The readers of The Times of India (TOI) - Mumbai edition were up for a welcome, or perhaps not so welcome, surprise on October 15, 2010 when the daily had three false covers amounting to six pages of advertising upfront. Add to this some precedents like the Volkswagen roadblock and paper-cuts and voice ad in print, and it would appear that advertising is back full force in print medium. But how is the paper keeping the reader interest in focus?
In a conversation with exchange4media on the plethora of advertisements that the issue had, Rahul Kansal, Brand Director, The Time of India, said “This is the sign of buoyancy in the economy. The advertisements reflect that the sluggish phase is over, and advertisers are again coming out with their aggressive marketing strategies. The advertisements also show the belief that they have in our brand, The Times of India. The three jackets strategy was chiefly used in our Mumbai editions. However, in other editions too, we had plenty of advertisements.”
Did the paper rethink its decision to include three false covers, given that it could be intrusion for readers? Kansal replied, “We realise that sometimes advertisements can be a potential intrusion for readers, so newspapers maintain a balance between the two. But to say that readers don’t like advertisements whatsoever is also wrong. When we are talking about jackets and how intrusive they are to readers, frequency is a very important factor. If every day of the year we do a jacket for the newspaper, that will take away from the power of the newspaper. If it’s once in a while it’s alright. The decisions that we take at times are subjective, there is no formulae to how many advertisements are too little and how many too much. That’s an ongoing dialogue we have within the company. Right now people are in festive mood and that’s why advertisers too are coming out aggressively.”
The three-jacket strategy is not seen in the same light by the industry. Pratap Bose, COO Mudra Group and CEO Mudra Max, said “It is certainly good for a newspaper to have so many advertisements, but having three back-to-back jackets kills the impact of the advertisements. Just because there are three back to back advertisements does not mean that they will have triple the impact. Rather so many advertisements are intrusive to the readers. While I say that, print industry has always been a strong contender in media planners’ buying list and I believe that it will only continue to grow.”
Not too long ago, The Times of India came out with the Volkswagen series of advertisements, which took the media fraternity by surprise. Media planners explained that newspapers come loaded with advertisements during peak festive seasons such Pongal, Onam, Durga Puja / Dussera, and Diwali. And even though the print ad volumes may have grown better than during the slowdown period, there is still time to see whether the industry can attain the ‘boom time’ rate of growth, and across markets.