Save Print. Now!

18 Nov,2015


By Sanjeev Kotnala


The annual two-day INMA South Asia Conference commences in Delhi today. Like every year, delegates will join in, expecting to learn something new. However, by the evening, the corridor talks will as usual move towards mistrust and collective inertia in Print. The adventurous ones will start eulogising digital and once again sound the bell. The ring of the bell may be distant, but it’s there.


This INMA session is immediately after the festive season of three months. Delegates will be high and intoxicated with the large format, big season ads. The mood will hopefully be upbeat. Unfortunately, a false sense of calmness will be appreciated in this unpredictable world.


After yielding some ground in metro markets, it is time for print owners to take concrete steps in non-metro towns to stem the tide.  Otherwise eroding reader interest and advertiser’s heightened apathy to Tier-II and III towns will hurt.


Due to Accessibility, Affordability and Availability issues, the digital invasion has been a lot more timid than disruptive. But things are changing. There are more regional satellite beams, next generation media leaps, activation, experiential, potential and possibilities sketched by radio along with the excitement of OOH. On the other side, the sheer orgasmic pleasure of having a brand TVC continues to tempt businesses. Like an aphrodisiac for the uninitiated.


Apathy to print is transparently naked in creative for Metro markets. To paraphrase a line from Storyboard, it is as though “Print work in an Agency is done by people we don’t even know exist”.


Unlike in the metros, clients and agencies in Tier-II and III towns continue to strongly believe in the efficacies of Print. Even without the art, craft and science of print creativity to leverage the medium, clients and the agencies know the impact it has and the loss they can suffer for not considering it.


It is holding as of now, but when the tsunami of alternate media impact vehicles build up, clients may willingly start focusing on alliances outside of print. We already know of government thrust toward Digital coupled with control guidelines on Print spends.


Print publishers can’t be blind. What are they waiting for? No one is going to stop ringing that bell. They need to act. They need to find plausible solutions. Or they can continue waiting for a miracle to happen. Should I suggest that we may soon need a ‘SAVE PRINT’ campaign much like the ones we conduct for our endangered species? This may sound exaggerated, but the situation is no longer rosy.


Instead of an ostrich approach, there is still time for print to work in NON-METRO business environments. The charm of print may be stretched. May be we can still revive (sounds as if it is in ICU) the lost glamour, impact, understanding and the surprising art of print creativity. Oh, such are the fantasies of print lovers made of.!


Print is happy with a short-range vision. In tea breaks, delegates may share success stories of how some of their clients have spent mini TV campaign budgets oncatalogue advertising with them. No one will question any of this. In fact, no one will have an answer to the question Anant Rangaswami raised: Why is it that clients who are so deeply involved in the development of a simple 10-seconder on TV,are completely immune to such waste in print


The excuse has been that agencies simply deliver what the client demands. If the client wants a Becchu ad, he gets one. It does not stimulate creative thoughts.


Print has done itself disservice by repeatedly projecting it as the best medium for announcement and tactical medium. Brand Building has been allowed to drift away to audio-video and the medium of clicks!


Print was famous for well-crafted and impactful advertising creatives. There was an engagement of a different order. The game of seductionwas on. It’s all been forgotten. Even print publisher’s stay away from using print for thematic brand communication. They do announcement and town howler ads in B2B further strengthening the myth. Only Digital, TV and experiential gives the client and creative a kick.  Print is not sexy anymore.


The whole industry has been victim to this closed ecosystem. Everyone has a converging point of view. ‘Print is this and print is that’. There are no ideas of what it can do, but there exists a collective acceptance of what print cannot do. Print is projected as a tactical and medium of immediate impact. And thus is created the self-fulfilling prophecy?


There are continuous inputs and experimentation in other mediums. They have evolved in terms of art, science and craft. They are sexier and interesting. But print has royally remained static. The sales tactics and approach remain stagnant. The high cost of innovation prevents brands thinking to experiment. The news environment and ambience print provides is questionable. The position and placement of ads and content is ill managed.


There is no one advising the client. Sales teams find it below their dignity to close the loop. Afraid of possible reactions, they do not connect back post the campaign. The post coitus hug is definitely missing.  Print publishers squarely fail to shoulder the responsibility of acting to enhance the understanding of the medium and its impact. Maybe collectively a BBDO ‘acts and not ads’ may work.


It will be foolish to even suggest that the medium no longer works. It is like saying that the car does not move because I do not have the key. I am sure that ads like ‘Nude Model wanted’ or ‘Animals came from cities’ or ‘Merawala blue’ or ‘Nothing official about it’ will work even today.


May be it is time for Print to take collective action. Maybe they could start with town wise minimum cover price. I know a question on this will be asked and will be underplayed by the panel facing it. Change in cover price even at the cost of some percentage of readers falling off is required to cover drops in ad revenue. Just a mere25 paisa increase in cover price across the nine brandsnot accepting IRS, can pay for better research many times over. Such a print cess when collated  can make it possible for a medium to rejuvenate itself with acts that an individualPrint brand canonly fantasise about.


May be print can discount the non-discount ads. It will help promote brand building and thematic use of medium. It will be interesting to have special rates for ads that do not featurewords like “discount”, “announcement value”, “inauguration”, “limited period”,“Sale”, etc. Essentially encourage non-topical, thematic advertising.


Print drastically needs fresh thinking and recharging. Will people secure withthe thought of their retirement plans survivein print to lead the way?


Print must work with selected print-inclined clients and co-create disruptive cases demonstratingprint powerbeyond tactical communication.


May be print can promote a real-life-real-brand print only campaign contest?I have always wondered why did print allowed ‘Think Print Contest’ to die. One can revive it.


Other than news, print should embrace social media. They must share good print. Suggest and engage the B2B community.


It is the responsibility of large print publishers tobring alive the print craft and educate the new creative generation in Tier-II and III towns. This can help reverse or at least slow down the debate on print effectiveness and investments.


Awards like the Ink Awards should be collectively owned by the print category. Work out ways to make it a coveted award to win. Print needs to find idols for the new generation. There is no Ivan Arthur in sight.


The Cannes TV showreel is an event. The Cannes print ad exhibition a dream.


Print cannot stop scam ads, but can large print houses refuse to collaborate and stop providing free space in the name of B2B relationship.


There is still time to control the game in tier-II and III towns. There are many possibilities and actions that print can take.  But in the end, it is for print to decide to act or remain silent witness to its own slow death.


Sanjeev Kotnala is Founder at Intradia World. A Brand, Marketing & Management UnConsult Advisor. He conducts specialised workshops in the area of IDEATION (Harvest and Liberate) and INNOVATION (InNoWait). He focuses energy in enhancing client’s team’s potential and capabilities and decreasing their dependence  on external resources. Email  or tweet at s_kotnala visit The views here are his own. Kotmartial appears every Wednesday on



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