‘The Print medium has to re-es­tab­lish its relevance’

San­jeev Bhar­gava, Direc­tor, Brand for Times of In­dia and Mir­ror, con­sid­ers it his mis­sion to drive greater English read­er­ship and be­lieves the brand must con­tinue em­pow­er­ing young peo­ple through youth-cen­tric prop­er­ties


As Direc­tor, Brand for The Times of In­dia (TOI) and Mir­ror, this is San­jeev Bhar­gava’s first mar­ket­ing role in a three-decade long ca­reer with var­i­ous ad agen­cies. But the in­dus­try vet­eran main­tains that he has al­ways been a mar­keter at heart, ready to of­fer mar­ket­ing so­lu­tions to sev­eral brands in his agency days. In this in­ter­view, Bhar­gava chats with us about his new role, the ap­point­ment of JWT as Cre­ative Part­ner, the Oppo Times Fresh Face prop­erty and the need to drive print con­sump­tion among young peo­ple.

Q] What was the strat­egy be­hind the ap­point­ment of JWT as Cre­ative Part­ner, es­pe­cially as the ear­lier agency had cre­ated some award­win­ning, cult ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns for the brand?

Five years ago, the in­dus­try was in a dif­fer­ent growth phase. To­day the Print medium has to re-es­tab­lish its relevance and com­mu­ni­cate to new con­sumers about why it is im­por­tant to read a news­pa­per. This com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­quire­ment didn’t ex­ist ear­lier and there­fore re­quires some heavy lift­ing as far as strat­egy is con­cerned. In my es­ti­ma­tion, the heavy lift­ing needs to come from a body of strate­gic plan­ners, which ex­ists in J. Wal­ter Thompson. TOI has al­ways been known to cre­ate iconic com­mu­ni­ca­tion, whether with J. Wal­ter Thompson or Tap­root Dentsu. Some­times the sub­jects we deal with are them­selves so po­tent, that I be­lieve the com­mu­ni­ca­tion gets a slightly un­fair ad­van­tage. Nev­er­the­less I am hop­ing for some breakthrough work with the new agency.

Q] How do you see the TOI brand per­form­ing over the next five years, es­pe­cially as Dig­i­tal keeps gain­ing ground?

Firstly, I don’t see it as a zero sum game. The in­ter­net is a medium of choice. This means that you will read what you choose to read. If you’re look­ing for a com­pre­hen­sive cu­ra­tion of news daily, only a news­pa­per can pro­vide that, thus giv­ing it an edge over ev­ery other medium. The prod­uct too plays an im­por­tant role. We have sev­eral con­trols and mea­sure­ments to as­sess how we are per­form­ing in com­par­i­son with com­pet­ing news­pa­pers. TOI to­day gives more news per page than any other pa­per. We un­der­stand that peo­ple rarely have enough time to read. So how do we pack­age the news such that they can con­sume it quickly? In­fo­graph­ics, pic­tures and length of sto­ries – there is a lot that goes into en­sur­ing we cre­ate the right prod­uct.

Q] In an in­creas­ingly dy­namic mar­ket, how do you de­fine the brand’s tar­get au­di­ence?

Quite sim­ply, the young. We are a young coun­try, and if I don’t en­cour­age younger au­di­ences to read the news­pa­per, I am not do­ing my job.

Q] How does the Oppo Times Fresh Face prop­erty im­pact Brand TOI?

TOI as a brand not only needs to con­nect with its read­ers, but also needs to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment of em­pow­er­ment. Our ini­tia­tives like Oppo Times Fresh Face, like many of the other TOI ini­tia­tives such as Lead In­dia and Teach In­dia, are about em­pow­er­ing young chil­dren. Through the Oppo Times Fresh Face prop­erty, we are talking to teenagers, and are giv­ing them a plat­form to build their self-con­fi­dence.

Q] What are some of the things on your pri­or­ity list right now for the TOI and Mir­ror brands?

We need to in­crease English read­er­ship and for me, that is a mis­sion. It is not just a mar­ket­ing plan! In­dia’s greatest eco­nomic strength is that we have a re­ally large English speak­ing pop­u­la­tion, if not the largest in the world. We need to drive English read­er­ship to be more com­pet­i­tive eco­nom­i­cally. Then we have the younger peo­ple. They need to see the value in a news­pa­per. While the in­ter­net is a mat­ter of con­ve­nience for them, we need to build news­pa­per read­ing as an im­por­tant, daily rit­ual.

Q] As a pro­fes­sional, this is your first foray out­side the ad­ver­tis­ing world. What is dif­fer­ent now and what learn­ings will you ap­ply here?

I have al­ways con­sid­ered my­self a mar­keter even when I was with J. Wal­ter Thompson and FCB Ulka. I’ve al­ways of­fered mar­ket­ing so­lu­tions to all my clients. The beauty with TOI is that the prod­uct it­self is mal­leable. You can cre­ate changes to the prod­uct so it is in sync with the mar­ket­ing strat­egy. There are sev­eral el­e­ments that work in tan­dem and all of them have the power to change. There­fore in my mind, it is the best mar­ket­ing job you can have!

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