The Times of India in its latest television commercial asks the readers in Tamil Nadu to wake up and not fall asleep to the boring news they have been reading so far-clearly targeted at the market leader, The Hindu.
From 'A day in the life of Chennai' to a strong wake up call to the people of the city, The Times of India (TOI) has come a long way since 2008, when it entered the southern market with its Chennai edition.
The brief given to the agency was to increase eyeballs for the TOI in Chennai. "It was a very clear and uncomplicated brief; it wanted to make TOI the No. 1 in Chennai and highlight that it's a new-age newspaper," says Santosh Padhi (Paddy), chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot India.
Unlike the Nakka Mukka campaign launched in 2008, which was generic in nature, this one has been launched with a specific agenda to highlight that the TOI, unlike other newspapers in Chennai, has a modern look and feel and "is updated, compared to other newspapers in the city, which are fatigued," adds Paddy.
However, this wake-up call by the TOI Chennai is being perceived as a dig at The Hindu by many. The latter has been present in the city for more than 130 years and is the No.1 daily of Chennai.
Talking about the TOI campaign, Suresh Srinivasan, vice-president, advertising, The Hindu Group, says that it isn't very clear if the dig is at The Hindu. Moreover, he adds, "The TOI had four years to prove its mantle. If it couldn't change the choice of the readers in the last four years, it speaks volumes about the likability of The Hindu. The Hindu is a 100 year old company which is deeply woven by the ethos of the city - and nothing can change that."
His thoughts are seconded by Prateek Srivastava, head, South, Ogilvy India, the agency which handles The Hindu's creative duties. He says, "Campaigns like this don't have an impact on the consumers of the newspaper because the concept of 'on the move' category of consumers does not apply to this category. I think you can't insult the intellect of the readers like this and it won't cut any ice with them."
"Ultimately it's not an impulsive category like toothpaste but a newspaper brand," he adds.
However, media observers have a different view and believe that this campaign will cut through those toying with the idea of migrating from The Hindu to the TOI.
According to media experts, what will be put to test is the loyalist group of The Hindu. "There will be a shake up in the market for sure; new readers will be added. Moreover, the TOI was not very aggressive in the city till now, because of which it has not been able to become a standalone newspaper for most of the clients. It is still an add-on," says S Muthukumar, senior vice-president, Lintas Media Group. This campaign should lead to organic growth for the TOI in terms of advertising, he adds.
Interestingly, the a few observers also point out that instead of damaging The Hindu, the campaign could do more damage to the Deccan Chronicle (DC). "Deccan Chronicle is the second choice of most of the advertisers, but with the TOI finally waking up, things might change negatively for DC. Because advertisers are happy with The Hindu, there won't be much shift in its advertisers. However, the second paper may get adversely affected," says another senior media planner.
With the TOI slated to enter Kerala soon, the timing will prove to be crucial as it needs to reinforce its position in Tamil Nadu before entering another state in the South.
In 2008, when Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd decided to launch the TOI in Chennai, there was a war of sorts. The city was alive with hoardings and messages talking about the lineage and the changing times -- while 'If it's Chennai, it's The Hindu' was The Hindu's mantra, the TOI talked about 'The Times of India - Changing Tunes'.