Advertisements fall under the “promotion” category in the Marketing Mix. Kotler defines advertising as “Any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor”
But recently we had the opportunity of being subjected to another kind of advertising, the “comparative advertising” between The Hindu and The Times of India (referred as TOI from now on). So what is Comparative advertising? Comparative advertising tells the customers the difference between one’s product to that of the competitors and why customers should opt for their product. Such comparative advertising or adwars between competitors can benefit their brands in gaining market share through customers mind share. Yes, adwars are fought in the minds of the customers unlike the actual wars that take place on land, water or air. Here the customers mind is the battlefield and each brand strives hard to win the customers mind share with its product.
Comparative advertising is not a new concept. It has been there for a really long time, and Cola wars are a great example for comparative advertising. The Cola wars are mutually-targeting advertisement campaign between Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo Inc. Coca-Cola is the market leader and Pepsi, wanting to grab the market share from coke tried its hands on competitive marketing. The Cola wars started as early as 1980’s and are still in place with Coca-Cola leading the market and Pepsi being knocked to the third place.
Taking a cue from the Cola wars, TOI came up with a comparative advertisement against Hindu in the Chennai region. TOI is the largest English daily in India with circulation of 3000 thousand units whereas The Hindu has a circulation of 1272 thousand units only.
TOI was launched in Chennai during 2008. It was launched at a time when most people in Chennai preferred reading Hindu. Hindu clearly had the major market share. Recently, TOI in order to grab more market share for its newspaper in Chennai came up with an advertisement campaign that targeted The Hindu indirectly. TOI’s advertisement portrayed Hindu as a boring newspaper and that people often go to sleep reading the news published in it. TOI which offers mostly celebrity news and gossips targeted Hindu of providing boring information and that people should wake up from it and start reading TOI.
Not the one to take pot-shots, The Hindu under the direction of its new editor Siddharth Varadarajan, launched its own series of advertisements attacking the TOI for offering frivolity over facts.
The Hindu played to its strengths which is the quality content that it has been serving to its readers right from the beginning. The Hindu did not want to take up the fight in the Chennai region alone and thus aired the advertisements all over the country. The Hindu followed an Integrated Marketing Campaign, with advertisements in Television, Print media and Social Networking! The ad campaign was laced with sarcasm on the third grade news provided by the other newspapers (read TOI). The ad campaign was a huge hit and the Television ads went viral on the Social Media. Hindu’s message ‘Stay ahead of the Times’ was clearly received by every customer. The campaign definitely prompted readers to reconsider their choice of newspaper thus increasing the market share through the mind share of the customers.
TOI could not retaliate to the Hindu campaign but in the end sarcastically congratulated Hindu for waking up at last from its sleep! TOI is the leading English daily in India but its bid to win the mind share of people in Chennai region though comparative advertising backfired. Though this is one side of the comparative advertising, one cannot rule out the fact that comparative advertising is a powerful tool to create Top of mind awareness (TOMA) in customers. All said, one should also be aware that all the advertisements must adhere to the legal and social norms of the country. The Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self regulatory voluntary organization provides the basic guidelines for ensuring fairness in advertising.
TOI vs The Hindu
Hindu’s television ad