Rishi Kapoor rode a yellow Rajdoot bike in Raj Kapoor’s film Bobby in 1973 and kick-started a phenomenon in Indian film industry called in-film placements. Thirty four years later, a new film, Ta Ra Rum Pum, produced by Aditya Chopra, has taken the phenomenon to another level.
The Chevrolet Aveo that the hero, Saif Ali Khan, drives in the film, is part of an endorsement-cum-marketing package estimated at Rs2.5 crore. And that is one-tenth of the Rs25 crore that went into making the film. Then, General Motors (GM) is not the only company Yash Raj Films has signed for the movie. The 165-minute film devoted 100 minutes to two more brands—Castrol GTX and Goodyear—in addition to Chevrolet Aveo.
Though such extensive exposure to brands in a film is a first in India, film marketing on the back of brands has gradually been gaining currency in Bollywood. In some films, producers are generating almost 5-10% of their production and marketing cost through innovative tie-ups with brands. In 2006, in-film placements accounted for Rs600 crore, almost 13% of the Rs4,650 crore jotted up in ticket sales. This growing trend makes sound business sense for both the film-makers and the advertisers. Such partnerships help film producers, who are always hard-pressed for cash, raise some extra dough and they also take care of their marketing and advertising needs. For brands, it is an opportunity to cash in on the popularity of big film actors, who would have charged high fees if they were to engage them individually.
“Marketing and advertising are a must for brands, whereas for films, it is a recent necessity. In an overcrowded media environment, films need to reach out to their target audience, instead of waiting for them to come to the cinema halls,” says Rajeev Berry, general manager, content and entertainment, Mindshare, which handles the advertising account for Castrol. “Such engagements between films and brands, thus, present a win-win situation for both,” he adds.
For Ta Ra Rum Pum’s producer, it is definitely a winning proposition. With a storyline trailing a struggling National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (Nascar) driver, Chopra didn’t have to think too hard to approach GM, who is one of the sponsors for Nascar. In fact, the lead cast of the film, Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee, are brand endorsers for GM in India. The script also seemed quite suitable for featuring brands such as Castrol GTX and Goodyear.
The result: Chopra’s entire marketing requirements were taken care of by these brands. What followed was a series of TV commercials, radio jingles, print advertisements, contests and quizzes around the film, its cast and Nascar on the Internet and extensive on-ground events. The hype thus generated by the brands’ integrated marketing approach helped the movie get a lot of attention.
It was certainly not by default that the target audience of the film and the brands was the same. So, Yash Raj Films could well afford not to spend another Rs10-12 crore on marketing the film. Whether it was a TV ad for Aveo, a radio commercial for Castrol GTX, or getting one’s tyres changed at a Goodyear outlet, there was only one message all across: Watch Ta Ra Rum Pum. “How often do you see a movie being promoted on so many platforms?” asks Tejasweni Aparnji, deputy general manager, Branding Entertainment. “The movie and the brands are trying to build an association here, not a one-off product placement,” she adds.
The surrogate advertising was the icing on the cake. The cake here being the contribution the endorsement made to the film budget. “GM, the primary sponsor, signed the agreement for Rs1.5 crore, Goodyear paid Rs1 crore, and Castrol GTX Rs70 lakh,” says a Yash Raj Films official involved in marketing the film. “Yash Raj Films approached us a year ago,” says Anisha Motwani, director, marketing, GM India. “And since the movie is about racing, the collaboration was seamless,” she adds.
The seamless blend of content and brands, however, seems too clever to some. Ravi Kiran, CEO of Southeast Asia, Starcom Worldwide, says, “It would appear that the only reason Aveo has featured in the movie is because the two stars happen to be the brand’s models.” A suggestion Yash Raj Films denies vehemently.
Others, such as Berry, think it is a good idea to tailor content for endorsements. “The partnership between commerce and content should be taken to new heights, and it will not be surprising if scripts are written bearing advertisers in mind.” He believes that in Ta Ra Rum Pum, however, the brands were woven into the script and didn’t appear like an ad. Whether it is a chance synergy or an artificial one, it has certainly worked for the sponsors. For unexciting products such as tyres and engine oil, attaching faces of superstars is a huge aid to brand recall. “Just to sign Rani or Saif as brand ambassadors, it costs about Rs2 crore each,” says Aparnji.
Also, TV ads of these three brands are extracts from the film. Instead of the Rs30 lakh it would have cost to produce a TV commercial, the brands had to shell out just Rs7 lakh to put together footage from the film. “We’ve made a 30-second commercial for Goodyear from the footage,” says Sushant Panda, director, Euro RSCG, the agency that handles the Goodyear account.
Goodyear has devoted a whopping 60% of its Rs20 crore ad budget to promote this film. Apart from TV, its campaign includes a radio tie-up with Big FM and a vigorous outdoor initiative. Goodyear outlets have been redesigned to resemble racetracks sporting posters of the actors. “One can also see Goodyear’s commercials in the cinema halls—like a curtain raiser, right before the film begins,” says Mahesh Krishnan, sales and marketing director, Goodyear.
Chevrolet Aveo’s strategy is on the same lines. Its 30-second TV ad ends with the tagline, Aveo ke sung, Ta Ra Rum Pum, while announcing the on-going promotions which include a contest. The winners, predictably, will receive a new Chevrolet Aveo.
This promotional overdrive is not a given for all films though. Aveo is also the official sponsor for Sagar Ballary’s film, Bheja Fry, but GM has not promoted Bheja Fry beyond the movie sets. “Unlike other movies, Ta Ra Rum Pum is about cars, so promoting the brand across media is a good fit,” says Motwani.
Castrol GTX has spread its ad net to the Internet. Apart from spending more than 75% of its ad budget on TV, it has allocated 5% to online campaigns. The company has been involved in in-film placements with movies that include any form of car racing, including the recent Rohit Shetty film, Golmaal.
So, did this pooling in work or did it lead to a clutter? Three brands riding a movie that has its own story to tell can get confusing. Whether its Khan’s racing gear, or the car, the logos of Chevrolet, Castrol GTX and Goodyear are inches apart. Aparnji, however, is optimistic. The product categories differ, she says, and so the messages will be delivered separately. “The message each brand is sending out is different and the director has successfully integrated them so viewers will not be confused,” she adds.
What hasn’t worked all that well is Ta Ra Rum Pum. The movie opened on 29 April with 50% collection. And though it went up to 90% during the weekend in Delhi and Mumbai, it slipped to 35% thereafter. But ticket sales don’t bother advertisers who, believe they have got their money’s worth. Krishnan says, “We got our mileage out of the fact that Saif wins the race on Goodyear tyres,” he said.
“If it was a mere product placement, then a flop would have meant the brands losing out on visibility,” explains Aparnji. “But in Ta Ra Rum Pum, one doesn’t have to be in a theatre to see the association between the brands and the movie. It works well for the advertisers.”
If it does work for advertisers, it is good news for Bollywood, too. After all, it is all a matter of riding the same brandwagon.