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A still from 'Gulabo Sitabo'. Amazon Prime Video amplified the initial poster, teaser and trailer launches for the film across digital platforms and social media.
A still from 'Gulabo Sitabo'. Amazon Prime Video amplified the initial poster, teaser and trailer launches for the film across digital platforms and social media.

Streaming platforms adopt Bollywood techniques to market direct-to-digital films

  • Industry experts say OTT platforms are looking to create awareness about releases across all touch points, with digital media as the mainstay. The idea is to make the campaigns as grand as what a Bollywood film would have had in pre-covid times.

New Delhi: With new films taking to releasing on digital platforms even as cinema theatres remain shut due to covid-19, platform owners are going all out to promote them Bollywood-style.

The over-the-top (OTT) video streaming services that are welcoming these movies to meet increasing consumer demand want to market them using the same techniques that Bollywood producers would have employed, had they arrived on the big screen. “The rigour is no different from that of a movie studio or filmmaker," said Aparna Acharekar, programming head at ZEE5 that has released Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Ghoomketu and will now be bringing Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Yaara, Prakash Jha-directed Pareeksha and Baba Azmi’s Mee Raqsam on its platform. With the director and producer not having a stake in the film anymore, the entire responsibility lies with the OTT platform, Acharekar said, to create awareness across all touch points. However, as was the case with theatrical releases too, digital media will be the mainstay, including advertising on entertainment and news websites.

Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd, whose company just launched a pay-per-movie service said while there are challenges with traditional techniques like print and outdoor because of the pandemic, the idea is to make the campaigns as visible and grand as a Bollywood film would have done, with media interactions and reviews by critics across platforms.

Hindi films can spend anything between 10-20 crore on marketing and promotions and industry experts say depending on scale and actors involved, streaming platforms could come close.

With recent direct-to-digital releases such as Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi-Human Computer, Amazon Prime Video has followed the road that Bollywood had also started taking before the pandemic. The initial poster, teaser and trailer launches were all amplified across digital platforms, including YouTube, and social media, including Facebook and Instagram. Going forward, Acharekar said television integrations will also be common as production on the small screen resumes normalcy. These would include both reality and fiction shows.

Disney+ Hotstar’s Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer Dil Bechara, on the other hand, relied more on music marketing, putting composer A.R. Rahman at the fore front and releasing one song at regular intervals in the run-up to the big day. Rahman and his team of singers and instrumentalists even paid a tribute to Rajput in a 15-minute video recorded from their homes the day before the film started streaming.

Biographical drama Shakuntala Devi-Human Computer that starts streaming this Friday has joined the brand bandwagon. The Vidya Balan-starrer has tied up with biscuit and confectionery manufacturer Parle Products that has brought out a co-branded video to be promoted on digital platforms. Featuring Balan, the video links the brilliance of Shakuntala Devi, a mathematics genius, with Parle-G to emphasize how Parle-G has nurtured "Genius minds" for ages. Meanwhile, Tata Tea Gold has also tied up with the film to drive home the message of "Dil Ki Suno" given that the protagonist always followed her heart.

“The beauty of it (a digital premiere) is that there is no opening night with appointment viewing and audiences are consistently discovering content on the service," Monika Shergill, vice-president, content, Netflix India, said. Platforms like Netflix, therefore, have to invest in both pre and post-release marketing to keep the fervour going while ensuring customized recommendations for each individual user to gravitate naturally towards titles of their choice.

Beginning with mystery thriller Raat Akeli Hai that starts streaming this Friday, Netflix has films like Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, Ludo featuring Abhishek Bachchan, Torbaaz starring Sanjay Dutt, satirical comedy Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, and Yami Gautam- and Vikrant Massey-starrer Ginny Weds Sunny coming up.

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