The provocation for this post is Paritosh Joshi’s (www.twitter.com/ParitoshZero) tweet on irritating Times of India half covers.
The innocuous tweet flew all over twitterland with all responses agreeing with Paritosh’s original tweet: “Will someone please tell ToI these HALF-covers are FULL irritation? Or don't paying readers matter?”
You can go to Paritosh’s twitter page and read all the exchanges.
About a decade ago, I was heading the Mumbai and Pune offices of TBWA India. One of the big wins of the office, then, was the CNBC TV18 account.
The team on the client side was very, very small, and the first meetings used to feature just two from the client and five or six from the agency.
Amongst other facets and highlights of the channel that we discussed was the fact that the screen was so ugly:
There were multiple stickers at the bottom, traveling at different speeds. There were multiple stacks left and right of the screen, moving rapidly in market hours. And then you had the picture-in-picture of various guests being interviewed.
We discussed the level of irritation to the viewer – and decided that the viewer would suffer the irritation, even ignore the irritation, because he profits from watching the channel.
A decade later, a lot of what CNBC TV18 introduced to Indian TV – such as the inset screen with an L shaped ‘ad’ framing the screen – have moved from business television to sport. We see a lot of it during the ICC WC broadcast by ESPN STAR.
The same intrusion or innovation grates and irritates on live cricket, far more than it does during market hours on any business news channel – because the viewer is not willing to suffer the offending piece of communication – because he doesn’t really profit from it.
Try the same ‘innovation’ on a GEC and the channel will have hell to pay; because while there might be some ‘profit’ from watching live sport, there is none, whatsoever, in watching a saas-bahu serial.
Getting back to Paritosh’s tweet, this is not so much about the intrusion by the advertisement as the physical pain of being able to handle the newspaper (and I must add, in fairness to ToI, that every major newspaper sells this ‘innovation’, not just the ToI).
Here, too, the argument of the profit motive works; the same innovation in Bombay Times or a supplement would not irritate as much as in the main paper.
There are a number of innovations which, arguably, are as impactful, without the irritation factor. Take yesterday’s front page of The Economic Times, for example.
What ad sales teams (and marketers) should be doing is to test on the irritation levels of proposed communication – and to check what can be done to lower such levels.
The half page innovation irritates, for example, not because of the intrusion (then the ET ad would, as well), but because of the difficult readers go through handling a newspaper with such an innovation.
The same half cover does not irritate in Campaign India – because the page is part of a centre-pinned magazine.
Can newspapers figure out a way for the handling to be as easy despite the half cover? It’s looking for an answer to questions such as this that will stop reader irritation – and deliver big for the advertiser.
The first step, however, must be taken: accepting that the reader is irritated.