The common reaction to The Hindu’s ‘Stay ahead of the times’ campaign has been positive. The ads are seen as funny and as a right response to the ad war started by The Times of India in Chennai. I too liked the ads as they identified the right chink in TOI’s armor – of being seen as overly commercial and promoting the Page 3 culture. Some have called the TVCs a copy of the ads done by DNA for After Hours edition – which followed a similar vox pop format. My view is that while both follow a similar format it’s unlikely that the Ogilvy team would have willingly set out to copy the campaign idea – let’s just put it under ‘creative coincidence’.
Will The Hindu ads actually make the TOI reader re-consider his brand choice? Unlikely. In Chennai, the TOI reader is in any case a minority [the brand is likely to be a 2nd paper in the household]. It could be the paper of choice to recent migrants to Chennai for whom The Hindu could be a little too staid, even boring. So the ads work more towards reassuring the readers of The Hindu about their ‘intelligent’ choice. In markets outside Chennai, The Hindu is unlikely to be a dominant player in any case. In those markets will it create dissonance about the TOI? Again, unlikely. The TOI is popular for several reasons, including [a] it’s a habit [b] herd mentality – follow the leader [c] it caters to mass needs.
On the subject of habit, newspapers are perhaps the most habit-bound of categories. It’s very difficult to change habits in this space, unless the lead brand continuously alienates it’s core readership base through its content. I know of many erstwhile TOI readers in Mumbai who have moved on to another newspaper simply because they found the content sensational or the marketing efforts too intrusive [vertical strip cut away ads and so on]. They did not need an advertising campaign to create dissonance about their brand choice.
Most new newspaper brands attempt to enter into a household as the 2nd newspaper, get readers hooked on to the content, create a habit and then hope to be the lead brand. Marketing tactics like price offs,discounts, freebies are used to this effect. So ad campaigns can only help so much and cannot be the only weapon in the marketing armory of a challenger brand.
Also inherent in The Hindu campaign is a ‘holier-than-thou’ stance. It tries to convey that The Hindu carries only news with gravitas and it’s not important to be abreast of trivial stuff like Bollywood. Can The Hindu decide that? Going by what consumers prefer to watch on TV and read in newspapers, Bollywood is mainstream news. And to prove the point, The Hindu did give coverage to the SRK-Shirish Kunder episode, quite like TOI. So the stance is like a double-edged sword.
The print ads have a nice tone to them – while the TVC evoke that ‘Ouch, that must hurt the TOI‘ response, the print ads are a bit more subtle and clever. But drive home the point nevertheless.
Do comment in with your thoughts.