"The idea is to renew our relationship with readers": Sanjeev Bhargava, Brand Director, TOI

By Deepashree Banerjee , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media
Last updated : June 18, 2018 05:35 AM
The Times of India creates city montages for Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai in a campaign that promotes its metro supplements.

How often do we come across glossy ad campaigns done by a mainline supplement? The answer is a resounding 'Never'.

TOI has decided to focus on the top five revenue-generating cities from its supplements in the latest campaign and might launch ads for other cities later on. In the first phase, the campaign will cover Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Kolkata with a different brand film for each city.

The brand spends 10 per cent of its marketing budget to promote its metro supplements.

The narrative of the campaign uses rap as the soundscape and draws from the rituals of each city with sounds of the city surroundings and edgy lyrics as the film itself wears a city avatar. The campaign is launched as a series of short films that portray their respective city's nuances and showcases many celebrated names from different walks of life like professional boxer Vijendra Singh, regional actors - Prosenjit Chatterjee, Rituparna Sengupta, Shruti Haasan, R Madhavan, Kiccha Sudeep - and many others.

The film has been conceptualised by JWT India and created by Rawshark Films. JWT offices across these cities have worked on the campaign to give it localised impact. The campaign will be heavily digital-led followed by print and television.

Sanjeev Bhargava, director, Brand TOI, says, "Every good product evolves over a period of time. You change certain things as per the evolving readership habits and preferences and over the last four-five years, our product has also evolved in terms of design, content, richness etc. The idea of the campaign is to renew the relationship with our readers by reminding them of what we provide to them as a reading experience. As metro supplements are focussed on a city, we needed to make sure that the city came alive for the readers as a symbol of what we really represent as a publication, on a daily basis."

"A metro supplement is not about vigilantism, education or protest by and large. It is about being connected with the city you live in," Bhargava adds.

Mainlines, on the other hand, are more focused on issues/ subjects that call for redressal and addressal.

Sanjeev Bhargava Sanjeev Bhargava

TG - the Gen-Y connect

"India is so young a country; the overwhelming majority of the populace is also young. Therefore, any initiative which needs to provoke interest and create an impact on the society, by and large, has to address and engage the youth. And that stands true for every product category today, including newspapers," Bhargava continues.


"There are certain things (be it the 'vada pav' of Mumbai or Delhi ka chaat) which quintessentially define a city. We've tried to pick some of those out and highlighting them in our communication," says Bhargava with regard to some of the direction the ads have taken.

So, does TOI, the mother brand, fundamentally have a different role to play altogether and a different sense of purpose?

"TOI, the main brand, has its own promise for readers and comes up with various other initiatives from a marketing initiative's point of view and there are multiple initiatives in the pipeline which took aim at reconnecting and reengaging with the readers," reveals Bhargava.

But, one is forced to wonder if clichés, while capturing the cultural/ social nuances of every city, actually turn into creative shorthand in the wide spectrum of the creative process (the much-frequented references to 'City of dreams' or 'vada pav' in Mumbai; Durga Puja and political debate culture in Calcutta for example).

Senthil Kumar Senthil Kumar

Senthil Kumar, chief creative officer, J Walter Thompson India, shares his take on this thought, "If you love your city and want to celebrate it, there is no place for a cliché out there. If you love a particular watering hole or hangout in your city or a certain element that you want to revisit time and again, it does not become a cliché. In fact, it becomes popular culture!

"This Campaign is driven by the 'homing signal'; the everyday human insight into the life and times of every city dweller, as captured across all the cities that matter to you by a series of Times City supplements every day. It was time to reignite the love you feel for your city with words, images, stories, and songs that celebrate the soul of one city versus another. It is time for your city to celebrate every city's unique culture curry. It is time to flirt with your city or another city; Delhi Times Versus Mumbai Times Versus Bangalore Times versus Chennai Times versus Kolkata Times. It's a rap battle or shall we say, a rap party out there," Kumar further adds.

