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Scope of Innovation in Print Advertising

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On 16 April, 2000, The Times of India arrived on the doorsteps of millions of Indian households with its front page blank! It carried only the masthead, but no editorial. Blank!! That was the surprise of all surprises. It was our way of telling the world that the dot com revolution had arrived with the launch of indya.com. It took the country by shock! It hit newsreaders right between their disbelieving eyes. You couldn't help but notice it. Unbelievable, even to us! 

When we thought of the idea, we didn't use fancy words like 'innovation in print'. All we wanted to do was dominate the news! Take over everything. To shell-shock the world, to be remembered! Nobody had dared mess with the front page of Times of India until then. It took a great client like Sunil Lulla, the then CEO of Indya.com, to inspire, appreciate and see this idea right through. 

Today we see a lot of messy stuff on the front pages of most newspapers. These are not innovations, but desperations. If we want to truly break through, we'll have to do much better than what we currently see. More importantly, we'll have to have the inventive fire of a madman and the inspired blessing of a visionary client. Else all we'll get is paper pulp.

It is getting harder for advertising to stand out in print. Because editorial is so much more exciting. And it's being generated at the speed of life. So forget about creating print ads like we did before. We are competing with gripping news. And the only way to fight news is to make news. 

Which explains the work many of us have seen for Benetton a few years ago. The 'Unhate' campaign. It dared to create news. A childlike argument for peace and reconciliation, it created huge buzz. The big pictures of world leaders kissing each other in the print ads incited strong reactions. The campaign was withdrawn but the brand's point was made. The work won worldwide accolades and the Grand Prix at Cannes.

To truly innovate in print advertising, it's important to remember that we are not competing with other ads, we are competing with news. What's your news? If you have inspired guts, you'll find the answer. Innovation in print is not a topic of discussion. It's not an ad… it's an act!

(These are purely personal views of BBDO India chairman and chief creative office Josy Paul and Indiantelevision.com does not necessarily subscribe to these views.)

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