By the end of March 2020, the importance of covering one’s mouth and nose as an immediate measure to slow and perhaps stop the spread of coronavirus had become apparent.
So, The Times of India launched a groundbreaking initiative, #MaskIndia. The initiative recognised that masks offering a higher degree of protection, such as the N95 and surgical masks, were in short supply. They needed to be conserved for use by doctors and healthcare workers who would find themselves on the front line of this war against the pandemic — a war that was in a nascent stage in India in March and was expected to be severe in the months to come.
We launched the #MaskIndia initiative the first week of April. It was rooted in the traditions and culture of the average Indian household. The campaign encouraged every Indian to cover his or her face with a handily available cloth — be it a handkerchief, a dupatta, or a gamchha. The ready availability of such a cloth was a deep insight that ensured the initiative cut through social segments and geographic boundaries.
The first phase of the initiative was aimed at spreading awareness of the importance of mask-wearing. With www.maskindia.com as a hub, it encouraged users to take a selfie whilst wearing a homemade mask and upload their pictures on the Web site. The best pictures were also carried in the newspaper.
All media vehicles of the Times Group came together to join the cause of the nation. The initiative was co-owned by all print publications of the group, by the television channels, on radio, and through diverse online platforms. The results were powerful.
More than 105,000 readers have uploaded their pictures, joining this movement for protecting their fellow citizens. The campaign Web site garnered close to 2 million page views, whereas total daily active users (dau) on the Web site were close to 1.5 million.
More participation than anticipated
Celebrities joined hands with us — from leading stars of Bollywood to celebrated artists to radio jockeys. The newspaper and related online platforms, as well as television channels of the group, became a showcase for people to share their homemade masks. Renowned sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik was inspired by the campaign to create a sand-model of a masked figure in his unique style.
The extent of the initiative was realised when Prime Minister Narendra Modi wore a homemade mask during a press conference. He also appreciated the Times Group’s pioneering effort in creating awareness at a critical time when the country was short of protective equipment even for healthcare workers. It was a reaffirmation of TOI’s thought leadership once more.
The second phase of the initiative began in late April. The country’s authorities were beginning to plan for the time when the lockdown would no longer be in place and many restrictions would be eased. Cases were mounting and it was even more critical for everyone — without exception — to mask up while going out.
With the renewed objective of getting everyone to wear a mask, it was important to also reach out to those who felt a sense of machismo in not wearing a mask. The message was thus recrafted, and the mask was now communicated as a lifestyle and fashion statement. The device used was a video of the #MaskIndia message — made entirely interactive with a functionality that allowed users to upload up to four pictures, of their themselves, their family and friends wearing homemade masks.
Furthermore, in certain cities, TOI is also walking the extra yard in ensuring reader safety by giving a layer of protective material within the newspaper to be used as a layer within the mask. For us, the safety and empowerment of our readers is foremost.