‘THE GUTENBERG GALAXY’- A good initiative by IAA

By | September 29, 2018


“The Gutenberg – A Book on Case Studies in Print Advertising”  launched by IAA India Chapter aims to make a point. It has 24 print-centric case studies and 14 interesting articles.

I appreciate the effort and the intent behind it.  I am biased as I failed to launch a similar initiative when I was with  Dainik Bhaskar.  Though the group did work on an initiative like  MOSAIC– a collection of best of Print in India’ for few editions.

I know the problems such projects face. The quality filters one start with, slowly become constraining. Political neutrality and egos come into consideration. The concept gets tweaked, and plans were redrawn to accommodate new thinking. However, one can’t fault the intent.


The book “The Gutenberg Galaxy’ focuses on the print media. Many young marketers and myopic media planners enamoured with screens of different sizes have prematurely written off and buried it many times. It not only survives but also thrives with growth in circulation and readership.

Fortunately, in the media, life is never binary. It’s never an either-or situation.  Traditional media along with new media will continue to grow for a long time. The technology change spurring the growth in digital will also affect the traditional media not necessarily in a negative way.

Print media has enough power to deliver beyond expectations. What it lacks is the existence of enough willing minds to see it from a new perspective. It needs collective thinking. If media agencies and the marketers involve print owners and custodians in the creative process, they will have brilliant results to show. Trust the media owners are waiting for such opportunities.


‘The Gutenberg Galaxy’ is wrongly tagged as a collector’s item, a  coffee table book! Maybe, if it was conceptualised as a reference book, the format and perhaps the content would have been curated differently. However, I am not complaining.

Print suffers from a collective apathy of creative teams. It stopped being glamorous, exciting and buzzy. When the slide started, media owners failed to recognise the enormity of the situation. They refused to see it as their problem.

Today, the print industry stares at an exploding negative spiral triggered by ineffective print advertising.  It inevitably has been downgraded to sales, discount and offers. No one sees the potential and it possibly contributing to the brand building process.

Print industry needs to come together and collaborate. They need to see the future, not as my brand vs other brands but print as a media. The noticeable absence of large turnout of print media owners and professionals at the launch of Gutenberg Galaxy demonstrates it.

Does ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy’ represent the ultimate?

‘The Gutenberg Galaxy’ does not represent the best of print. There is some serious flaw in the process of collecting, curating and selecting of the featured case.

Each of the 14 articles by media, marketing and creative dons are interesting and appealing. They are what the audience seek, strong personal views. However, something is missing. Maybe I have far higher expectations from authored articles in a collector’s item.

Article after article you get to read familiar thoughts. There are no surprises. The immediacy factor, focussed localised readership, high topical value, minimalism, smacking content, leverage print, the best medium for the call for action and content integration. Growing circulation on the back of increasing literacy.

Print media was trustworthy, believable and credible. Its identity has eroded in recent times. It is in the best interest of media owners to collectively address the issue, or there will be nothing left to fight for.


The over-dependence on advertising with stagnant cover price is an issue. It gets amplified when the reader fails to find rich engaging exclusive content. Newspapers today are too many pages of not-so-relevant articles, biased news items, and skewed thinking. It adds to an unnatural pressure on the sales team and decreases the publication capability to say ‘No’ to unreasonable demands from advertisers and agencies.

Moreover, the print industry has been sticking to the old approach to space selling. The print owners have been least innovative in pricing strategies. They still expect an annual rate hike in a scenario where the marketers perceive decreasing effectiveness and returns for their investment. They have built around themselves the complex, confusing grid of non-transparent revenue models and differential pricing. Maybe they should seriously pay attention to what Sam Balsara wrote in his article published in the book (also carried on MxMIndia on September 24).

Observations on ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy’.

To showcase the brilliant use of print, it needs to be a lot more ruthless in the filters it uses to select the content.

It is interesting to note the range of brand featured in the case studies. Agriculture: Mahindra Agri. Automobile: Tata Motors featured thrice with Nexon, Zest and Tiago. Banking: BOB, IDBI and SBI. Clothing: S.O.I.E and  Fuel. Confectionary: Mondelez. CSR:  Greenpeace Durables. Ion Exchange. Education: NPAT. FMCG: HUL featured thrice: Comfort, Dove and Rin. Media:- Two examples of ‘Star Sports’ with a very similar approach and Times Group Mobile: Huawei. Paints: Asian Paints. Real Estate: Kanakia. Others: Technical drying Services and Western Railways.

More interesting is the list of participating agencies. Congratulations to Cornerstone Communication, Deadline Advertising, FCB Ulka (two examples), Goldmine Advertising, Inter Publicity (two examples), Madison, McCann Worldgroup, Mindshare (five cases), Motivator, Ratan Batra, Ronak & Thinkers, Sai Advertising, Taproot, Starcom and Ventures Advertising.  I don’t think I have to stress the point.

The articles by Ajay Kakar, Amar Jaleel,  Anupriya Acharya, Ashish Bhasin, Chandra P Dhobal, Lakshmi Narasimhan, Karthi Marshan, Nandini Dias, Ravindra Pai, Shashi Sinha, Santosh Padhy, S Narshiman and  Vikram Sakhuja are interesting. They appear in the same alphabetical order (interspersed with cases) in the book.

There is no link between the articles and the cases. It affects the experience.  However, what I miss most is lack of articles by an important stakeholder in the print ecosystem: the clients.

The future of ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy’.

The next edition is planned for 2020.

I hope it will be far richer, invasive and inclusive with global cases too. I hope it becomes Industry reference. For that to happen, the team must rethink format, content and distribution. The project team must be ruthlessly quality conscious in what finally makes to the next edition.

The real success is when the marketers ask their agencies, why their work failed to make to ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy’. Otherwise, we all know, what happens of coffee table books.