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New Delhi: Earlier this month, actor Manoj Bajpayee extended his role in spy thriller The Family Man 2, to that of a former secret intelligence officer moving to a regular corporate job, somewhat beyond the script. As part of the marketing campaign, Amazon Prime Video had Bajpayee interviewed by top start-up executives like Ritesh Agarwal (OYO), Manu Kumar Jain (Xiaomi), Ankur Warikoo (NearBuy) and Kabeer Biswas (Dunzo) to create innovative promotional content for its own YouTube channel.

For its Tamil gangster drama Jagame Thandiram that started streaming on 18 June, Netflix launched a special Twitter emoji for main lead Dhanush’s character and planned an interaction on Twitter Spaces for media persons and fans with the cast and crew that at one point, recorded 17,000 attending listeners. The crowd, a mix of journalists and movie buffs, could speak to the team directly on the film’s plot and appeal.

With travel and live interactions with star cast out of bounds to promote web shows, video streaming platforms have gradually seen fan events and interactions move online over the last one year. But during the recent April-May lockdown, many firms have explored several emerging digital and social media tools and platforms to market and promote original films and web shows to reach out to wider, younger demographics.

“OTT (over-the-top) platforms are one of the few segments in India that take marketing and innovation very seriously. The idea is to talk and make sense to millennials and Gen Z who are early adopters (of the medium)," Sahil Shah, chief business officer at digital marketing agency WATConsult said. While Instagram stories and Reels have been in vogue for some time, Shah said Clubhouse is emerging as the big avenue where movie and web show recommendations are discussed and events held to interact with fans regularly.

“The level of engagement is crazy and (the communication is) direct (between fans and celebrities)," Shah said.

Sushant Sreeram, director, marketing, Amazon Prime Video said entertainment marketing is a delicate balance of promoting art, powered by science. “Today, millennials and GenZ are omnipresent across platforms and to ably communicate with them, brands need to focus not just on creating a new language but keenly observe and speak in the language(s) customers may have already created. It is important to tap into existing behavioural patterns and leverage the same," Sreeram said.

Last year, Amazon had launched a GIF pack for the second season of Mirzapur that Sreeram said was used more than 100 million times.

Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO and co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea, a digital and social media marketing agency said the pandemic has led to two changes in film or web show marketing. One, platforms are judicious with money and every idea and innovation is measured with the impact that it would deliver. The campaign durations have also reduced, from 45-60 day cycles to now under 30 days. Media experts said these digital tools are inexpensive but generate buzz and traction for shows.

The other idea is to bring the artiste up close and personal. “The pandemic has affected everyone equally. Audiences have seen the enigma around artistes disappear as they now seem more human, with breakdowns and anger finding its way into social media. People through zoom calls and lives have come closer to artistes, who no longer believe in passive connects, making the interactions more personal," Pillai added.

With the evolving digital ecosystem and consumer preferences, it’s essential to connect with the audience through the medium that resonates best with them, Amit Dhanuka, executive vice-president at Lionsgate said.

“Lately, meme marketing is the most popular way to connect with one’s target group, especially millennials who love to express their emotions through GIFs, emojis and memes across digital platforms," Dhanuka said. He said Clubhouse is also emerging as a platform to connect with existing audiences, drive like-minded conversations and build trust with new audiences.

With increasing competition to grab eyeballs, platforms could explore new ways of engaging the audience and standing out in the experience they deliver, said Chaaya Baradhwaaj, founder and managing director of digital agency BC Web Wise. “These could be in the form of AI (artificial intelligence)-led programs, AR (artificial reality) or VR (virtual reality) experiences tele-shopping on OTT," she added.

At the same time, mass-market platforms that have a ‘Bharat-first’ strategy are leveraging the reach of regional content-focused apps like ShareChat, Dailyhunt and MX Taka Tak, said Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, CEO and co-founder, Gozoop Group, a Mumbai-based marketing agency. This is a phenomenon that stems from the tectonic shift in the past 12 months where regional content has gained immense ground, with the primary aim being to reach out to audiences in the language that they understand.

Divya Dixit, senior vice-president, revenue and marketing – ALTBalaji said the service had partnered with short format video platforms like Roposo, Chingari, and Firework, which have a very well captured non-metro mass audience.

Spokesperson for streaming service ZEE5 said the pandemic-led lockdowns have expanded the video-on-demand sector as need for entertainment at home grew. "We started deep diving into understanding consumer behaviour and identifying changes in content consumption patterns even more minutely. Since these evolving trends directly influence how content is marketed to the consumer, we revisited our marketing strategy to hyper-target audiences using the most effective tools," the spokesperson said.

Last year, for its original film, Chintu Ka Birthday, ZEE5 had organised a Twitter watch party with the cast inviting people to join in for interactions, sharing pictures and dialogues from the movie.

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