Some weeks ago television channels were hit with a rather glitzy advertising campaign with models sashaying down the ramp reading the new-look Sunday edition of The Indian Express. According to the company, the advertising blitz has seen initial success, and circulation figures of The Sunday Express have gone up. The question is: Will this help it overcome the formidable challenges that have ensured the paper lags behind its main competitors in most big cities?
At the heart of The Sunday Express' marketing strategy are two main objectives - an initial boost in circulation, and later - perhaps six months down the line - a pitting of the new glitzy Sunday edition against news magazines like Outlook and India Today. Market sources say the paper has seen advertising revenues shrink in recent years; yet the decision to splurge money on advertising is largely driven by the hope that a large chunk of that would be recovered as advertising revenue over time.
Right now, the paper seems to have gained new readers. According to figures released by the marketing wing of the newspaper, since the advertising blitz started, circulation for the Sunday edition has gone up from 1,10,000 to 1,60,000 in the city of Mumbai, and from 3,30,000 to 4,75,000 nationwide.
Company insiders say The Indian Express is seriously looking at upmarket readers, the ones who can afford two or more newspapers. "We are targeting the upper strata, who prefer to have more than one paper," says Sandesh Bhanare, assistant manager (marketing), Indian Express, Mumbai.
The question is: Can the campaign generate a sustainable advantage for Express - especially after the initial hype is over? The Express Group isn't leaving that to chance.
More so in a city that has had a long association with Sunday papers. In the 80s, the first glazed Sunday paper, the Sunday Observer from Jaico, debuted in the city. The Sunday Observer was later sold to the Ambanis, who after a losing struggle closed the paper down. The Express Group hopes to change a thing or too.
To start with, in addition to the advertising, The Indian Express has gone for marketing innovations, such as entering into an arrangement with newspaper vendors to slip in the Sunday Express, along with The Times of India, on Sundays in select localities. The first two issues were free; readers had a choice to subscribe after that if they wanted.
The newspaper has a long way to go. The Indian Express, though appreciated by many for its hard-hitting style of journalism, has always lagged behind its competitors - The Times of India and Hindustan Times, in the main markets of Delhi and Mumbai. If at all it has been able to reach the No 1 or 2 position that has been in the smaller towns, such as Pune. Add to that the dullness of the market right now. "In the current scenario, the No 3 and the No 4 in every market have been under pressure, even as the No 1 and No 2 have found it difficult to sustain last year's growth. Unfortunately, The Indian Express is the No 2 or No 3 in most markets," points out Atul Phadnis, senior media planning professional based in Mumbai.
That spells danger because in a typical media plan, the choice is mostly confined to the Top 2 papers, whether regional or English, and thus, in a way, The Indian Express ends up fighting with its back to the wall. "While in the short term, the move will definitely pull in more readers, the question is whether that will convert into crucial advertising revenue," is how one senior media planner describes the dilemma. And that is the real challenge in the current scenario.
The paper is counting on its two-phase strategy to help it out. In the first phase, with the help of its advertising campaign, The Indian Express has succeeded in pulling in new readers. In the second phase it hopes to pull in the readers of newsmagazines, to bolster circulation. This, if effective, would draw advertisers too, or sway them into seeking tie-ups with the newspaper, observes a senior marketing professional in a news magazine based in Delhi. He adds, however, that with FM radio coming up in a big way, the paper has to get its act together fast to be able to seriously affect the media planners' judgement.
In the meanwhile, the company brass in Mumbai is optimistic having made a significant start in that direction. © 2002 agencyfaqs!