Shreyas Kulkarni
Advertising

Free Press Journal reminds people that COVID is alive and kicking

It struck out words, such as 'Corona' and 'pandemic', in its print edition to reinforce the virus' threat, as India comes out of lockdown.

Mumbai's tally of 50,000-plus positive COVID cases is greater than that of China's Wuhan province, where the virus is said to have originated. Yet, India's financial capital has opened itself, in the past few days. The message is clear: The economy has to open, and people have to accept the virus has apart of their lives.

The rest of the nation is singing a similar tune. Major cities and thousands of smaller towns and villages saw an end to the almost 10-week-long lockdown imposed to halt the virus' spread.

Free Press Journal reminds people that COVID is alive and kicking

However, the eagerness of people to step out of their homes, disregarding all safety precautions, threatens to undo whatever the government has enacted for public safety. It looks like the virus no longer exists in people's mind anymore.

Free Press Journal reminds people that COVID is alive and kicking

The Free Press Journal (FPJ), a 91-year-old English daily, decided to reinforce the threat of the virus among its readers. Using a red stroke, FPJ struck out words, such as Corona, COVID-19, pandemic, quarantine, lockdown, and death, across all 16 pages of its June 10 edition.

Free Press Journal reminds people that COVID is alive and kicking

Shortened attention spans mean people only glance, than read articles. However, the struck out words will catch the reader's eye right away, and when he/she sees it being repeated in all the pages, the messaging is reinforced.

Santosh Padhi
Santosh Padhi

"The message was to tell people that the virus isn't over, and that you must stick to the norms to cut it down, or else it will multiply," says Santosh Padhi, co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot Dentsu, the agency behind this campaign.

He tells us that Taproot Dentsu has worked with FPJ for over a year now, and its task is to deliver cutting edge work that's noticeable. Something on the lines of the legacy work the agency did for The Times of India newspaper.

Padhi mentions a campaign they'd executed for FPJ that needed the newspaper to change its masthead. "It's not easy to change the masthead, but Abhishek Karnani, director, Free Press Journal, convinced the board, because he believed in the idea."

The Free Press Journal's Free Rights edition
The Free Press Journal's Free Rights edition

Padhi refers to the newspaper's cause-based campaign, which began last year, where it will change its masthead to highlight socially important issues on certain days.

This campaign started on August 29, 2019, which is National Sports Day, and when Prime Minister Modi launched the 'Fit India Movement'; the masthead was changed from 'Free Press' to 'Free Sports'. "We're not a fit country, and we are feeling the repercussions, be it in our Olympic medals tally, or lower immunity against viruses," remarks Padhi.

FPJ changed its masthead to 'Free Food' for World Food Day in October to highlight food wastage, and to 'Free Child' for Children's Day in November. And, in December, the newspaper chose the subject of press freedom in India as its masthead read 'Free Rights'.

The decline in print creativity

Padhi believes that print will remain a strong force. He says that print numbers aren't dropping as much as they’re in the west, but he bemoans the slide of the creative community, when it comes to print communication.

He feels print isn’t treated the way it should be. "We can do a wonderful story in 10x10," he says, but people are more interested in other mediums. Padhi recalls the time when TV made its entry, and everyone was hooked to it. According to him, everyone wanted to do TV, and print was relegated to the middle and junior guys.

Free Press Journal reminds people that COVID is alive and kicking

"Even the juniors wanted to do TV, but they had to work on print ads. We never really trained them, the passage of the baton was not smooth...," laments Padhi, as he recalls classic print ads from agencies such as Enterprise and Avenues (Onida), and other works from Raymond and Femina.

For Padhi, a newspaper with the morning cup of coffee is a sacred ritual... maybe that's why the latest campaign will work because you tend to remember the first thing you read in the morning.