In the 2003 blockbuster Kal Ho Na Ho,Saif Ali Khan, playing an MBA student, trotted around with a Louis Vuitton briefcase. Three years later, in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, the lead stars Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukherjee, all portrayed as image-conscious New Yorkers, were seen swinging Louis Vuitton handbags and suitcases throughout the film. Then, in the season grand finale of a popular talk show on television Koffee with Karan, the brand appeared yet again as part of the coffee hamper that was given out to the guest on the show by host Karan Johar.
It is not just happenstance. Both the films and the popular show are produced by Dharma Productions, a television and film content production company run by Johar. “It is not a coincidence. We have signed a long-term deal with them (Louis Vuitton) to place their brand in our projects,” says a senior production executive of Dharma Productions.
He doesn’t want to be named because “the deal has not been made official” though he is quick to note that the brand will feature in upcoming films as well.
Tikka Shatrujit Singh, advisor to Louis Vuitton in India, is more forthright. “Our association with Karan Johar was based on the fact that his movies are always chic and feature leading actors. We think our brand has an obvious fit with his films,” he says. Singh says he feels this association has led to an increased visibility of the brand among its target audience. “These placements have helped us reach our consumers in a more affable way.”
Brand placements in films is not new. But brands entering into long-term deals certainly mark a new trend. “Thanks to the multiplex boom in the country, cinema viewing is on the rise among the young and hip crowd,” says Rahul Merchant, general manager, business development for P9 Integrated Pvt. Ltd, a film marketing company owned by Percept Holdings Co. “This set of viewers is extremely difficult to catch on regular media platforms. Hence, the rush among marketers to pitch their brands in popular films.”
Long-term bulk deals, according to industry players, are on the rise becasuse these are cost-effective and efficient investments for both parties. “Not only do such deals allow advertisers to get a better price on their placements in films, they also allow usually cash-strapped film production houses to raise funds,” says Navin Shah, CEO of P9.
Adlabs Films Ltd, another leading Indian film production company, recently signed a deal with MTV under which various MTV brands will be placed in their upcoming projects. Similarly, Bournvita and Hero Honda showed up in bothKoi Mil Gaya and Krishh, both films from producer and director Rakesh Roshan.
Meanwhile, Johar seems to have firmly latched on to the trend. Last week, he signed a long-term deal with Alfred Dunhill Ltd, a UK-based men’s luxury and lifestyle company, to serve as its brand ambassador in India. The deal also involved featuring the brand in Johar’s movies and TV shows.
Others too are racing to do such deals. “We are working towards signing bulk deals with Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd for the next year-and-a-half,” says M.K. Machaiah, senior business director, Mindshare, a media buying house.
Another factor fuelling the trend is the increasing professionalism and consistency in the film production business. “Earlier, a production house released one or two projects in a year. Yet there used to be uncertainty about their release. Whereas now, most leading production houses have five to six projects in the pipeline at any given point,” says a senior executive from Yash Raj Films who didn’t want his name used. “This presents a good business opportunity to create long-term relationships with major advertisers.”
Industry executives were unwilling to disclose specific terms of such bulk deals saying there is no single formula. Prices usually depend on the extent of brand involvementwith a film, though media buyers say the bigger deals have been in the Rs3-4 crore range.
Branded entertainment has gradually evolved into an organized industry, which today is estimated to be around Rs200 crore. “It is likely to grow to Rs800 crore by 2010,” says P9’s Shah. For producers, it’s a welcome trend as it helps them shore up funds. For instance, a tie-up with brands such as General Motors, Castrol GTX and Goodyear in Ta Ra Rum Pum helped the producer take care of 10% of his production budget.
(Gouri Shah in Mumbai contributed to this story.)