India’s newspaper rivals do battle in ad war
The Times of India (TOI) has always thought itself more lively than its rivals, and its usually breathless mix of showbusiness “news”, cricket gossip and skewed reporting has allowed it to secure a position as the number one English language newspaper in the country.
Last year, when it launched a new sales push in the city of Chennai, it launched a series of adverts that portrayed its rival The Hindu, which has its headquarters in that southern city, as sleepy and dull. The TOI, which first started printining in the city of 2008, derided its competitor as offering “news that puts you to sleep” and broadcast some admittedly entertaining adverts.
There’s certainly a world of differences between The Hindu and the Times of India, the nuances of which are explained in a highly pleasurable essay by noveleist Chandrahas Choudhury. While one is brash, the other is modest; while one sometimes borders on the barely literate, the other uses elegant prose; while one is happy to accept adverts and PR puffs as news, the other is scrupulous about is sources.
Having said all of that, it is also an inescapable truth that for all its wholesomeness, The Hindu is sometimes rather dry. Which is why, I think, there was such delight among the newspaper and media-watching classes when The Hindu, under the direction of its new editor Siddharth Varadarajan, launched its own series of adverts attacking the TOI for offering frivolity over facts.
There are three video adverts as well as a print campaign, which points out that in addition to Page 3 (usually filled with celebrity trivia in the TOI), The Hindu also has pages 2,4,5, and 7 etc.
The video I liked the most was one featuring students who read the TOI being asked a series of rather basic questions about Indian current affairs. None can answer any question, apart from the one that asks for the nickname of a leading Bollywood actor. The solution, declares The Hindu, is to arrange a subscription and “Stay ahead of the Times”.
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