Why wouldn’t Big Bazaar make the most of India’s languages?

On January 22nd, Big Bazaar released full-page (and front-page) ads in The Times of India for their Republic Day sale. It was a multi-edition advertising blitzkrieg as usual, but some of the nuances are worth observing and pondering about.

I opened my newspaper, in Bengaluru, and noticed an English headline. It seemed perfectly normal – it is an English newspaper after all. I then decided to zoom out and look at the broader choice of languages and media by Big Bazaar and its agency.

When you look at all the ads together, in one canvas, the simple difference is stark – the 4 Southern editions have English headlines. The rest of the editions, across West (Ahmedabad, Mumbai), East (Kolkata) and North (Delhi) all have Hindi headline written in English/Roman script.

The connecting glue is English (script), no doubt, given that The Times of India is an English newspaper, but for some reason, Big Bazaar and its agency presumes that talking in Hindi (albeit using English/Roman script) is a better way to connect with the readers in cities like Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata.

This is a mild improvement over the earlier, utterly bizarre idea of using Hindi (written in English/Roman script) for all of India. So, that progress is worth celebrating!

But what is rather odd is that Big Bazaar has local language versions of the headline in regional language newspapers – Tamil headline in Dinakaran, Gujarati headline in Sandesh, Odia headline in Sambad, Hindi (written in Hindi script) in Nav Bharat Times, Bangla headline in Ei Samay, Telugu headline in Eenadu and Marathi headline in Maharastra Times, for instance. I assume there may be Malayalam and Kannada versions too, though I couldn’t find the right newspapers this ad may have appeared in, yesterday using free e-paper editions online.

All this evokes quite a few questions! Here we go:

1/ Within English newspapers (Times of India), considering this is a multi-edition campaign, why did they go with only 2 languages as options for the headline – Hindi for North, East and West, and English for the 4 Southern editions?

2/ Related to that first question: if the reason for using a Hindi headline in say Mumbai or Delhi is to connect with people better, and more emotionally, in those cities, why not Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada or Telugu headlines using English/Roman script in the 4 Southern editions? After all, they do have those headline options already in place for regional language newspapers, so the translation is not a concern, I presume.

3/ Was Big Bazaar constrained by the cost of insertions? That is… if they have 4 different ad ‘creatives’ for South, does the cost go significantly higher overall? Right now, they have only 2 variants for The Times of India – Hindi (written in English script) and English. If the other major languages are covered (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati and Bangla, to begin with), the total individual variants would be 8, plus English for other regions.

But, look at this on the back of this already being a mega advertising blitzkrieg – I presume that such cost would be incremental, not substantial, at least in The Times of India where economies of scale and the power of Big Bazaar as a large, consistent advertiser would give them a huge option to negotiate better.

4/ Is Big Bazaar assuming that the readers in the 4 Southern states are far more equipped to understand, like and be influenced by an English headline? Contrarily, do they also presume that readers in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are less equipped to understand, like or be influenced by an English headline? That they need to be told the same thing in Hindi (even for Ahmedabad, where Gujarati takes primacy; for Mumbai, where Marathi takes primacy and Kolkata, where Bangla takes primacy) written in English/Roman script instead of simply using the language of the newspaper?

5/ Big Bazaar cannot use the cost of translation as an excuse anyway since they do have regional language versions of the headline for the regional language newspapers. But, for some reason, when it comes to English newspapers, they do not stick to the same logic and end up using a Hindi headline written in English/Roman script. Why?

Related posts:
1/ Why should Hindi written in English be the pan-India norm in advertising?
2/ Indian brands must move from Hinglish to Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam — Quartz India

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