional singer, and has chanted the word condom more than 50 times.
“As it became international news, there has been demand for it from all corners of the globe,” said an excited MacPherson, who got calls from radio stations from across the US and Britain.
The ring tone marks the latest phase in the three-year intense mass media campaign to make condom use more socially acceptable. It was partially launched on August 8 but was nationally seen on television, cinema, radio and in print in August 22.
The campaign uses a multitude of youth friendly platforms such as website downloads, online games, mobile advertising and downloads, along with the TV and radio advertisements, MacPherson said, adding that the campaign is funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) is also using the ad to support its condom promotion efforts.
The objective is to connect with all age groups and across the socio-economic strata, MacPherson added.
In the advertisement, a wedding is shown where a mobile rings with the sound of “condom, condom”. An embarrassed man holds the phone and looks for others’ reactions. Then he finds the reactions smart and responsible. The tagline is “jo samjha wohi sikander” (“the one who understands is a winner”).
MacPherson said the ring tone has also scored big time as many have sent messages to them.
One of the messages they have received on their website is from Denmark and it reads: “I have just read an article about this latest ring tone from you, I have heard it and I love IT!! You are tearing down the walls around this taboo.”
Another one from the US said: “I found this and my sons were overwhelmed and they love it. This has opened up a new dialogue regarding sexual health. Thank you for such a fun way to open up with my kids about HIV and AIDS.”
It is getting accolades from Indians too. “Awesome. From today onwards this will be my mobile ring tone, it’s a good effort to spread awareness…” said a message from a man in Karnataka.
MacPherson said: “The objective was to make condom socially acceptable and to remove the taboo around it. Condoms are a health product and a life saving device to protect a person from HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
“People feel embarrassed when it comes to protection so we have to first take care of this. This is how we would be able to check the epidemic nature of the disease. The shock value coupled with bringing the subject out in the open will also help in dispelling the myths,” MacPherson added.
According to Radharani Mitra, the creative director of the trust which is producing the advertisements, “Ring tones have become such personal statements that a specially created condom ring tone seemed just the right way of combining a health message in a fun way.”