The Cell, the in-house advertising film division of Network 18, has started producing ad films for other advertisers and advertising agencies in an attempt to leverage its expertise and low-cost production facilities to good effect.

The division was thus far producing advertising films only for Network 18’s platforms, including channels such as TV18 and Global Broadcast News’ IBN, and the brands advertising on these platforms.

Now, The Cell will offer “creative services to outside clients", a senior executive said.

While media firms such as NDTV Media, a subsidiary of New Delhi Television Ltd, and UTV Software Communications Ltd, have been providing media buying and selling services to third parties, this is the first time a mainstream media company has directly ventured into providing creative services to third parties.

According to Zubin Driver, creative director of The Cell, the trigger for the division to branch out on its own was its expertise in producing ad films. “We made significant investments in our production facilities ever since we came into being in 2002. Today, we have 38 graphic work stations, 14 editing systems and have recently invested over Rs1.5 crore in buying new machinery for production," he said.

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These facilities, he added, would help the division pitch its services to clients at much lower rates than those charged by other ad film makers. “Our production cost is almost one-third of the prevalent rates in the market, thanks to our advanced production facilities."

This pitch has already won the division some high-profile clients. It has been signed on by advertising agencies such as Lowe Lintas India Pvt. Ltd, Mudra Communications Pvt. Ltd and JWT India Ltd. It has also been engaged by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd for repackaging the campaign for its channel Zee Cinema.

“For the kind of work they are doing for one of our clients Neutrogena Corp. (a cosmetics company), we would have had to go to some agency in Singapore or Bangkok," said Tapan Sharma, producer, Mudra Communications. “Getting it done in India has helped us reduced our production cost by 20-30%." Mudra signed The Cell 10 days ago.

The Cell recently produced 20 short videos for the website of one of JWT’s leading clients PepsiCo India.

“We work with several ad film producers. But the good thing about The Cell is that besides their capabilities in new media, they have some 90 people in their team while other production houses have five or six," said Josy Paul, national creative director, JWT.

Media experts said the entry of an organized player into the business would help the industry. “The average cost of producing an ad film is around Rs30-50 lakhs. Big players didn’t venture into this space because of its limited revenue potential. The entry of an organized player will create more competition and push other players to innovate on the technological front," said Farokh Balsara, national sector leader, media and entertainment, Ernst and Young, an audit and consulting firm.

Network 18 is a diversified media company with interests in the broadcast, print, Internet, mobile and film production business.