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Much like Hollywood studios promoting their films in India, foreign video streaming services are upping their marketing game for international originals in this market. While Netflix organised an India premiere for The Gray Man by bringing in its directors—the Russo brothers—known for the Avengers films, Prime Video got Bollywood actor Sidharth Malhotra to interact with Chris Pratt for his show The Terminal List. In-cinema advertising, Bollywood celebrity campaigns, brand collaborations, tie-ups with retail outlets today complement these platforms’ traditional media outreach through print and outdoor.

“The strategy has evolved over a period of time as we have become sharper about measuring ROIs. In year one, for instance, we would have never thought of doing print as our programming was largely English but today with a strong Indian original content line-up, we are bullish on trying out massy advertising channels like print, TV and outdoor," Amit Dhanuka, executive vice-president, Lionsgate said.

Netflix declined to comment on marketing strategies for international originals while Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar did not respond. “International originals, especially flagship series and big star-led films are definitely being marketed in India in a big way. There is a visible trend of growth in spends with each subsequent season including full marketing coverage with print, digital, outdoor and even TV spots," said Kanupriya Iyer, head of business affairs at production house Locomotive Global Media.

OTT platforms study and analyse subscribers’ content consumption habits to understand viewing patterns. This data helps in a more effective and targeted approach, better ad-buying and social media marketing. All this results in more evolved strategies, she said.

Sugandha Varshney, lead, digital marketing at technology brand DIZO said, armed with marketing budgets of over 20 crore, platforms are using various forms of content production, focusing on exceedingly localised brand collaborations and social media innovation to build franchises and fan engagement for international shows in India. “Word-of-mouth is the strongest marketing strategy even today, and spreading the word through an influencer that people look up to makes it easier to tap into potential audiences and pushes them to engage with the content delivered," Varshney said. One of the most recent and innovative marketing strategies was the one by Netflix for its hit international original Stranger Things that included roping in Bollywood star Varun Dhawan and partnering with influencer actors Ayush Mehra and Yashaswini R Dayama, she added.

Within digital, influencer marketing has helped in distribution of content and while print may be somewhat of a secondary option, outdoor is creatively and aggressively promoted, especially in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Kolkata, agreed Akshae Golekar, founder, of Optiminastic Media, a digital marketing agency. A huge target group is the generation of young Indian Marvel and DC fans that can be reached out to through graffiti paintings across buildings, influencer marketing, among others.

“Considering Indian audiences today have exposure to global content, for an international original or movie, India as a geography gives required scale and size, considering our population," said Himanshu Arora, co-founder of digital agency Social Panga. Like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor or Deepika Padukone who’ve appeared in Hollywood films earlier, the presence of Indian actors in international web shows, such as Dhanush in The Gray Man helps in glocalization of content, Arora added.

Revathi Batola, senior manager, content writing at TheSmallBigIdea, a digital and social media marketing agency, said be it big screens or OTT platforms, international originals have a lucrative opportunity in the Indian entertainment industry. "By tapping into this familiarity that is evoked through characters or stories, marketing has seen a major shift. From trailers being dubbed in regional languages to regional influencers being leveraged to reach a wider audience base, the changing marketing strategy paves the way to promote different facets of international content in an accessible manner," Batola said.

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