We want to amplify the perspective we bring to our readers: Sanjeev Bhargava

The Times of India has rolled out a new brand campaign for its metro supplements (TIMS) – Bombay Times, Delhi Times, Gurgaon Times, Chennai Times, Bangalore Times and Calcutta Times – titled ‘Flirt with your City’. Conceptualised by JWT India, the campaign aims to communicate the strengthened content of the metro supplements and reinforce their positioning as one-stop-destination for all news and gossip of city’s bustling social life and everything related to city’s popular culture.  

The insight for this campaign comes from a simple observation – we are in a relationship with the city we choose to live in; sustained by many shared interests, shared progress and shared quality of life. But, over time city-dwellers get happy in their cocoons and self-imposed geographic confines that inhibit their enjoyment of the city they live in. Through the campaign, TOI intends to re-kindle people’s romance with their city and urges them to ‘Flirt with your city’. 

The campaign’s objective is to create a dynamic anthem for each city, driven by its unique pop-culture, with the TOI’s Metro Supplements (TIMS) at the centre of it all. The campaign is launched as a series of short films that portray their respective city’s nuances and showcases many celebrated names for their respective city, like Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Vijendra Singh, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Rituparna Sengupta, Abir Chatterjee, Shruti Haasan, R Madhavan, Kiccha Sudeep, Aindrita Ray, Danish Sait, Sanjeev Kapoor and many others. The films have been created by Rawshark Films. Dhruv Ghanekar has composed the music that captures the soul and quirk of each city. 

Commenting on the launch, Sanjeev Bhargava, Director - Brand, The Times of India, said, “TOI’s Metro Supplements (TIMS) create affinity in a hyper-local way like no other media – building conversations, highlighting happenings and hangouts, bringing alive engaging platforms and collaborations, all leading up to your City’s pop culture. With more engaging content, new exciting IPs and integrated activities, we intend to bring readers closer to their respective city, and reinforce the thought that it is one-stop shop of everything one needs to stay connect with the buzz in the city.” 

Senthil Kumar, Chief Creative Officer, JWT India, elaborated, “To bring the TOI’s Metro Supplements (TIMS) essence to life, we have created a face-off, a musical city versus city rap battle between different cities, where people, icons, characters, rappers and even objects of each city are extolling the values of their city, the city as seen through the Times. The name of the city itself becomes an audio device. The visual style is mixed media brought alive from various elements of the city. It is an amalgamation of the slice of life, Stop Motion Animation, Hyper-Lapse captures, 2D Flash Animation, Compositing within Times Newspaper and Traditional Cell Animation and of course Times Newspaper headlines and snapshots from a day in the life of your city.” 

The campaign is designed as multimedia communication, including Print, TV, Digital, OOH, etc., supplemented with a whole host of print and digital activations to experience the city. Through the next couple of months, TOI will bring forth many on-ground activities that will allow the city residents to explore the city rituals more like city crossword, flirt trails, etc. This also invites every city resident to add their bit of the story to the campaign through user generated content and share using #FlirtWithTheCity. The best submissions will get featured in their respective city supplement. 

TOI is a very solid source of validated & curated news: Sanjeev Bhargava 

 In a detailed interaction with Adgully, Sanjeev Bhargava, Director - Brand, The Times of India, gives further insights on the ‘Flirt with your City’ campaign, strengthening the Metro supplements, what Brand TOI stands for in today’s media scenario, attracting the younger readers and much more. Excerpts: 

What is the objective of the latest campaign and what is being achieved?
When you do a campaign for a publication, it is very different from an FMCG or service loan ad. From time to time a publication needs to communicate to its readers new reasons to get engaged with the publication or see it from a different perspective, and that’s what we are trying to do here, because a metro supplement ultimately has to be picked up to understand their city better about what’s going on, what’s exciting, what’s interesting, what’s fun, provocative, etc. So that’s a function that the publication has been playing over a period of time. Now that we are doing this campaign after a gap of 4-5 years, the idea is to remind people of the fact that this is what they get out of this publication and therefore, when they pick it up, they get a renewed sense of gratification and understand what their city is all about. It is basically a campaign that will renew the relationship with the readers of our publication. 

What is the current theme you are working on? How is it different from the existing brand communication?
While our content is not dramatically different, the fact is that the extent to which we bring perspective to our readers is something we need to amplify. Every advertising campaign is the amplification of the intent of the marketer being communicated faithfully to the consumer here – in this case, the reader. Our intent here is to get our readers to vibe with, enjoy their city more by virtue of the fact that they consume the content we have in the publication and with regards to the city and the campaign it really plays out the message that while you live in the city, you are married to a certain small portion of the city. That is what you frequent on a daily basis. While the vast majority of the city remains unknown to you, through this publication you will continue to get interesting snippets about what is happening in the rest of the city which is unknown to you. We are giving you this opportunity to connect with those unknown elements of the city. 

