The Diwali festival saw a surge of more than 50% in advertising in the leading publications including Hindustan Times and Times of India. Besides the ads in main section and regular supplements, number of sponsored features disguised as editorials made a major difference to the overall advertising generated by them.
The Hindustan Times' confirmed an ad increase of 34% in the main issue in the period 1-4 Nov. viz a viz 1-7 Oct. this year in the Delhi edition. For the same period, the supplements including HT City had an ad volume increase of 58%. Though there was no confirmation from Times of India but a study by exchange4media found that the Delhi edition of Times of India too had an increase of more than 50% in its ad sales volumes during the same period.
In fact, the ad volume increase of both the publications' Delhi edition goes much beyond 50% if we take into account number of special features carried by them. Taking readers for a ride while chasing the ad moolah, both TOI and HT carried sponsored features presented like editorial features. HT ran 'Look 2003' as a special fashion feature which appeared to be sponsored by Oswal Woollen Mills (OWM). Monte Carlo and Canterbury, the leading brands of OWM, were splashed all over the 4-page colour feature both in the advertising and editorial form. Besides atleast 820cc of ads, Look 2003 carried editorial content which referred to OWM brands and its management quite bluntly.
In a reply to exchange4media, a senior HT official said, "We did not create any special features for Diwali. The exclusive feature for OWM branded as Look 2002 ran last year and this year we have continued this feature to provide greater value to our advertisers." The HT claim of not creating special features for Diwali sounds strange as besides Look 2003, the publication ran atleast 2 more special features - Diwali Shopping Bonanza and Western Uttar Pradesh Diwali Shopping Bonanza - which carried significant amount of ad space.
HT's main competitor in Delhi, TOI also resorted to similar tactics as it carried a feature branded as 'Planet Fashion Times' which was sponsored by Madura Garments. Again the feature packaged in the advertorial form (without mentioning so) prominently displayed Madura Garments' brands including Planet Fashion, Van Heusen, Louis Philippe, Allen Solly and Peter England in the editorial.
Definitely ad moolah seems to be the driving force behind these slews of features but the way they are packaged and presented to the readers leaves lot of questions in the reader's mind!