The Hindu vs TOI kolaveri

BY T S Sudhir| IN Media Practice | 28/01/2012
A parody twitter account of the PM says he has appointed Rajinikanth to look into the brand war issues between the Hindu and TOI.
T S SUDHIR on the kolaveri taking place between the Mahavishnu of Mount Road and the Old Lady of Bori Bunder.
The summer has clearly arrived early in Chennai. For what else can explain the sheer kolaveri taking place between the Mahavishnu of Mount Road and the Old Lady of Bori Bunder. The Hindu vs The Times of India sledging in Madras nalla Madras is more rivetting than the Agneepath Down Under. 
It all started with the TOI video ad in October 2011, played on Tamil TV channels spoofing the effect that The Hindu has on its readers. ``Are you stuck with news that puts you to sleep?'' asked the tagline as a folk song was used to amplify the soporofic effect. One can imagine the chuckles in the Bennett & Coleman's marketing department because they would have expected the Hindu to not sit up and take note. Especially when the group was already dealing with changes in its top management.
But what the TOI's `brat with a toy' kind of campaign did was to needle The Hindu. No, it has not led to much change in the venerable newspaper's content, which I am afraid many would agree, does come packaged with a sleep-inducing gene. Instead it decided to say Good Morning Chennai by unleashing an aggressive advertising campaign that packed a punch. And reduced TOI to a newspaper where only one number mattered.
Incidentally the superhit ``soup song'' `Why this Kolaveri Kolaveri Kolaveri di?' is from the film `3'.
But let's not digress. The Kolaveri is happening because the city of the Fort of St George is a market TOI would like to conquer. When the TOI launched in Chennai in April 2008, The Hindu used to sell 3.85 lakh copies while Deccan Chronicle sold 3 lakh. The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures for 2011 indicate The Hindu sells 4.22 lakh copies, DC 2.99 lakh while TOI claims it sells over 2 lakh (non-ABC figures).
The brains behind the Hindu campaign claim the answers were in fact spontaneous and not staged. The idea, they say is to expose the dumbing down of news that is happening through serving junk food-like news. Where readers know more about Hritik Roshan's petname, which actress is known for size zero and whether Aishwarya Rai has a son or a daughter. But when asked, for instance, who will succeed Ratan Tata, the consensus in Mylapore and T Nagar was that his son will be the next Tata boss, with one of them even claiming Mukesh Ambani is Tata's son! The ad delivered the knockout punch by asking which newspaper they read. The answers were beeped out but lip reading made the replies obvious.
The proof of good advertising is in its going viral. The videos have indeed inspired the spirit of sharing among e-Indians and those who have seen the ads on TV have felt amused. A parody twitter account of the PM says he has appointed Rajinikanth to look into the brand war issues between the Hindu and TOI. Another smart handle suggests that for maximum effect, Hindu should insert the ads on TOI's page 3.
Since the admen and women have hit the nail on the head, hopefully those manning the editorial desks at both newspapers too will sit up and take note. But what about the Chennai reader? Because as I see it, between the two, both newspapers have branded the city as full of either idiots or sleepy folk. And for the two newspapers trying to be the Chennai Super King of the IPL (Indian Paper League), that's not a very nice way to woo. The Deccan Chronicle would hope the Chennaiites decide to give both Hindu and TOI, a DC shock instead.
I would give the last word on this post to Gayatri Jayaraman who asks ``Why isn't anyone asking the most important question. Which paper does Rajinikanth read? End of story.''
    This is an expanded version of a post on  T S Sudhir’s blog
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