Anubhav Mishra
Jan 07, 2019

Opinion: Paper or touchscreens? The challenges of advertising in India!

Has the print media lost its sheen? The author takes a peek into the future.

Opinion: Paper or touchscreens? The challenges of advertising in India!
Clark Kent, Kara Danvers, Peter Parker – what’s common among these three? You might have guessed it correctly that all three are alter-egos of famous superheroes: Superman, Supergirl and Spiderman (in that order). Many of you might have overlooked the interesting fact that all three work as journalists for their livelihood! Well, this is not a mere coincidence. The paper-based content (newspaper or magazines) has a strong power to attract and influence the audience. The fans of Harry Potter or Sidney Sheldon would vouch for the thrill and exhilarating experience of reading and facing the similar feelings of various characters of the story.
Moving from the fictional world to the real world of advertising, there is a strong perception specially among the younger generation that the paper-based media has lost its sheen. This article is about putting the old traditional paper-based media against the shiny swanky glass based media (digital) and analyse the two in the context of Indian market (consumers). In general, the perception is mainly due to the data and reports from the USA and other developed Western countries. However, the devil is in the details. The consumers in the developed world have very high percentage of internet access (penetration) and almost every teenager uses the Internet. In fact, the teens are facing the challenges of smartphone addictions. In comparison, the Internet penetration in India is not uniform and still a lot of work needs to be done to bridge the last mile connectivity. As per the recent report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the Internet penetration (2017) numbers are, Urban India 65% and Rural India 20%. It is also important to note that the majority of Indian population still lives in rural India and that is the market which holds the maximum potential for marketers as urban markets are reaching the saturation point.
Globally, the expenses on the mass media (TV and newspaper) are declining and diverted to digital media. The similar trends are visible in India but with one exception that in fact the overall pie of ad-budget for newspapers is increasing too! Of course, the budget allocation for digital is increasing by a much higher rate, but not at the expense of newspapers. What explains this unique trend? Well, it is all about reach and as hinted at the start of this article – power to sway public mood. For the numbers sake, the top newspaper in India is Hindi daily Dainik Jagran that reaches roughly 70 million people daily and the top magazine is India Today (English) which reaches around 8 million people. The regional and language diversity itself has many local strong newspapers and magazines. 
The fact that India runs on Bollywood and Cricket is not a new one. However, one fact which is mostly ignored is the longevity of discussion and the sources driving those discussions. If India beats Pakistan in a cricket match, the discussion doesn’t end at the Cricinfo, but continues at the roadside tea shops and gatherings at barber shops; and a significant source of the ongoing discussion is the newspaper in the shop which is read by many. In a similar vein, the ads also have certain opportunities to generate potential discussion about them among the consumers using the print media. 
Nevertheless, this does not decrease the importance of the new kid on the block that is digital media. The young population in India is the driving force behind the Internet economy. They are the ones having highest users on the social media, making online purchases and extensively discussing social issues online. So, it is imperative that the marketers need a strong digital presence to connect and engage with these consumers. This reflects in the fact that almost 11% of the total ad budget goes to digital media. 
Therefore, the paper and glass format should not be promoted at each other’s expense. The total ad budget is fixed and in many cases decreasing, so marketers have an enormous challenge to reach the target consumers who have distinct and fragmented media habits (e.g., Nagin, Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma, WWE, Sacred Games!). So, how to handle such complex consumers. The solution is to go back to basics and carefully map the target groups to respective media habits. Just assuming that everyone is on the Facebook or YouTube will destroy the marketing plans. Both the mediums should exist in harmony and the way forward is the clever integration. Some firms like Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen have already done innovative campaigns by integrating the print media with digital (smartphones) to provide wonderful communication and explanation of the new product features to end users. The innovative approach has transformed the boring one-way newspaper ads into a gamification experience where consumers actually enjoy the ad due to a direct and immersive engagement with the brand. The marketers should avoid falling into the trap of famous scene from Matrix movie about taking red pill OR blue pill. In fact, don’t take any pill and just focus on the correct facts and data. 
Ultimately whether people are reading news on newspaper or smartphone apps, that’s not the right question, the question is whether they are reading at all! (Elementary, my dear Watson!)
(The writer is an assistant professor – marketing,  Indian Institute of Management Ranchi)
Campaign India