Hindustan Times: Nice idea, same product

The TV commercials for the newspaper are a classic case of good advertising for a not-so deserving product

I actually quite like the Hindustan Times TV commercials. The newspaper has allegedly revamped itself, and is increasingly trying to raise social, local issues, and therefore its new ad line is: 'It is time for change'. In all the short TVCs, a rolled-up HT edition is used as an assault weapon. A cool brand memory device, and the point of 'change' made without being preachy and serious. And because the idea is so simple and extendable, a thousand TVCs can be made at very little cost. Good stuff. Young viewers will get hooked on to this campaign.

Some commercials were released late last year, and now they have come up with two more. Though I think they need to create a lot many, and up the frequency if they desire big impact. One deals with a typical traffic jam caused by drivers of two vehicles that crash into each other (a regular occurrence in Mumbai). And as the two gents fight and seek each other's blood, an onlooking feisty lady arrives on the scene and whacks the two with an HT.

 Another commercial deals with the issue of wastage of power and water. So when the daughter leaves the air-conditioner running, she gets thwacked by the dad. And when the dad leaves the tap water running, she strikes him with an HT. So, good show. Nothing extraordinary about the ads (the lady intervening with the road-rage ridden dudes is predictable), but the point of change and involvement gets made. Some would say a better brand connect might have been ideal (like 'The Economist' ads attempt to do), but I disagree. HT is a mass newspaper, and a serious, rational approach would kill the idea. And alienate youngsters.

However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the cliché goes. On that score, the newspaper leaves you a tad disappointed. The content is pretty much the same. Okay, so they have a new section or two, but nothing that's not been done before, I don't smell freshness. In fact, I read the Times of India first, followed by the HT, each morning. And I find 90% of the content to be the same. It's much too me-too.

The HT editors, especially for their Mumbai edition, where the newspaper has made a late entry, need to think seriously off-beat. If they hope for a sustained connect with the impatient Gen X. Right now, it's a classic case of good advertising for a not-so deserving product.

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