The reality was that businesses were collecting Service Tax from customers, but not depositing it to the Service Tax department. The Service Tax Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme (VCES) 2013, announced by Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram in his Budget 2013-'14, provided people with the opportunity to pay their 'tax dues' from October 2007 to December 2012, without interest, penalty and other legal proceedings - including prosecution. The option was made available to people, provided they complied by December 2013. But even this scheme needed a push.
McCann Erickson India was given the task of handling the communication to nudge the non payers into action. The campaign ran from end-August till December 2013, and comprised of commercials ranging from 30 to 45 seconds.
Under the scheme, the Service Tax department netted Rs 5,500 crore as of 29 December 2013, informed a statement from the Finance Secretary, Government of India, dated 30 December. The last few days added more to the Government's coffers, totalling Rs 7,600 crore, informed the agency.
We asked Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman and CEO, McCann Worldgroup India, and president-South Asia, about the origins of the VCES campaign. He explained, "I had worked with Finance Minister Mr P Chidambaram and the Finance Ministry before, in 1997, for the voluntary income disclosure campaign. The Minister remembered that and asked me personally to work on the VCES campaign. The objective of the campaign was to get all those who collect Service Tax to pay it to the Service Tax department."
The campaign was executed in three phases. The first few films communicated how filing a service return like the income tax return was mandatory by law and how VCES was a great opportunity to settle it without a hassle.
The second stage of the campaign spoke about how, while it was very difficult to make a name or earn respect as a business, just one mistake of not paying Service Tax could bring it all to a naught.
The third and final stage was about creating a fear of the law.
The three-pronged campaign was targeted people with different mindsets, noted Joshi. He listed the segments as: those who knew about service tax but were too lazy to pay it; those who did not know about it at all; and people who knew but did not have the details.
"The campaign aimed at educating and informing people about the seriousness of depositing Service Tax. It psychologically communicated to them that they could pay taxes within the deadline, and without penalties and come clean. The advertisements used actors such as Vinay Pathak, Kajol, Boman Irani and Irrfan Khan to convey the seriousness, and deadline about VCES, to people," added Joshi.
On the results, he surmised, "Yes, the campaign has done very well. It was significant for us at McCann as well, especially because it was a time-bound campaign. And we were able to effectively communicate the seriousness of VCES."
Creative agency: McCann EricksonChief creative officer and copy writer: Prasoon Joshi
Executive creative director: Ravinder SiwachAssociate creative director: Ankur Kalita
Creative group head: Rahul AR