Making fun of Page 3 culture

30 Jan,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Have to say, I just love the new Hindu ads. Making fun of your competition is not just unexpected from India’s most sober newspaper but it is also rare in India. Are these ads a direct response to The Times of India’s Chennai campaign, where the ads alleged that the Hindu put people to sleep? Perhaps not, since the Hindu campaign seems all-India and directly accuses the Times of dumbing its readers down. There is nothing implied in the Hindu ad – we can clearly see that all the idiots being quizzed on their knowledge (or lack of it) claim to read The Times of India, bleeped out though the name may be.

 

The print ads include one which says “we also have pages 1,2, 4, 6” and so on, a clear dig at The Times’s introduction of society and celebrity news on Page 3 of the Bombay Times many years ago. “Page 3” culture is now part of our lexicon and indeed Madhur Bhandarkar even made a film about it, almost as scathing as the Hindu’s ads. The funny thing is that we always have had a society-celebrity media, what Bombay Times did was to both magnify and expand it. The even funnier thing is that almost every other publication in the country was quick to copy the TOI. Even the Hindu, which may not have a celebrity circus page, was increased its light feature content.

 

It’s also curious that DNA ran a very similar campaign to the Hindu’s recently – interviewing young people who knew nothing about anything except Bollywood and then it turns out that they only read DNA After Hrs! In DNA’s case, there was apparent pride in ignorance; Hindu mocks it.

 

In these times, when the media itself has become the news, the Hindu ads – done by Ogilvy – are bound to get attention and approval. There are many who believe that trivialisation of the media is dangerous and that there is cynical marketing manipulation of our apparent obsession with Bollywood. The Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju is probably nodding away happily, especially when he sees line like “Because government malfunctions matter more than wardrobe malfunctions” – another of the Hindu’s print ads.

 

For my money however far worse than the trivialisation of newspapers is the fact that all celebrity news and gossip is actually fake – paid for by the stars, studios, sponsors and so on. The readers are fooled into believing that what they are reading is the result of some digging up by journalists – as it used to be in the old days, even film news. The truth of course is that it is handed to newspapers by public relations companies or by the marketing department to the editorial staff.

 

Bad enough that we are trivial, we are also, it seems, foolish and exploited!

 

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