In the highly competitive English news-media market in India, The Hindu has a strong brand image — one that places emphasis on credibility and authenticity of news, a reputation that has been built over a period of 135 years.

This is backed by an award-winning team of journalists covering news as it happens across India and the world. The brand campaign “Stay Ahead of the Times” was part of our first large-scale advertising campaign. The communication strategy was to drive home the point that knowledge is cool.

It began with a series of three television commercials that used humour to show that it is not acceptable to be clueless. The commercials showed real people of all ages in different settings (like the workplace, at a sports bar, or on a college campus) grappling with questions about basic general knowledge or current events.

The advertisements show them struggling with those questions but responding confidently to the final question that was on celebrity trivia or gossip. The “undumb” campaign resonated with young India and the YouTube videos went viral — more than a million views were garnered in less than a week of its launch online.

Simultaneously, outdoor campaigns were launched across the four South Indian states.

The press ads featured a minimalist design with a single line of copy with messages such as “Sense. Not sensationalism,” “Also has pages 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7” (a tongue-in-cheek dig at the Page 3 trend), and “Space for business leaders, not cheerleaders.”

The press ad campaign received a unanimous thumbs-up from readers.

The “Stay Ahead” campaign’s greatest success was that it gathered power from evangelists of the brand. Some readers even created their own versions of the “undumb” campaign on social media sites like Facebook. Meanwhile, the number of fans on The Hindu’s official Facebook page surged from a measly 3,000 to roughly 720,000.

The last part of the campaign was BTL (below-the-line) activations in the cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad.

We engaged with shoppers in shopping malls, asking the same questions that were asked in the commercial. The correct answers we rewarded with mugs, caps, t-shirts, and other merchandise that had the “Stay Ahead” branding printed on them.

The advertising campaign, conceptualised by Ogilvy & Mather India, made a strong statement against the disturbing trend of “junk-food journalism” and the steady dumbing-down of news content.

It used an irreverent and youthful tone to show that knowledge is cool. It also solidified The Hindu’s position as one of the world’s most-respected media brands and an institution committed to keeping people informed of crucial current affairs and world events, while enabling them to make informed opinions on the issues that matter.

The Hindu retains its undisputed leadership position in South India’s English daily market and continues to have a stronghold in Chennai, where the campaign originated. Apart from the benefits to The Hindu’s brand, the campaign also resulted in a 4% increase in the net paid circulation of The Hindu.