An inclusive campaign addressing the exclusion of many women from Kolkata’s largest festival helped change the perception of the Times of India in West Bengal.

The Times of India is the country’s largest English language newspaper, but it trailed in Kolkata, and a couple of years ago sought to shift the needle on readership.

“The brief was, can you do something in which we would be seen as a Bengali newspaper, a newspaper that belonged to the Bengali that they take pride in it,” FCB Ulka’s chief creative officer Swati Bhattacharya told a recent Sydney conference.

And, she added, she wanted to do it with women “because I felt none of the newspaper campaigns in my country has ever spoken to women”. (For more, read WARC’s report: By empowering women, Times of India became the top newspaper in Kolkata.)

She chose to align with Durga Puja, the Hindu festival that runs for five days each October and which, she explained, “is basically Christmas for Bengalis”.

And, more specifically, the final day of the festival when a tradition celebrating married women (who wear a red dot on their forehead) sees them apply vermillion colour to each other’s faces – Sindoor Khela.

This tradition excludes divorcees, widows, sex workers and trans women, however, and the idea of two red dots as a symbol of sisterhood became the entry point to changing the very nature of the festival’s last day.

The newspaper partnered with the largest festival organisations and sent out invitations to the excluded groups as part of its Sindoor Khela – No Conditions Apply campaign.

In four weeks, the Times of India amassed US$912,335 in earned media, reaching 708 million people, and became the top trending topic on social media with 3 million comments and thousands of two-dot selfies.

“I’ve never seen that in my career and not even one troll,” said Bhattacharya.

Sourced from WARC