A second dive into the Hindu vs TOI war of TV commercials

A second look at The Hindu's commercial to rubbish The Times of India reveals even more warts.

Anant Rangaswami January 28, 2012 12:50:00 IST
A second dive into the Hindu vs TOI war of TV commercials

Much has been written – and, doubtless, much more will be written, about the new campaign for The Hindu, which takes The Times of India head on.

The overriding sentiment is captured by the editor of The Mint, R Sukumar, who editorialised, “One reason why I like the ads (and I will be honest about this) is editorial hubris. I see The Hindu as a paper that, like Mint, is fighting the good fight. Another is the aggression on display. For too long, the Mahavishnu of Mount Road has played safe and it is good to see the paper becoming aggressive about what it does and, more tellingly, what it thinks of The Times of India’s style of journalism.”

Immediately after, Sukumar writes: “This kind of aggression may be a little late in coming. The Times of India has, over the past few years, become a good read and, perhaps driven by the realisation that Page 1 of the country’s most-read English newspaper needs to reflect the sentiments of the English-speaking middle class, the daily has adopted an anti-corruption and anti-government stance that seems to have worked.”

You can read the entire edit here.

A second dive into the Hindu vs TOI war of TV commercials

A screengrab of The Hindu commercial from YouTube.

The campaign thought – and, perhaps, the seeming popular approval of the campaign – is rooted in the ‘good fight’ and consumers finding it ‘good to see the paper becoming aggressive’. A glance at the comments to my piece on Friday will give you an idea.

There are two dangerous assumptions that The Hindu’s campaign makes: first, that The Times of India is not what consumers want and, second, that consumers want a good newspaper – as defined by The Hindu’s campaign. A newspaper that knows what you ‘need ‘ to know.

It was not many years ago when DNA launched in Mumbai, confident and brash, in the belief that The Times of India was a newspaper that consumers were just putting up with, and, therefore, consumers would lap up a ‘good’ alternative in the form of DNA.  In the case of DNA, it was a spanking new paper, with nothing to build on. History tells us how misplaced that notion was.

In the case of The Hindu, rather than tell consumers what The Times of India was as opposed to what The Hindu is and what The Hindu stands for, is a poor idea. (For almost the entire duration of the TVCs you are cued on The Times of India, especially when you see the TVCs a second time around). There was always the opportunity to make The Hindu’s readers feel better about themselves and their decision to stick to their commitment to the paper.

The chosen route for the current campaign is more a tactical campaign, reacting to The Times of India’s campaign, as opposed to a corporate campaign, which is perhaps what the paper sorely needed.

There are many who will feel, as Sukumar does, ‘good’ about The Hindu campaign – and that should not lull The Hindu into complacency. The battle with The Times of India will not be won by clever or pretty advertising, and, to my mind, this campaign is money down the drain. What the situation demands is strategic thinking on all fronts – content, circulation, advertising sales and marketing – which requires focus on the consumer.

This campaign focuses on the enemy. If there is any consumer focus in the campaign, it’s focusing on The Times of India’s consumer, not The Hindu’s.

The comparative nature of the campaign, too, is questionable, as the assumption is that The Times of India’s content focuses on the irrelevant and the less than relevant.  The ToI’s acceptance – as also the content of any newspaper – is measureable, sadly, only by circulation and advertising sales figures – and good newspapers do not necessarily win battles over bad.

Otherwise, Mint ought to be, as far as public perception is concerned, leagues ahead of The Economic Times.

What The Times of India and The Economic Times do is to provide a width of content – often bordering on trivia – that allows readers to be in the conversation, in any conversation. And that includes knowing whether Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s newborn baby is a boy or a girl.

It’s a girl. I know, because I read The Times of India.

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