Brand investment in webisodes rises by 30-40%: FremantleMedia

In the last few years, the web series format has been increasingly catching the attention of audiences with popular shows

New Delhi: British television company FremantleMedia has signed five brand deals for its first interactive web series—Confessions—in India. The total worth of these tie-ups is estimated between Rs.1.5-1.9 crore, a rise of nearly 30-40% from what shows of the kind could command a year ago, said Ron Crasto, senior vice-president, brand licensing and digital (South Asia), FremantleMedia.

In the last few years, the web series format has been increasingly catching the attention of audiences with popular shows, for instance, by The Viral Fever (TVF), easily getting over a million views on the day of premiere itself. More brands are therefore looking at sponsorships and active integrations with such series.

For instance, Fremantle that has worked on television shows like Indian Idol, India’s Got Talent and Savdhan India in the past, has partnered with fashion portal Myntra as presenting sponsor for Confessions. Associate sponsors include car brand Nano GenX, female grooming brand Gillette Venus and digital music distributor Saavn.

“The web series formula is a little over two years old in India and the market has really galloped since then with phenomenal response from the audiences and the opportunity for seamless integration for brands,” said Manish Aggarwal—vice president, marketing and head of monetization, Myntra. “Increasing eyeballs and advertiser interest has resulted in the quality of the content going up by many notches and today brands like us are on the active look-out to partner with such formats.”

To be sure, there are several other instances of a web series finding active brand partnership. TVF had tied up with real estate platform Commonfloor for its situational comedy Permanent Roommates and earlier, with online recharge platform FreeCharge for its show Emotional Atyachar. Y-Films, the youth division of Yash Raj Films had also partnered with cosmetics brand Lakme and Karol Bagh Saree House (KBSH) for its satirical wedding series Bang Baaja Baraat last year.

“A lot of brands, especially those that are youth-centric, are open to the idea of investing in a web series as they feel the users they are targeting will be interested in this genre,” said Muddassar Memon, director-creative, iProspect Communicate 2, the digital performance agency of Dentsu Aegis Network. “Further, in comparison to films and television commercials, web series are faster and more affordable to produce. There is no constraint on locations and models. The key thing for a web series to become a hit or to go viral is a great storyline.”

Memon added that the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, in general, has shown greater interest in investing online though the medium should work just as well for the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) industry.

The growing interest in partnering with web series is evident in the ad rates that brands are willing to pay. From partnerships estimated around Rs.1.5 lakh for an average webisode four years ago, the makers are now in a position to command anything between at least Rs.15-20 lakh or for even up to a crore for someone like TVF.

“I think the brand market is increasingly looking at experimenting with money on digital platforms along with traditional media like television,” said Crasto. “It is quite receptive to associating with something that is both socially engaging, like on platforms such as Facebook and brings returns on investment at the same time.”

However, despite the fact that web series offer the perpetual advantage of the brand staying alive online forever, there is still a propensity to favour television commercials, only 10% of whose budgets these shows are currently able to command. Plus, for most, there is the challenge to integrate the brand smartly into the content because the current proportion of direct sponsors to in-show placements stands at a ratio of 80:20.

Fremantle’s Confessions makes an attempt to integrate car company Nano GenX into the plot when a character is gifted one by her father as part of the narrative. TVF had done something on the same lines with Airtel for its show Tech Conversations With Dad. “We think of stories first and then pitch to suitable brands. It has to be done in a way that the brand doesn’t stick out. And that is the toughest form of writing,” said Arunabh Kumar, founder and chief executive officer, The Viral Fever and TVF Media Labs.

Kumar added that title sponsorship is just a passive way of partnering with a web series. Real integration happens when the writers invest time in helping the brand become part of the story. And that, along with competition from television commercials, still makes for a tough road for the web series.

“There has been an initial (upward) curve but it will taper down because there are so many content players. Plus, we’re only starting out. We need to wait for at least 20 more web series to come up with such integrations before we talk about value growth,” he said.

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