AdStand: The Newspaper advertising crisis

Can you quickly recall the ads you read in newspapers today morning? Ok can you trace back and recall what you read a week back? Is there a newspaper ad that made you stop at it last week and made you say: this is nice, or this is clever or this is too good?

There is a crisis that newspaper ads are struggling with. The one single reason why brands create advertising is memorability. If the advertising does not create memorability than it is an expensive indulgence that the brand can avoid.


Crisis of memorability

The three of the largest category that uses newspapers extensively are real estate, retail and ecommerce. May be the three categories are responsible for the crisis of memorability that newspaper advertising faces today. Real Estate advertising is transactional, the builders are not looking at long-term traction, they look at quick transaction. This makes the real estate newspaper advertising low on idea and high on details. The belief that prospective buyers are looking for details and the ad needs to say everything that can be said has turned real estate ads into catalogue listings. Ecommerce websites too look at newspaper advertising as catalogues to announce sale, there is rarely an attempt to build an idea in those ads. The entire retail sector has taken newspaper advertising back to the days of origination. In the earliest days newspaper ads were catalogue listing. Today, newspaper ads are back to being catalogue listing. There in lies the biggest crisis newspaper advertising faces today


Crisis of craft

Last week Snapdeal released expensive jackets across the country, announcing the new identity and its new consumer-facing proposition. Unbox Zindagi is an ambitious brand building exercise that the brand undertook. A key element of the campaign is an anthem that tells the story of the brand. Snapdeal turned the song into the body copy for the launch ads in newspaper. The Hindi lyrics if the sing were written in Roman script and became the body copy for the ad. The Roman Script Hindi was used in English newspaper ads that were released across the country, including in areas where Hindi is not the primary language. Brands invest in newspaper advertising to connect with its consumers, to tell the story of brand in the language if consumers. Snapdeal missed an opportunity to really connect and narrate the story of its brand. By being poor in craft the brand did not create the edge it could have by being true to craft. May be memorability of the individual newspaper ad was never considered and it was only used as a tactical weapon to make some noise.

Last week was also an expensive indulgence from Louis Philippe Shirts across the country with a gatefold that opened into a look at how they have changed the shirt forever. The hyperbolic ad was more a self-indulgence from the brand and less of a promise to the consumer. Did the brand need really expensive real estate to tell the consumer that Louis Philippe shirts have changed forever? Incidentally of you do end up visiting the website of the brand, then none of the tonality of the press ad exists on the web. Is the brand then suffering from an identity crisis?
Crisis of context

Like Snapdeal, Uber too launched a new campaign to announce its new consumer promise. Uber is no longer everyone’s private driver, Uber makes you move forward. To launch the new campaign the brand has released large format expensive newspaper ads across the country looking for people who can be Uber drivers. The press campaign supplements the web campaign that is the story of Shankar the driver. The newspaper ad is the story of another driver whose daughter is a chess champions. The campaign works till this extent. Does the campaign though need English newspapers to advertise or should it move to language newspapers? For both: the relevance and reach language newspapers will deliver far better impact. By being in English newspaper has Uber has lost the wider narrative. Language newspapers do deliver better reach and equally good quality of audience to the advertiser. The potential Uber partners are more likely to read the language newspapers than the English ones.

Uber may have missed the context of audiences’ lives completely.


Does newspaper advertising need reinvention?

Newspaper advertising is expensive. Brands invest a large part of their marketing budget in newspapers to build immediacy in brand advertising. Enhanced transaction or greater traffic on site or greater number of calls on the toll free number cannot be the way to measure the impact of newspaper adverts. Memorability has to be the key. Especially now when we are burdened with information overload and have shorter attention span.

I have just picked four random examples from brands that have over invested in newspapers. For brands that are not over invested, memorability becomes even more important. That is the only currency hundreds of brands should live by. It’s time newspaper ads stepped out of the shadow of TV ads.

Original published here:





Move over ads, long live ads

Uber last week offered #UberPUPPIES to come to people in Delhi, who could pay a small sum of money to cuddle puppies for a fixed time. The campaign was launched with a dog adoption service; people could adopt the puppies if they wanted to. This was not the first time that Uber had done this. In January this year, Uber offered the same programme in 10 of the largest cities in America for $30. Before Delhi, they did the same in Pune in January this year.

This Wednesday, a host of office goers and individuals were busy posting dogfies on social media. Uber has hit upon a very cool way to increase affinity for itself. No amount of traditional advertising or traditional PR would have got this level of feel-good for the brand. That the campaign came on back of Uber winning the case in Delhi may be incidental. Uber Puppies delivered a load of cuteness for the brand.

Staying with advertising being used differently by brands, Toyota is doing a really clever thing in Sweden. The radio ad delivered through the car entertainment system actually takes over Siri and places theiPhone in airplane mode.

This is clever and does a thing that you least expect. As people point out, by putting the phone in airplane mode, the navigation also gets switched off and instead of solving a problem may create a new problem. The technology opens up newer vistas of engaging the audience, this may be the start and we may now see many more of the different kind. Imagine if the brands are able to send offers and navigation details as the cars are on the road. Imagine the disruptive abilities of the brands and how they can impact the new choice-making paradigms.

What the Internet did with the coming of social media was that it made pictures ubiquitous. Pictures travelled real time, were available wherever needed, however, the same was not true of videos. Videos were still complicated to set up, they needed cameras, bandwidth and such to ‘broadcast’. A set of new apps has changed that. Meerkat and Periscope have made video as ubiquitous as pictures, thanks to mobiles with cameras. Meerkat has already tied up with Discovery channel to make available exclusive content when the programme is broadcast. Discovery has set up special Shark Cam that social stream exclusive content. Head to Meerkat and follow @sharkweek.

Periscope is not far behind. Jimmy Fallon used it to take viewers behind the scene, Adidas used it to broadcast contract signing ceremony with a player, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, GE and Spotify too have used it to create engaging content. Carly Fiorina even used it to do a townhouse to announce her Presidential bid!

Meanwhile, back home a brand has made it cool to call your girlfriend Bitch, after getting your vision corrected. While on that do watch. My Pale Skin is a blog written by a London-based blogger and ex-model. This video has got over 200,000 views in a week’s time and it does question our perception of beauty. You can join the discussion with #YouLookDisgusting. The Indian community of Dark is Beautiful ( is worth checking out for precisely the same reason.

Advertising is changing, so are the triggers associated with advertising. The traditional response to brand issues has to be re-evaluated. Brand theories we grew up with, and are still being taught, need a new tweak.


Original published here