Building Trust in Print

01 Sep,2021



By Sanjeev Kotnala


Sanjeev KotnalaSanjeev Kotnala People at all ends, the readers, the advertisers and the stakeholder like employees and business associates, have time and again raised questions about the need, efficacy and effectiveness of print. The “traditional media”, as it’s called. So, whenever print does an engaging campaign, it starts answering a few of these questions and works on many levels.



The Times of India has time and again presented its readers, campaigns that have helped build the brand. The current  TOI Campaign is not based on any differentiated advantage, but the presentation is fresh. Taking the news/ scandals/ events issue, it broke on the national platform and followed it to the logical, final conclusion, presenting the case for TOI as #TheTrustOfIndia.


The beauty of the campaign is not the choice of six to seven subjects. Any print media brand would have the luxury of such news to pick from. No doubt, the subjects are carefully chosen to cover a spectrum through subject of interest and time period. The headline or the body copy does engage.


The brilliant choice is using the famous R K Laxman- the common man- a cartoon that goes with the advertisement copy. One that always said more than what it showed. It is a tough act to follow. To use minimalistic words and convey so much more. Moreover, the unique RK Laxman common man is something deeply associated with the brand to help make further helps the point.




Such a well-crafted campaign engages the readers. More so, it reiterates the power of print as a media. It demonstrates what a well-crafted print advertisement can do. If it can work for the media brand, it would work for the other brands.


TOI has done well not to go half-page on this campaign. In the process, making another point to would-be advertisers. Print ad to work; they need not be large-sized. Being big in idea and execution makes it equally potent. If you visit the site,  the trust of India, you can see the images of some of these stories in the pages of TOI.


The brand also ask people to share the common man cartoon on social media and start a conversation on the subject. Well, I don’t know how many such conversations are really taking place- but in few of the WhatsApp groups I see people debating the campaign.



HINDU too.

Another print brand that has done brilliant long copy print ads is The Hindu. The ads make another point. If it is interesting and engaging, it will be read and talked about, even in this video led short attention span in the digital world of today.


The Hindu has demonstrated it across subjects that people typically do not call to be interesting enough. Take any of the ads. Ads like, ‘Meet the dumbest creature on planet earth’. Or ‘All it took was a microscopic organism to make us more human’. Or ‘Hats off to your incredible courage, dear humans’. Or the ad on social distancing or mental health. All of them show how and what makes print ads- work, be engaging and interesting.



I am not fully aware of the teams who have worked on these campaigns. But whosoever you are, you are doing great work. Just don’t let your client get complacent or lethargic. And trust , unfortunately is now influenced by multiple external factors.




I hope other print brands take a lesson from TOI and Hindu. Stop doing those insipid, uninteresting, non-engaging silly print ads invariably crafted and created in-house or from an agency that quoted the least retainership*. Such campaigns are also responsible for contributing towards the reader and advertiser increasing apathy to the media. Suppose a print media brand, which knows the product and the medium, cannot use the print media best. In that case, they have no reason to ask, suggest, recommend or guide any other brand on using print effectively.


While I am at it. Dear Print Media houses, please do innovation at a just profit, not an astronomical cost that remains viable only for big brands. Let the golden goose of innovation- impact-relevance-originally create a buzz and bring focus to the print media.




Two questions always get asked on such campaigns. One by restricting exposure in Print and trying to ignite conversation on social- are you limiting the audience? Are you only talking and trying to retain rather than enlarge the audience?


And the second question, how come the brand feels the need to claim ‘TRUST’. The Print has always been the most trusted media.


A 46-country survey by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) – released on 25th June 2021, listed TOI as the most trusted among major news media brands in India- with a trust score of 74%. The survey respondents were young, affluent, and among the urban population – and ONLY English media was considered. Maybe that is why the report could have initiated the campaign but does not find the mention in the campaign. Moreover, India has been ranked 31 out of the 46 countries. And as per the survey, only 38% of the respondents in India trust the news they consume. Perhaps, TOI saw this erosion of trust and an opportunity leading to this campaign. Your guess is as good as mine.


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