For years the Delhi newspaper market has been a battleground with Hindustan Times and The Times of India fighting for leadership. It's now the turn of India's financial capital, Mumbai, for decades the preserve of The Times, to become the new media battleground. And the first salvos have just been fired with Zee-Bhaskar's joint venture, Diligent Media Corporation Ltd., suing Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. (BCCL), publishers of The Times of India, for Rs 100 crore in damages and demanding an unconditional apology for hijacking a teaser ad campaign for the launch of their new English newspaper from Mumbai.
Subhash Chandra promoted Essel Group and their partners Bhaskar Group filed the civil suit in Mumbai High Court claiming that their ad campaign -- "Speak up, it's in your DNA" -- was hijacked by The Times Group for the advantage of group publication, Maharashtra Times. The main draw of a teaser campaign is the curiosity factor, which unfolds over a period of time; and The Times Group tried to hijack the curiosity factor by using it in their advertisement, the suit has claimed.
BCCL has been charged for "infringement of copyright, Passing of Action and resorting to unfair business practice with a view to derive unfair business advantage, with malicious intention and motive".
The matter came up for hearing on Friday in the court of Justice D.G. Karnik. BCCL's counsel stated that the plaintiff has offered, in its letter dated March 29, 2005, not to pursue any legal action against the defendants provided they "tender an unconditional apology for their ad campaign". He sought time upto Monday, April 4, to consider this offer.
The court, after hearing both sides, directed BCCL/Times Group not to issue any further advertisements of similar or same nature or resembling the ad campaign of plaintiff. The matter will be heard on Monday.
Speaking on this development, Ashish Kaul, Vice-President, Corporate Brand Development Group, Essel Group, said, "The hoardings were part of a teaser campaign in which the main draw is the curiosity factor. TOI tried to hijack the curiosity factor by using it to their advantage in their own ad. It certainly was disappointing to see such a large group of repute indulging in unfair practices and above all their agency gleefully admitting that they cheated our campaign. This was unethical on their part."
When contacted, BCCL officials declined to make any comment on the ground that the matter is sub-judice.
The Zee-Bhaskar teaser campaign had faces of different people with their mouths sealed with grey tape. These billboards were put up all over Mumbai. The hoardings in the second phase of the campaign had a line saying "Speak up. It's in your DNA". The Maharashtra Times campaign had similar visuals of individuals taking off the grey tapes on their mouths with the tagline reading "Speak up. It's in your DNA-Maharashtra Times".