Just because 96-year-old Khushwant Singh called it the “most readable daily in the world” recently, it doesn’t mean the matter is closed and beyond debate.
Far from it.
The Times of India thankfully thinks just the opposite of Singh “insofaras The Hindu is concerned” in this new TV commercial for ToI‘s three-year-old Madras edition.
With the punchline “Stuck with news that puts you to sleep?”, the TVC makes no effort to hide who, it thinks, is turning Madrasans into Kumbhakarans when the City’s landscape is changing, young achievers are setting new benchmarks, politicians are lavishly dispensing patronage, etc.
The idea, clearly, is to drive home the width and depth of ToI‘s local coverage as opposed to The Hindu‘s much-vaunted international outlook. For, in the 54th second, a close-up shot shows a sleeping giant in the arms of a policeman at a drill session holding the op-ed page of the “Mount Road Mahavishnu”.
Will conveying the opposition as sleep-inducing in “conservative” Madras work? And is getting the nerves jangling with “tactile” news the primary function of a newspaper?
Writes the adman Lakshmipathy Bhat:
“The objective is clearly to create dissonance among the readers of The Hindu by portraying their brand choice as boring. I feel it may make for interesting advertising but will fail to deliver the objective of getting the readers of The Hindu to switch.
“The character of Chennai has changed over the years with the growing IT/Services and automobile industry. For ‘new entrants’ to Chennai, ToI was an alternative to The Hindu. But for die-hard Chennai dwellers, ToI is still an outsider. Questioning their intelligence may end up being counter productive.”
For the record, the 2011 second-quarter results of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) in Madras shows The Hindu (average issue readership: 4.98 lakh) has two-and-a-half times the number of readers as ToI (AIR: 2 lakh readers). Deccan Chronicle has 1.38 lakh readers, and the New Indian Express has 21,000 readers.
Also, for the record, The Times of India is 173 years old; The Hindu is 133 years old.
Also read: The great grandmother of newspaper battles