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Spotlight | The Economist: Dumbing down

Spotlight | The Economist: Dumbing down
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First Published: Sat, May 15 2010. 12 30 AM IST

Visible corrosion: Suthan.
Visible corrosion: Suthan.
Updated: Sat, May 15 2010. 11 58 AM IST
Reviewer:Prathap Suthan
Visible corrosion: Suthan.
With over 20 years of experience in the advertising industry, Prathap Suthan, national creative director, Cheil Worldwide, is best known for his India Shining ads. Suthan has also worked with brands such as Reliance Industries and General Motors.
CAMPAIGN: The television ads feature Chinese children learning Hindi. The ad ends with the line, “China exports workforce to its plants in India”.
What did you think of the campaign?
First off, this isn’t The Economist white-out-of-red advertising that I know, respect, admire and have blatantly letched at all these years. There seems to be a deliberate broad-basing and psychographic downscaling of the target audience. The Economist advertising has always been cranial. The brand has always been clever, witty and intelligent. Together, those genes made the brand aspirational. By lowering the loftiness of the brand, there will be visible corrosion among those who swear by the brand. But for newbie readers, these films look straight out of National Geographic, or a Discovery infomercial, or factoid. Nothing scathingly brilliant, nothing immensely deep, nothing that challenges the viewer to think. Interpreting the world by itself is an intellectually imbued line, but these aren’t interpreting anything. It’s giving me facts I already know and have digested. Bob (Shashanka Chaturvedi of Good Morning Films) has directed the films well. But I have an issue with the locations and casting. The Chinese film looks like it was shot in Ladakh. On the authenticity front, that’s bad news for The Economist.
What can print media brands do to stay relevant?
Authenticity issues: The Chinese film looks like it was shot in Ladakh.
Personally, print brands should stay away from television. If print is powerful, print alone should be able to build a brand. Why lean on another medium’s crutches? Print media, once and for all, will not go extinct. There’s a sense of credibility for the printed word. Besides, it sort of connects me to a more assured, comforting and convenient world, where I use my faculties to imagine, analyse and discover my own opinion. Iconic print brands ought to see light and merit in its own strengths, and not underline their weaknesses.
What’s your favourite print media campaign?
The brilliant and original Economist print campaign from David Abbott. “I never read The Economist”, “Our burrowings could reduce your borrowings”. Plus, a few others like “Leave no answer unquestioned”, “errorism”. These ads have always?given?you?space?to?think,?and?never?has?the?brand?ever regretted?its?position?or?attitude.?Then?there’s?Neil?French’s?XO Beer campaign for The Straits Times which launched a fictitious beer just to showcase the power of print advertising.
As told to Gouri Shah.
gouri.s@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, May 15 2010. 12 30 AM IST