Cinema, till recently, was known to be a product-driven business. Not any more. And there are far too many reasons for that. Indian consumers, who till some time ago mainly had films to entertain them, now have a myriad options to keep boredom at bay. Earlier, viewers would find a good film on their own, today the film has to find its viewers.
A firm marketing plan, along with a good script, fine directors and an appealing star-cast, thus, is becoming imperative for film producers. “Producers till recently were alien to the concept of five Ps of marketing. Whereas now, most production houses have management and marketing experts working for them with the sole mandate of selling films to their target audience,” says Sanjay Bhutiani, business director, BR Films. These management experts are now going about selling their films the way fast-moving consumer goods companies sell biscuits.
Marketing, obviously, requires huge spends and producers, who are hard-pressed for funds more often than not, find themselves unable to bear the burden. The necessity, however, is leading to some interesting innovations in marketing and selling.
Film marketers are not only finding new ways of taking their product to their target audience, they are making money out of it, too.
Did you recently notice Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai on the tube, singing a number from her film, Guru, while riding a bicycle? She was, in fact, promoting two brands through this act—one the Hero Group whose bicycle she was riding and the other, her own film, Guru. In a somewhat similar initiative, one of the country’s largest cement-manufacturing companies, JK Cement, used clippings of the multi-starrer film Eklavya in one of its recent TV commercials. There are, in fact, quite a few examples of brands tying up with films for one-off marketing or advertising campaigns. In some cases, the brands are a part of the film too, while in others, it is just a limited co-promotion exercise for the movie and the brand.
“This is a novel way of film promotion. Since brands need to be in constant communication mode with their end consumers, they advertise on popular media. Getting film stars, specially the big ones, always helps in standing out, but these stars command hefty price tags and small marketers, for sure, can’t afford them,” says Bhutiani.
Films, on the other hand, want to get on to popular media to reach mass consumers but they can’t afford it because of the prohibitive advertising rates. But they have what brands need—big stars and popular content that will help attract eyeballs. The duo, thus, complement each others’ requirements.
“Films’ association with brands gives the former an access to consumers by riding popular media and the latter, an opportunity to connect with consumers in an engaging way,” says Bhutiani.
And this is not all film marketers are doing to catch the consumers’ fancy. Navin Shah, chief executive officer of a film marketing house called P9 Integrated Pvt. Ltd, is one deal- maker who is helping producers (including those in his sister company, Percept Pictures) match brands with their film scripts in a way that it helps producers to generate additional revenues along with better marketing. “Today, film marketing is all about getting packed houses in the first week,” Shah says. “Producers’ monies are never going to be enough to market the film.” Film marketers, thus, need every trick up their sleeves to get talking to their target audience.
Interestingly, Bollywood producers spend less than 5% of their production budget on marketing, while their Hollywood counterparts spend anywhere between 15% and 20%, and in case of big a blockbuster such as Spiderman-2, producers end up spending almost 50% of their production budget on film promotion.
The spend may be lower in India, but they are growing by the day. “Marketing spends will grow in leaps and bounds simply because the entertainment business is becoming so competitive,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, vice-president, marketing and communications, UTV Motion Pictures. Adds film director Nikhil Advani: “Marketing, today, has become as important as getting a good script.”
An increasing number of producers are now talking about doing proper market research before launching their film in the market, the way an FMCG company would before it introduces a new product. For instance, Karan Johar, a leading producer and director, said he wanted to test the market to understand audience expectations and their likely reaction before he started production.
Film-makers today recognize that the success of their movie will increasingly hinge on their marketing efforts. Engaging brands in various ways is one way everyone seems quite focused on. Some producers are going in for branded entertainment, which is a euphemism for in-film placement of brands, while others are lending their content or stars to brands and, thereby, entering into co-branding and common advertising. “Some producers prefer a high-profile brand that pays nothing, but promises to spend on marketing the film through its own brand promotions,” says film producer Ritesh Sidhwani.
According to some estimates, the money poured into branded promotions alone is likely to double in 2007 to around Rs80-100 crore and further to around Rs200 crore in 2010.
Pranay Anthwal, general manager, Starcom Entertainment, says, “In many promotional tie-ins between movies and brands, the marketer picks up a part or all of the cost of promoting the movie and invests heavily in marketing the branded merchandise. In such exercises, not a single rupee might flow into the producer’s pocket as cash, but the deal is still very lucrative.”
Advertisers, on their part, seem quite enthused with these opportunities. While referring to their deal with Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd (Tata Motors’ bus features in the film), U.T. Ramprasad, head, marketing and communications, Tata Motors, says: “As a result of the tie-up, we have 12 stars endorsing our product practically free, a deal that worked out very well for us.” No wonder while two-three years ago, it was only colas, two-wheelers and alcohol brands that tied up with film scripts, now banking and finance, FMCG and lifestyle companies are also latching on to the concept. The new trend is that of brands entering into annual contracts with producers to tap opportunities across their projects.
All stakeholders agree that film marketing is far from realizing its potential. Shah says that money spent on Indian consumers’ other obsession, cricket, could be a good benchmark. By that measure, film marketing could become around 10 times bigger than what it is today.