The Economist: Interpreting the interpreter

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In OOH News
Last updated : May 14, 2009
After rolling out its first India-centric campaign in early 2008, the brand is out with yet another unconventional campaign to attract eyeballs

The Economist, the brand that comes with the promise of 'Interpret the world', is out with its next campaign that surely needs some serious interpretation on its part.

The Economist had launched its first ever campaign for the sub-continent in early 2008, wherein the brand used the print and outdoor media and then followed it up with a similar version on TV as well. It communicated its India specific positioning of 'Interpret the world' through a series of alphabet based creatives, which gave the reader a surprising and unique interpretation of regular terms.

Now, continuing its drive to spread awareness about the brand, it has launched yet another OOH (out of home) and digital based campaign that makes an interesting use of typography to drive home the message.

The campaign has been cracked by Ogilvy India, with inputs from its OOH and digital wings. It has been developed by a team headed by Sumanto Chattopadhyay, executive creative director, and including Sukesh Kumar Nayak, Heeral Desai Akhaury, Vedashree Khambete, Aditya Kashyap and Kavita Saney. The media planning duties have been handled by an in house team at Ogilvy.

The campaign comprises six creatives, each highlighting recent events from different countries. At first glance, it appears to be something written in a foreign language. Only after a closer look, one can comprehend the message, which is actually written in English. The headline also tells a relevant international story.

So for example, if one sees the Tibetian hoarding, at first glance it looks like something written in Tibetan. But a closer look reveals a headline written in English that reads - 'Journalists stopped by Great Wall of Tibet'. The innuendo here points towards the internal turmoil that has been tearing apart the 'Roof of the World.'

Speaking about the choice of typography for the execution, Chattopadhyay says, "The campaign functions on two levels. First, it arouses and intrigues the consumer and then leaves him asking for a solution. This is where he engages with the brand and learns more about it." According to him, the headline is an entry point, from which the consumer probes further and actually ends up reading the real story.

Moreover, people do not realise the relevance of global events because they seem to be happening in foreign lands, and are seemingly not directly related to their own lives. Hence, the challenge of this campaign was dual - to make 'foreign' events relevant and to keep the advertising as close and true to the product promise as possible.

The brand, which is famous for its obsession with copy-centric ads and innovative ways of execution since the 1980's, has always emphasised the OOH and direct media specifically. However, it indulges in print, too, from time to time. Suprio Guha Thakurta, managing director, The Economist Group, India, reasons, "The seat of the brand, which is London, is where this specific way of advertising had originated from. Since then, it has been sticking to it quite diligently and the results have been extremely good and measurable." Another reason for sticking to OOH and digital for this campaign is the cost factor.

However, if one goes by the thumb rule of outdoor ads (according to which a person spends only three to four seconds on a hoarding while he drives past it), the use of complex typography can prove to be a disaster!

When we popped this question, Guha Thakurta says, "Our media plan has been chalked out carefully and is very city specific. So, in the case of Mumbai, which suffers from crawling traffic, the opportunity to see (OTS) wouldn't take much of a beating." Apart from that, he maintains that the hoardings have been placed on the basis of travel route, travel time and areas of interest, and optimally distributed.

Chattopadhyay, however, maintains that The Economist as a brand has been engaging in path breaking advertising over the years and for this campaign, he is happy to say that it has broken yet another rule of the medium.

Regarding the basic objective of the campaign, Guha Thakurta reasons that spreading awareness was a key necessity. According to him, research conducted by the brand showed that there exists a top level of the consumer section which knows and follows the brand. The next level, though a little aware about it, neither indulges in the brand nor tries hard to find out more. Next to it is the lowest level, which is completely clueless about the brand.

He adds, "India is a good prospect in terms of markets and we have identified a lot of opportunities here. So, we have been investing in the brand for some time."

Apart from OOH, which has been spread out in three cities - Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, the brand has also opted for digital as a medium. The digital campaign, too, uses a similar strategy of intrigue leading the reader into the story. Guha Thakurta adds that the digital campaign is a way of spreading awareness as well as a sampling activity.

"Once the reader has got the lead, he can easily visit the brand's website and read the whole story. So, online for us plays a key role," he says. The online campaign has been spread out on popular websites such as and, apart from other horizontals.

First Published : May 14, 2009
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