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Industry leaders reaffirm faith in print at IAA’s The Gutenberg Galaxy launch

The India Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA) unveiled a coffee table book, titled ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy’, which showcases how creative advertising agencies have been able to use the power of print to build brands for their advertisers. 

The collector’s item presents 24 case studies and 14 articles from eminent leaders across the industry. 

The launch event also saw a panel discussion on the relevance of print in today’s scenario. Moderated by RN Bhaskar, Consulting Editor, Free Press Journal, the speakers included Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO - South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network; Santosh Padhi, Chief Creative Officer & Co-Founder, Taproot Dentsu; and Ajay Kakkar, CMO, Aditya Birla Capital. 

RN Bhaskar commenced the discussions by asking the panellists how they viewed the print medium. Replying to this, Ashish Bhasin affirmed, “I believe this platform will not just stay, but also grow in a coming few years. Look at any country where print as a medium has grown and you will find two key factors. First, growth in disposable income and second, increase in literacy rate, because unless and until the person is literate he/she can’t read a newspaper even though he/she may have the money to buy it. I think we are in that happy position where both these factors will come in strongly in the next five to ten years.” 

According to Bhasin, the people who needed to have confidence in print as a medium were the ones who dealt with it. “It is a 20,000-crore industry that cannot be ignored.” While he agreed that there had been certain changes happening with the advent of digital, such as less time being spent on the print medium, he stressed that rather than losing faith in their own product, people needed to work on it differently. 

“We should put a little more effort behind this medium to make it more reliable for the advertisers. Though we have one of the largest research bodies, we are not able to do it on regular basis. But now, hopefully the trend is changing and we are finding researches and studies on a regular basis. Print as a medium allows you to invent substantially. Lastly, I would say that up to now, I feel by and large the Indian print industry has been doing reasonably responsible journalism across the mediums. One can believe in the medium because of the trustworthiness and credibility. Overall, I feel that there are headwinds in this medium. It is a growing medium, but the owners of the mediums and all the media biggies have to start believing in this medium. And, if we start believing in this product, I think in the next 10-15 years, this will only grow.” 

Santosh Padhi reminisced, “When I got into this industry, there were many print campaigns that had inspired me. About 20-25 years back, these campaigns had a freshness which resonated with the readers, but as soon as TV came in it hijacked all the creative minds. But I believe that on getting something new you should never forget the one you had earlier. I think it is unfair for the print medium, because it is growing without the support of creatives and brands. I think our industry has to come together and make extra efforts to push this medium ahead of the curve. If we come together and put our hearts in this medium, it has the potential to grow.” 

He noted, “People buy newspapers not to read the advertisements, but the news. So, it is the job of a brand to make it more interesting so that people also read the ads. We are storytellers and we need to weave in storytelling into this medium. If we could do it 20 years back, we can still do it today. We have the technology now through which we can blend and make some kickass campaigns for print. Even if only two or three brands come forward, we could bring back the medium’s glory.” 

According to Ajay Kakkar, print as a medium has the power to touch the five senses and the heart. Over the years, I think print in India has touched all the five senses and the heart, along with our wallets. I believe that something is lacking from our end (the marketers) than at their end (the readers). Many times we have heard that print is dying with new technologies coming in, but this medium is still growing and surviving. If you ask me about print, I would say that it is an intoxicating habit. It facilitates targeting, segmenting, immediacy and many other things. But for me, print is not meant for everyone. It is for a relevant market, a relevant audience and relevant messages.” 

Further speaking on the strengths of the print medium, Bhasin noted that while the quality of news remained poor on digital and TV because of the immediacy factor, Print does not have this because of which it gives authentic details and helps us to generate our own views, which TV news channels do not permit.” 

Padhi, too, agreed that print is witnessing growth because it is credible. “You can’t sell anything which is not believable. The numbers are growing because people believe in this platform. Digital has this immediacy factor, but print has the liberty to present the entire 360-degree concept of the news and bring it on the table,” he added. 

For Kakkar, credibility is one part. He felt that creativity, too, played a major role as “print has allowed us to touch, smell and feel”. 

Speaking on the strength of the print medium, Bhasin remarked, “I don’t think literacy is spread through digital, it is information that is spread through digital. Literacy rate is increasing because of the stringent rules introduced by the government. The new trend that I foresee is that the next 200-300 million readers will be literate between 2018 and 2025. This means 200-300 million new potential print readers will actually come into this market in the next seven years. Nobody has realised that it is more that the combined print readers of the US and Europe! What print really needs to do in order to capture this new set of readers is to make sure that they form a habit of reading and if that happens, print in India will make history in the world.”

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