The journey so far

Kumar talks about how it all came about, "We worked with different JWT creative teams across the country, along with the Editors and Reporters from The Times of India, to get the local insights, neighbourhood nuances and lingo-leela right and therefore, strike a deep chord with the city and its citizens. We also collaborated with local language rap artists and musicians from Kolkata and with celebrities who are known to love the city and the whole thing was led by the JWT India creative team along with Aloke Shetty and, of course, the legendary Dhruv Ghanekar who scored the music for the final five City Rap anthems. There are tons of stories and there was a whole lot of pride during the process of making this amazing campaign for India's biggest brand, The Times of India. Maybe I'll put it down in a book someday soon."

Kumar also briefs us on the conceptualisation of the guest appearances done by Regional cine stars (R Madhavan in Chennai Times and Abir Chatterjee in Calcutta Times, for instance) as displayed in the ad. "The celebrities are there because they are those who celebrate the city in many ways and are also readers of the local City Times and share the same love and passion for their city. I would like to add that a city is not all about the chaos and hustle-bustle. It's about discovering unknown facets, diving deeper into its culture, food, heritage, places and, of course, its celebrities. The city will unfold itself in each aspect which was beyond your own discovery. The city creates its own pop-culture and TIMS readers are leading the way to create new 'cityisms' every day."

The creative journey

"To bring this 'Flirt with Your City' Campaign idea to life, we have created a face-off; a musical city versus city rap battle where people, icons, characters, rappers, and even objects of each city, are extolling the values of that locale; the city as seen through the Times. The name of the city itself becomes an audio device," says Kumar with regards to the journey from the brief to the conception of the ads.

"For example, Kolkata is not just Kolkata, it's also Goal-Katta as football is the most popular religion here. The local music and local lingo-leela are the vocal veins of this film; a binding factor, replete with city-specific instrumentation and lyrics. It's your city's Daily Rap versus another city's Daily Rap," he elaborates.

Kumar also explores a few technical nitty-gritties...

"The visual style is mixed-media brought alive from various elements of the city. It is an amalgamation of the slice of life, Stop-Motion animation, Hyper-lapse captures, 2D Flash animation, compositing within Times Newspapers and Traditional Cell animation and of course Times Newspaper headlines and snapshots from a day in the life of your city," he explains.

Kumar also expounds that the ambition for this campaign was to create a dynamic anthem for each city driven by its unique pop-culture, with the City Times at the centre of it all. "The Campaign is also an invitation to every city dweller, to go ahead and create their own City Pop-Culture and take a leap from the content here and pump up their own reader-generated City Anthems," he adds.

Raghu Bhat Raghu Bhat

Priti J Nair Priti J Nair

Raghu Bhat, founder and director, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi, shares his views, "In advertising, clichés are often used as they establish a character in limited time. For example, a 'nosey neighbour' or 'cool college student' will always dress or behave in a similar manner. Cliché is creative shorthand that is used to set up characters in a 20 or 30-second ad, but the plot or execution can never be clichéd," he explains.

"While portraying a city, the larger question is - what is the creative strategy? If there is prior intent to create an anthem with a high local quotient, it can lead to clichéd words, which in turn, can lead to clichéd visuals. The reasons to go this route could be - 'music is a good way to connect with the youth' or 'we need to communicate bigness and local connect'," Bhat adds.

Priti j Nair, co-founder and director, Curry Nation Brand Conversations thinks of it as a funky campaign with a montage feel attached to it. "It is young and vibrant and mad. Don't know if the strategy is to lure the youth to the paper and, therefore, a stylised, fast-paced, quick cut format has been adopted."

Nair continues, "Overall, the feel is really nice, though I am not sure how long a campaign like this will stay in your mind or whether it has repeat value, but you never know. Maybe, I'm just too old to understand what makes the new digital generation tick, but from an emotional point of view, this is not something that pulls at any particular emotion."

Among the five videos, Nair feels that Bangalore and Delhi, followed by Chennai "...are really cool."

"The Laxman - common man integration is nice and cute and makes it more TOI," she adds.

"Overall, it has a lot of spunk. Just wished there was one thread or something you could hold on to rather than a barrage of so many images; something that would tug at your pride of belonging but, nowadays, do you need a thread at all, I also wonder," Nair winds up cynically.

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First Published : June 06, 2018 05:18 AM


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