Spotlight | Forcing audiences to think about the ‘why’

Spotlight | Forcing audiences to think about the ‘why’

Company: The Economist Newspaper Ltd

Brand: ‘The Economist’

Campaign: Interpret the world

Target audience: Existing and potential readers of ‘The Economist’. According to the newspaper, its target audience is united less by age, demographics or income, and more by how it thinks and how it looks at things beyond the usual. It’s more interested in “why" than “what"

Agency: Ogilvy and Mather India Pvt. Ltd

What they did:The Economist team wanted a campaign that could best reflect the quality of content it is known for, including its in-depth analysis and incisive coverage of international news.

Therefore, the campaign too had to be something that could go beyond the regular one-line slogan and actually make the audience think and interpret what it reads. So after several brainstorming sessions, Ogilvy and Mather came out with a campaign that features international news headlines written in English, but stylized in such a way that they appear to be in a different language. For instance, a billboard may sport a headline which appears at first glance to be written in the Chinese script, but on close inspection, a reader will realize that it is in English.

“The solution was to write intelligent and intriguing headlines which would force people to think like The Economist," says Sumanto Chattopadhyay, executive creative director, Ogilvy and Mather. “When presented with an ad from this campaign, a person would have to make two leaps: Realize that the seemingly foreign script he is looking at is actually simple English. And understand which piece of international news the headline actually refers to."

How they did it: Once the idea was in place for the campaign, it went live on 27 April for three weeks. Primarily, outdoor and digital media were used. The campaign for The Economist has traditionally been outdoor-focused.

The result: Traffic on the newspaper’s website during the campaign period increased by 61% over the previous month. The site saw 200,000 hits over this period.


What the experts say: For the past two decades, the campaign for ‘The Economist’ has been known for its visual wit. The bright red background the brand is usually shown against in the ads may just feature a key but you know there’s something to it, says Kiran Khalap, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. “There was a campaign where bus stands painted in red had a light bulb which would turn on the minute someone passed it. So their pictures have indeed spoken a thousand words," he says. “In India, their first campaign followed this tradition, but this one seems to have missed a step."

In the earlier campaign (which featured an object on one side and the interpretation of the same on the other), the reader could decipher the visual wit, but in this campaign one is just straining to decipher the letters, says Khalap. “If this was a print campaign, it would still work because the reader has the time to find out what it means, but as a primarily outdoor campaign, a passer-by may not have the time to figure out what the ads mean."

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