Why as a company did you feel to build a connect with the city you lived in?
By nature Metro supplements are very local and not national. In fact, they have a micro focus on the city. It was important for us to keep the city as the focus and not the country as the focus as far as the Metro supplements are concerned. The city has to be a starting point of our thinking and that’s what has been done. 

What was your brief to the agency and how have they conceptualised this brief?
What we really did was give them an insight. The insight was that people, who are part of the city, are largely unaware of large tracts of the city and what’s happening there; there are so many exciting things that happen in a city that we aren’t even aware of. This supplement is intended to help people discover that, get a greater sense of the city, build a greater pride in the city, and that was the intent that was given to the ad agency. When they came back with the concept of ‘Flirt with your City’, I could immediately pick it up and asked them to go ahead with it. 

Do you think the tagline – ‘Flirt with your City’ – is somewhat flippant to give out such a message? Or was it intentional?
It is absolutely intentional and stems from a deep insight. I’m sure you are aware of it yourself that if you live in a city like Mumbai, there is only a certain part of the city that you are familiar with and other parts of the city that you are not familiar with and that’s why you wouldn’t frequent the rest of the city very often. But when you read the metro supplement from The Times of India, you will get to know what’s going on there, the interesting events that are happening, whether it is a place worth paying a visit or a place you should be frequenting more often, etc. That’s what we are really trying to do here by encouraging people to flirt with the city. It is not a frivolous message at all, but couched in a language that is very metro supplement. 

Along with the campaign, are you also planning to change the look, content, and feel of the supplements?
The supplements have been evolving over a period of time, where you can see subtle changes and even major changes happening. This is an evolutionary process, there is no dramatic change. The content by and large will continue to evolve as it has been evolving over time. 

Apart from this campaign, how are you planning to build a deeper relationship with the readers?
The metro supplements have a huge amount of ground attraction in many ways independent of the campaign. You will find that there are a lot of intellectual properties that we have built over a period of time around the metro supplements, which continue to engage the younger audiences with the paper as well as editorial content – whether it is ‘Fresh Face’, etc., there are many such intellectual properties that we have on ground. If the question is are they tied up with the current campaign? Possibly not. But there will be a lot of ground events to engage people with our publications. 

What does the brand TOI stand for in today’s scenario? Are you strengthening the brand especially for the younger readers?
First let me answer the question as to what does TOI stand for. The Times of India, in my mind, is an institution and it stands for being a very solid source of validated and curated news. When I say ‘validated and curated’, I mean we are not in the business of breaking news anymore; at one time, maybe 30-40 years ago the newspaper was a medium of breaking news. Now you’ve got TV and digital that break the news. We do not carry a news report without validating it first. 

When I say curation, it means that our editors sit together and decide what is important for the nation, what is important for the reader, what is the news that must be proliferated. They decide how much importance we must give to different fields or different genres of news. That is curation. These are the two things that a newspaper does that the other mediums of news are unable to do because they are in the business of speed. That’s what I believe the newspaper stands for. 

We have a baseline for The Times of India that says ‘Change begets fear’, what that means is that every time we publish news on our publication and people consume content in our newspaper, we are disseminating information that is validated and curated, and it helps people form opinions and take sides on issues. Hence, the newspaper becomes a very powerful agent, first, as a chronicler of change, and secondly, as an enabler of change. That is what The Times of India stands for. 

The numbers in terms of demographics in this country are overwhelmingly in favour of the young. Unfortunately, with the social and technological changes that have happened across the globe, including India, the habit and culture of reading newspapers is fast losing traction with the young – be it school going children or college-goers. But I strongly believe that reading newspapers is a good habit, because it gives you an outlook that it is important to be informed and to be a good citizen of this country. To be a productive human being, information is vital and the newspaper reading habit creates a culture of being informed. It is the sacred duty of any newspaper to be able to inculcate this culture of being informed. We must chase the younger people and convince them that there is great value in reading a newspaper every day. 

What are your long term goals for TOI?
The entire organisation is working towards the goal of providing relevant, important information for the country. That is something about which we are very clear. We have got many initiatives planned out. We create the strong relevance of newspapers in every educated household in the country because we are an English newspaper. We go to a very thin slice of the upper crust of readers, but in that upper crust of Indian newspapers, we want to be the most relevant publication. That is something we are working towards. 

As per the latest Indian Readership Survey report, English print readership is on the decline, even as regional is growing at a faster pace. Is this campaign a way to draw in the readers towards English newspapers again?
This statistic is a global phenomenon. And yes, when we do a campaign, it is with the aim of retaining our readers and attracting new readers to our publications; that is certainly the reason why any marketing effort is done.


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