INS battles for the press

By , agencyfaqs! | In | March 08, 2002
The Indian Newspaper Society pushes for the print medium, but is it addressing the wrong people?

Faced with a declining share of the advertising pie, the apex organisation of Indian newspaper owners, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) is pushing for print in a big way. As part of its Project Press, the INS is sponsoring the ThinkPrint competition, insisting that stunning print ads can command as much attention as television.

But is the enthusiasm misplaced? For one, INS could be addressing the wrong people. The competition, which has as its first prize a coveted ticket to the Cannes Advertising Festival, is aimed at the creative folk in agencies, but it is the media planners who decide where the client should slap down his money. However, the editor of the Chitralekha group of publications, Bharat Kapadia, who is also chairman, Mumbai Regional Committee of INS, argues that the contest has its logic. "The contest is a way of creating awareness, and we want to motivate advertising professionals to use print," he says.

Perhaps the initiative was long overdue. In last six to seven years, print has consistently lost market share to TV. According to industry figures, print had 56 per cent share of the ad pie in 2000, against 67 per cent in 1995. Internationally, too, print has been losing share. Zenith Media estimates for Europe reports a 13 per cent slide in ad-share, with the share falling from 67 per cent to 54 per cent, with television cutting in.

At the heart of this is a reason that is bigger than just a lack of the flow of creative juices when it comes to print. After all, at the recent AAAI awards, Quadrant swept three golds - all for print work. Media planners point out that one of the major reasons why television scores over print, is the fact that in spite of more than 150 years of existence in India, the country still does not have a national newspaper. In contrast, in addition to the state-run Doordarshan, there are at least three channels that have a national reach. "This means that if an advertiser is trying to reach a national audience, he would choose television. It is much more cost effective," says Mumbai-based senior media professional Atul Phadnis.

So what has bogged down print advertising is more than just creative lethargy. Compared to advertising on small television channels, print rates tend to be higher, especially if the advertisement is to be carried in all editions of the paper or magazine. And very few publications offer special discounts to local advertisers. For example, the Bombay Times has two rates for those who want to advertise in its paper - a higher rate for multinationals, and a lower one for local small firms. Such differential pricing, long a staple of television space marketing, is rare in the print medium, points out a Delhi-based media observer.

But what has hit print the most is the switch of small and medium advertisers, who preferred to stay away from television earlier, to the glamour of the audio-visual media. Now, with the mushrooming of television channels, advertising on a local channel is quite cheap, in fact, sometimes even cheaper than print. Media planners indicate some of the regional channels charge less than Rs 1,000 for a 10-second slot. This has made local advertisers flock to television, at the expense of print. This, despite the fact that the product advertised might not be suitable for television advertising, which, with its mass reach, works best for mass consumption goods and for companies with a national presence.

Despite this, we find, for example, a jewellery shop that has a single branch in Delhi (like PP Jewellers) advertising on Aaj Tak - thus reaching out to a larger audience than they can ever hope sell to. Says Kapadia, "Unless your product is sold nationally, it makes much more sense to advertise in a paper that has a well-defined geographical reach." Adds a senior media professional in Delhi, "This may be spurred by the fact that in some of the niche channels, the rates are going as cheap as Rs 500 for 10-second slots. That's the reason why such initiatives (like ThinkPrint) are important." Agrees Sandeep Singh, vice-president, (marketing) SABe TV, "INS is doing the right thing; they must try to educate the regional and small advertisers of the benefits of the print media." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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