Hindu hits back with a tough punch

30 Jan,2012


By Tuhina Anand


The Times of India fired the first salvo with its hints at a “boring” newspaper. The Hindu has countered with its ‘Stay ahead of the times’ campaign. A bit of a revelation coming from the house of the newspaper which is perceived as traditional and old-fashioned, the 360-degree pan-Indian advertising campaign seeks to bring the core values of journalism to the fore. At the same time it shows how the ‘popular’ read has trivialised the kind of news being dished out to the readers, with the result that they are more clued in about Aishwarya’s baby and Hrithik Roshan’s pet name than knowing the name of the Vice President of India.


What is more surprising is that in the campaign, even though it’s bleeped out, one knows that people who have been featured say that they read The Times of India, thus clearly acknowledging at one go that TOI is a force to reckon with but at the same time responsible for this trivialization of news. The tagline leaves no room for doubt as it states, “Stay ahead of the times.”


This kind of aggressive marketing could be the answer to the campaign that The Times of India had come out with a few months ago in the Tamil Nadu market which targeted The Hindu for being boring. The Times of India campaign says, “Stuck with the news that puts you to sleep? Wake up to The Times of India.” In fact, it is learnt that the TOI had even printed a dummy newspaper, circulated within the industry, with The Hindu masthead and “zzzzz” printed all over, to underline its message that reading the newspaper put people to sleep.


Mr Suresh Srinivasan, Vice President (Advt), The Hindu Group of Publications insists that the campaign is not a reaction to the earlier TOI salvo. He said, “We have been on a path of transformation and change where we have not only undergone organizational changes but also been contemporising our product in order to connect better with our reader. The changes have been in content, layout and packaging based on the research we had commissioned, and their suggestions.”


He added, “We are the country’s most respected English daily and the number 1 English daily in the South, with a growing footprint in the North. While we build on our strengths there is also a need to protect our turf. The Times of India is definitely our single largest competitor down South.”


The Times of India, meanwhile, has been watching the recent development with a  touch of amusement. Mr Rahul Kansal, Chief Marketing Officer at Bennett Coleman & Company Limited, said: “It is good fun to watch it from the sidelines. TOI is an all-India brand and has redefined the news and newspapers altogether. In fact, this doesn’t really damage our brand in any way. On the contrary, it reiterates the fact that we are a very strong contender for the leadership position in the Chennai market. Remember, the Coke and Pepsi war? It didn’t hamper Coke in any way but it did establish Pepsi as a worthy young brand.”


One of The Hindu TVCs
[youtube width=”400″ height=”200″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmXPBp7DpQw[/youtube]
The Times of India TVC

“While advertising, one does exaggerate and that’s what we had done when we said in our earlier campaign that The Hindu is a staid brand. One takes extreme positions in advertising to bring out the humour, so even now when the ad says we give only Page 3 news that just to bring out humour. Everybody knows that the TOI is a complete newspaper,” added Mr Kansal.


Despite the impressive numbers of The Hindu, there definitely seems some concern about the might of the TOI which led to this kind of aggressive marketing. Mr Narendra Kumar Alambara, Vice President at Starcom Worldwide, who has been observing the Chennai market, explained: “The TOI has made inroads into the Chennai English newspaper market and there is no denying that. While the gap between the leader and TOI is still huge, but the latter has become a strong competitor. Youngsters and migrant population have been picking up this newspaper, especially, because of the kind of news reporting that TOI has been doing. While earlier there was no option, but now there is an alternative read. In terms of readership, I think that for The Hindu it has remained stagnant while TOI has grown the category itself. However, one should remember that in the Chennai market retail advertisers lead and for them The Hindu is still a priority.”


On the campaign, Mr Srinivasan said: “The Hindu believes that, more than ever in a globalising, knowledge-driven economy, it is vital that readers are well-informed about the world at large. And yet, over the last few years, the news and media industry in India has become increasingly focused on serving up a steady diet of trivia, shying away from the national and international issues that really matter. This may help sell more newspapers or get more viewership in the short term, but it is the news equivalent of junk food. And the long-term result is a steady dumbing-down of readers who end up knowing more about Aishwarya’s baby than the Arab Spring.”


The campaign shows how one may be creating a country that is fully conversant with gossip and Page 3 culture but clueless about current affairs and world events.


Mr Srinivasan says, “The campaign is aimed at triggering conversation and if we succeed in provoking thought and debate that would be the measure of our success. It is intended as an eye-opener to get people to re-evaluate their media choices, to demand a smarter newspaper.”


The campaign will be on TV, radio, cinema, print, outdoor and digital. It will be supported by on-ground activities in malls, cafes and other locations.


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One response to “Hindu hits back with a tough punch”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This battle was expected sooner or later but best part is both media giants are getting some readership and quick Virendra Sehwag like mileage.

    Be it good or bad. Over all this seems like a pretty smart planning mutually. 😉