Making The Times of India Relevant for New India

28 Jul,2017


Among the first things that Sanjeev Bhargava did when he joined The Times of India as its brand custodian was hire an all-new creative agency. Which he did, and appointed J Walter Thompson, the agency which he quit to move to the leading newspaper company. Before joining Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd as Director – Brand (The Times of India and Mirror), he was Managing Partner, JWT and has also worked with FCB Ulka and the Mullen Lowe Lintas Group. In Mumbai for the Oppo Times Fresh Face contest, the fresh face of the Times of India brand spoke with MxMIndia.

So you have hired a new agency and guess there will be a refresh?

The Times of India is a very powerful brand and  has had a major influence on the landscape of India over the years.And the task is to continue to have that sphere of influence, continue to be a nation-building cause as it has been for past so many years.


And to be able to do that one has to start acknowledging the fact that the landscape is changing.The media landscape is changing, the consumer habits and behaviour are changing. Their expectations from a media brand is changing and if you have to therefore continue to play the role that you played in the past we must create initiatives which engage the audience of today.

That’s right

So all initiatives, as we go forward, practically all initiatives the Times of India is doing will keep this fact in mind.

This includes the Fresh Face contest?

Oppo Times Fresh Face is a classic example of how we have looked at the existing property that we had from so many years for last 10 years. This is the 10th year, we but made it more contemporary, to make it more in sync with the times. Today, Young India lives in two worlds – the virtual world and the real world and while we have a role to play in the real world, we must acknowledge the virtual world as well and therefore Fresh Face of this year acknowledges that. It says we will recognise talent which understands how to live and how to profile itself in the virtual world itself not just the real world. So it’s all very well to have a great personality, great talent, but also need to have the capability to be able to profile that talent, profile that personality in the virtual world and that’s something that we incorporated in this year’s Fresh Face. So this is the kind of change that we are bringing about across many facets of our marketing initiatives for Times of India.

So it’s basically making your communication more relevant for the digital generation.

More relevant, more of interest. The fact is that today’s citizen of India is as knowledge-hungry as we were in our times. In fact, more so.


And it’s knowledge hungriness. It is hunger for information and knowledge and I’m making a distinction between the two because a newspaper gives information and it also gives knowledge. In different aspects of its news-making, there is editorial, there is news, there are factoids, features and so on and so forth. Therefore there is a role that we play in the life of the citizen and as time progresses, it is important that we continue to remain relevant to even despite the fact that their attention span is now divided between many, many things that are offered to them through the digital medium, through the phone medium etc. as well and that’s where we are and that’s what we are planning to do as we go forward.

Do you see that going forward, of course The Times, the paper the newspaper itself has over a period of time adapted to the changing times, some would say the faith, shorter stories and stories broken up into various elements?


Do you see that along with your advertising, some changes will happen in the newspaper too?

Absolutely. The product has a very integral role to play. You are absolutely right. We have shorter stories. We have far more stories than any other newspaper in the country.


So more stories per page is something that we are very proud of because we know that is what required for today’s reader and that is what we do very diligently and almost at a measurable manner we do it. So it’s a very important part of what we do as a paper. Then what we call rapid reading where we are able to consume a piece of news it is constructive in a way where there are factoids which are summarised somewhere, so you don’t necessarily have to read the entire thing if you want to consume the news at a skin level you can do that the paper is designed like that.


There are many things that have been done over a period of time to make sure that we remain relevant, we remain interesting, we remain youthful for today’s citizen.

Over the years, The Times of India has had efforts like Teach India…

Yes, Lead India, Mann Ki Asha….

So [given the new agency etc], will there be a shift?

Yes and No


The fact is that we will continue to be a force of nation-building… we take that role as a newspaper extremely seriously.It’s not something that I would compromise.


So as we go forward with our marketing initiatives, these initiatives will empower  the young. They are about building a nation-building ethos. They are about constructing a stronger country from an intellectual aspect, from an empowering aspect. We need to do that and if we as the largest printed English newspaper country by the world don’t do that, I think we will be falling short of our responsibility as a corporate citizen as well. So that’s something we will not change. That will continue. What we will do is that there has to be an acknowledgement of the changing landscape and with the changing landscape, with the changing consumption habits on the media of Bharat. Readers are concerned as far as the citizens are concerned we must acknowledge that and we must incorporate that into our market plans to continue to build our business.


So that’s where we were not before. So, yes,what you will see will have a strong continuity with the past.

Just to clarify, you had Taproot earlier and now you have JWT–

JWT Mumbai. The Times of India – the English paper and Mumbai Mirror are with JWT. That is a shift that has happened. But Taproot continues to engage with BCCL as a group.

Given that you are trying to reach out to the young, what will be the vehicle you will use for advertising?

That will depend entirely upon the initiative, I can’t even answer that question because there are initiatives that are local. There are initiatives which are aimed at certain cohorts.  So it will depend upon initiatives, different initiatives with different audiences and therefore different media and that’s the technical question it depends on initiatives. It’s not a policy decision, it’s a technical decision.

Does the media agency also change?

No it continues to be Lodestar.

Will the advertising for the Times of India change with the market – say Mumbai could be different from Kolkata or Chennai?

No,  The Times of India is one brand. It does not change from city to city.


The product can change because issues, requirements, reader expectations from a product standpoint can different but the brand promise, the brand ethos, the brand equity that would not change.

When do we see the advertising?

Soon. It takes a little time for a big shift to adjust itself so it will I guess be in another month or month and a half.

And how’s it working with your former agency from the other side of the fence?

Oh that’s great because you know one understands the strengths and weaknesses of every organisation that you work in so it becomes more easier to deal with them. But I’ve lived with the industry for so long that I am familiar with most people in most agencies. So it’s not as if there’s much of the difference because I know  people in Lowe well, I know people in Ogilvy extremely well… it’s a small industry, not as if I’m unfamiliar with the people. It’s just that there are organisational strengths somewhere, there are logistical strengths of some agencies some other etc. It’s been a considerate decision at a very objective level, but Taproot has been extremely valued partner in the past continues to be even today and I have tremendous amount of respect for them as well.


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