Feature: Indians' reaction to speaking newspaper advertisement
Thursday, September 23, 2021 3:06 AM

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MUMBAI, Sep. 23, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- You lift your cup of tea and the newspaper in the morning and it starts to speak to you, you are bound to go into a tizzy.

On Sept. 21, Tuesday, citizens of India across cities in India viz: Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Chennai experienced something like this: they woke up to the shock and surprise of their daily newspaper speaking to them.

They stared blankly at it wondering where the sound came from and soon realized it was indeed the newspaper which was speaking, through a black-colored doo-hickey. The doo-hickey in question was actually a voice box, communicating about the new Volkswagen Vento.

The Times of India did succeed in becoming a talking point for carrying this innovative advertisement in its edition; in fact, the following day, the newspaper carried a report of how the " speaking advertisement, the first of its kind across the globe, unfolded shock and awe in the nation."

The Hindu, a newspaper with high readership in the southern part of India, also carried the same speaking advertisement.

The report notwithstanding, the speaking advertisement sparked myriad reactions among people across cities. Not only did it become the subject of discussion at coffee tables, office cubicles and water cooler areas but also on social media websites.

Users raved and ranted, fretted and fumed about the noise making advertisement -- expressing their reactions for and against it.

An advertisement that is innovative in nature is bound to be followed by a startle from readers, said the Times of India in its report. But, in this case, the ad. reportedly had to incur " unintended consequences" quoted the paper.

And that is not the whole story: "At many places, calls were made to the police with people suspecting the device was a bomb. Mahim in Mumbai witnessed a scare after a pedestrian heard a beeping sound coming from a garbage bin and alerted the police. A bomb squad reached the spot, near S. L. Raheja Hospital, and found that it was the audio ad."

According to an officer on duty, "someone had thrown the black audio device into the bin." added the newspaper, "and it was noticed as part of readiness-and-alert drills."

There are reports of spurious stories doing the rounds said the paper -- about how a maid thought the newspaper was actually a monster or a ghost.

While the company representing the ad. has been very upbeat with the response, with Lutz Kothe, head of marketing and PR, Volkswagen saying how overjoyed he is with the amount of curiosity generated about the car in the market, and which has been followed by a great deal of "enquiries about the car"; stalwarts from the advertising fraternity were not very kicked with the advertisement.

Ad. man Prahlad Kakkar called it "intrusive and unwelcome," disturbing the peace and solace associated with morning time.

The ad. by dint of it being unusual became noticeable but a common peeve that remained among people long after they figured it out after the first few seconds passed, was the muffled sounds emanating from the voice box.

The sound was loud enough, and therefore irritating, but it lacked clarity of speech and therefore missed out on presenting interesting facts about the car that perhaps could have been better underlined through a few lines on a print advertisement sans the sound.

What was most annoying was the lack of instruction regarding how to turn it off. A journalist working for The Times of India, who refused to be named, said: "I was trying to read the newspaper in peace but this gadget won't stop talking. I tried tapping but it still didn't.

J. G. Mathai, a former advertising agency professional, whose job was to service clients, could not contain his bias and excitement about the ad.

He gushed about the estimates, reportedly 30 million, according to the grapevine, and just for the Mumbai edition.

The social media was divided in its opinion about the ad -- most youngsters calling it innovative while some others unappealing. Renowned humorist Anand Ramachandran wrote on his Twitter account, "Did The Times of India really think their readers are so dumb that they can't read? A print ad with a voice- over that won't shut up? Where's my hammer?"

There were messages on Facebook user pages that spoke about people wondering how their ringtones got changed without their knowledge early in the morning while some one user ranted about " ripping the back of the device out, monkey-checking each part to make it stop talking."



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