More on the TOI-Hindu ad campaigns

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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.

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  1. yep, the print ads are a mature taunt to TOI but I agree with your point that The Hindu cannot decide what people might prefer to read as ‘news’!
    On the whole, this has been an interesting battle between two media houses wanting to invade the others territory, BUT will the reader change his reading habits? NO!

    I’m habituated to TOI but then as I grew up, it was Indian Express and Economic times, then later it was the internet….Now Twitter is my newspaper and for all print reading, its Outlook and novels.

    I’m sure this must be the case with all of us…we need fodder, as to which newspaper gives it to us, is immaterial altogether!

    Excellent article as usual…Mr. Bhatt

    • Muttabi Ali Khan Reply

      Miss Vinaya, I am also habitual to TOI but it is today only i was passing through lakdi-ka-pul (its an area in my city hyderabad), and i came across to a hoarding of The Hindu, reading (because government malfunctions matter more than wardrobe malfuntions). i really impressed that what i was reading till today, now i am deciding to change my newspaper with the Hindu. I think i should call to my hawker to drop The Hindu from tomorrow at my house instead of TOI.

      Muttabi (sub-editor, The Munsif Urdu Daily, Hyd.),

      (please ignore my poor english)

  2. Good to see The Hindu respond robustly! I'm not a big fan of the Hindu it's good to see an ad campaign take the Mickey out of TOI with a scalpel and not a bludgeon.

    But that apart, as you rightly say, for the large part, this is good advertising to reinforce The Hindu's positioning. The paper will of course be judged on merits before it can hope to displace the TOI with its sometimes over-the-top but always powerful mix of the serious, the sensational, and the titillating.

  3. I think its great that someone finally delivered one tight slap to TOI's face. And if there was consumer dissonance they hit it right on the head

  4. I am a kid of 2 worlds.Born in Chennai I grew up reading Hindu and then as we relocated to Mumbai,Times was the choice of early morning read.In my very honest opinion i realised that the quality of news is much much better in the Hindu and ofcourse its a known fact people hypothesised TOI to a tabloid all the time.

  5. Interesting and unbiased take on the ads….Though with the kind of print ads they have done the TVC is below the mark on intellect level…If it were to be on the lines of Print Ad's it would have been much better…Battles are good but the one with ethics always win…TOI played safe but Hindu made it dirty…Well beep doesn't solve the purpose…. Kudos to Hindu for Print ads…

  6. Venkatesh DK Reply

    It's high time TOI stops putting others down just to make room for themselves. Rather, they could leverage their strengths and be more creative. The Hindu's response to the TOI ad campaign is pretty bold, but lacks originality. Call it creative coincidence or whatever, it is too similar to DNA After Hrs campaign. If any ordinary, low profile ad film maker had made this, it would have been scrapped. Just because it was created by O&M, everyone is talking about it. Finally, I feel there is too much discussion for nothing. Both the newspapers have a niche segment of audience who think and live differently. So, why are they crossing each other's territory?

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