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Meet the man behind the only ad film to make it to Cannes Innovation list

The Smart Life Poles use radar technology to alert drivers on both sides of a blind curve with the sound of a horn
The Smart Life Poles use radar technology to alert drivers on both sides of a blind curve with the sound of a horn

About three months ago, Gaurav Bhat was handed a brief by advertising agency, Leo Burnett, to make an ad film on a smart pole devised by Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). This device would alert drivers of hairpin bends on mountainous roads, thereby reducing the chance of road accidents. The deadline given was five days. "It's a different matter that we ended up spending two months on it," he says. The effort seems to have paid off, because Bhat's film, #RoadsThatHonk is the only Indian ad campaign to have been nominated for The Cannes 2017 Innovation Lions Shortlist this year.

#RoadsThatHonk is the world's first anti-collision vehicle management system devised by HPCL for dangerous hairpin bends. The pilot initiative has been installed at NH1 on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. "It has over 150 hairpin bends, and 80 per cent of the accidents happen due to these," says Bhat, who spent 12 days filming in J&K. Intent on doing his own research, Bhat arrived in Jammu two days prior to the scheduled date in April. "I witnessed an accident the day I arrived. I watched a truck topple after a collusion. That's when I realised how important this device could be in reducing accidents," he says.

Gaurav Bhat. Pic/Shadab Khan
Gaurav Bhat. Pic/Shadab Khan

The Smart Life Poles, stationed on hairpin bends, use radar technology to alert drivers on both sides of the blind curve with the sound of a horn indicating that they need to slow down. "What happens in the case of road signs is that most of them are in English and the drivers aren't all educated in the language," he says. Getting drivers to share their ordeal, however, was a challenge. "They have seen so many accidents and lost loved ones, that they have learnt to hide their emotions." Bhat had to spend time with them to build a connect. "I ended up opening a reservoir of emotions," he says.

For now, Bhat is elated about the accolades coming his way. "I have always blamed the system for not bringing change, but what I have done to make a difference? I thought here was my chance."

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