New Delhi: For its upcoming action film Baaghi 2, slated to release at the end of this month, Fox Star Studios doesn’t want to restrict itself to traditional marketing techniques. The movie production and distribution company is looking at new-age technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), listening tools, audience mapping and particularly chatbots or software that can interact with humans via textual or auditory methods to reach out to fans for the Tiger Shroff-starrer.
“The chatbot is a step forward to nurture and grow a highly engaged movie audience film after film, thereby refining our understanding of this target group through their consumer journey. As a studio, we’re drifting away from metrics like views and likes or dislikes only but are steering towards a holistic view of audience engagement through defined performance indicators that include volume of conversations, time spent across film assets, genre affinity and sharper audience personas," said Shikha Kapur, chief marketing officer, Fox Star Studios about the initiative developed in consultation with Baaghi 2 producer Sajid Nadiadwala.
What Kapur called a six- to seven-month agenda for the studio would begin with Baaghi 2.
The Baaghi 2 promotional material gives out a mobile number that users are invited to call on, after which they get an SMS link that takes them to the chatbot hosted on Facebook Messenger where there are quizzes, songs, dialogue promos and other engagement options. All of Fox Star Studio’s social media profiles including YouTube links and its Twitter handle are on the bot, and a like or share or comment on any material from users gives them points on a social leadership board which displays activities of all consumers engaged across the world. Additional points are offered if users agree to link their social media profile, further enabling the studio to map their likes and activities beyond cinema.
Fox won’t let users go after the Baaghi campaign is over.
“At the heart of gamification is engagement, and at the core of this idea is the simplicity through which one can empower real participation by gamifying a campaign and creating a personal relationship with the audience. We intend to grow this relationship film on film by continuing to deepen our understating of user behaviour," Kapur said.
The future, she added, is personalization and activities like these will help them customize creatives for specific audiences. Their trailers, for instance, will have varied versions and will be pitched accordingly to different affinity groups. Seeing how digital is poised to change everything movie marketers do, this is an important step towards digital analytics, data and audience insights that can help create campaigns. Besides, a strategic partnership with digital payment brand Paytm will enable the studio to map users’ activities and track how many consumers actually converted into ticket-buying audiences.
To be sure, new-age technologies like chatbots may be uncommon for Bollywood but tools like virtual reality and artificial intelligence have long gained prominence in other arenas like automobile and financial technology. Vivek Krishnani, managing director, Sony Pictures Entertainment, India, pointed out that the international studio had brought an immersive reality experience for its 2016 science fiction action film Resident Evil: Final Chapter through a game based on the Haptic technology that allowed users wearing virtual reality glasses to participate in a zombie attack. Sony also used chatbots for audiences to interact with a character called Red Queen from the film.
“Movies are an audio-visual experience where the audience is sucked into a world for two hours and becomes part of the story. The use of technology helps in going beyond the kind of monotonous marketing that most movies explore and involve fans in an engaging manner giving them a taste of the cinematic experience that lies in store," Krishnani said.
To be sure, most industry experts agree that new-age technologies like chatbots are just an addition to the growing sphere of movie marketing that is directly linked to box office collections and footfalls. Sanjeev Jasani, chief digital officer at advertising agency Cheil India, said the increased use of artificial or virtual reality techniques in the coming years is likely because the ultimate aim of movie marketing is to build experiences.
“The use of digital technologies, chatbots and artificial intelligence is a new emerging phenomenon but we will see it becoming mainstream soon," said Gopa Kumar, executive vice-president, Isobar India, adding that such new-age techniques not just help break the clutter but also enable marketers understand their consumers, their behaviours and patterns, and use that data to create communication that can be better accepted. “As far as the marketing effort of Fox is concerned, while it is interesting and innovative and people will engage with it for sure, the kind of audiences that will react to a Baaghi 2 will be different from a movie belonging to a different genre. So I don’t know how they will use this information for the future."