The burgeoning phenomena of ‘movie marketing’
The movie watching experience has gone beyond the realms of a theater. Infact the involvement of the audience with a film begins much in advance, before the film even hits the big screen. And that is undoubtedly credited to the dynamic and versatile endeavors of movie marketing. Today Hindi cinema is not just limited to posters or single announcement trailers. The array of activities leading to the release of a film are infinite and burgeoning by the day.
Before we get under the skin of this hoopla, let us take a look at what movie marketing in Hindi cinema essentially is. It can simply be defined as the promotional activities undertaken to promote an upcoming film. In the days of yore, it was limited to a grand mahurat, few rumor mills, posters with the macho hero and just about that. But today the phenomena extends beyond ones imagination. From in-film branding, social media, film based games, mobile apps, brand associations, celebrity appearances and more, the list is endless. Every production house works towards going one step above the rest by coming up with an innovation that is clutter-breaking. But the most important question remains, do these larger than life marketing gimmicks push ticket sales? Can an extensive promotion spree change box office numbers of an otherwise mediocre story?
The start of this marketing overdrive cannot be traced back to one particular event. Remember the in film placements of brands like Tide, Bournvita and others in Krrish or the special edition Coke bottles with the cast of Rang De Basanti imprinted on them. Over the years we have seen several production houses invest massively in marketing budgets. For example, Aamir Khan’s 2008 release Ghajini had a marketing plan worth almost Rs.15 crore. The exemplary strategy used has made Ghajini a marketing case study in itself. Aamir Khan personally gave patrons the signature haircut, mannequins with the Ghajini look were placed at multiplexes, tie ups with brands like Tata Sky and so on kept the buzz going. As times are changing, the marketing budgets are increasing. Shahrukh Khan spent approximately 52 crore for the marketing of his sci-fi superhero film Ra.One. This included teasers being released at the 2011 Cricket World Cup (an astonishing 9 months before the release of the film) to a customized YouTube channel and numerous brand associations from HomeShop18 to Nokia, Coca Cola and so on. A special play station game around the film, a social game designed for various platforms and a line of merchandise were some other initiatives that formed part of this humongous marketing campaign.
Before we delve into the quirkiest trends taking Bollywood by storm, let’s take a look at some pivotal phases of a movie’s marketing design. A routine for films are multi-city visits. Actors, mostly in the garb of their characters, go beyond just metros to Tier II and III cities as well, to reach out to the chunk of audiences there. After all, a movie’s success does not only depend on the multiplex going audience. While Aamir Khan roamed around the country in disguise for 3 Idiots, challenging his fans to spot him, Vidya Balan was spotted in different cities in her avatar from Kahaani. And there are those who add a twist to this convention too. Commando actor Vidyut Jamwal promoted his film at the army training center in Banaras. He even exhibited his martial arts skills there. But the winner in the recent promotional visits would have to be Ek Thi Daayan. The team including Ekta Kapoor, visited the Mahakumbh to seek blessings for their film. This was the first time a film was promoted so extensively at the Mahakumbh.
With the Indian diaspora expanding across the world, celebrity visits extend to international destinations as well. So Saif Ali Khan kick-started the worldwide promotions for Race 2 in London and also visited UK’s biggest Bollywood hotspots, Cineworld Feltham. These days international premieres are an unspoken norm. The Abhi –Ash starrer Raavan had a premiere in UK while My Name is Khan was premiered in Abu Dhabi. Speedy Singhs and Double Dhamaal premiered in Toronto. The idea works well as it helps filmmakers cash in on the NRI audiences who swear by Indian films and celebrities. The premieres see a huge turnout of fans and international media attention which adds great value. Another addition to this bandwagon is premieres at International film festivals. Yash Raj Films’ Dil Bole Hadippa and Ashutosh Gowariker’s What’s Your Rashee? had their world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Recently, Kai Po Che had a world premiere at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival where it was the first ever Indian film to feature in the World Panorama section.
In addition to premieres, several films also adopt the path of special screenings where a film is screened for a select audience. So while Salman Khan had a special screening of Dabanng 2 for cancer kids, Akshay’s Special Chabbis was shown to CBI officials. Movie launches too are not far behind. While earlier a grand mahurat sufficed, today a plain jane press conference is unacceptable. So the director and cast of Murder 3 set a life size heart on fire, Bipasha Basu underwent a hypnosis session for Aatma and Ayushmann Khurrana & Kunaal Roy Kapur recreated the suicide scene from Sholay for Nautanki Saala.
Riding the social media wave, filmmakers now have the advantage of going interactive with the audience. It started with dedicated movie pages on Facebook complete with contests and live chats with the actors. No one killed Jessica promoted their ‘Thappad maar’ helpline via Facebook wherein women could call and report against people harassing them. Gangs of Wasseypur 2 used Facebook in a unique manner and created Wasseypur citizenship cards and a poster making contest. With Twitter playing a major role in film promotions, GoW II also created special Twitter handles for its characters and the two rivals, Faizal Khan and Ramadheer Singh contested pseudo elections and garnered support online. A ‘Gaali app’ also became a cult of sorts. Another social media innovation was the interactive Barfi application on YouTube. You could change Barfi’s moods or ask him tips to impress girls, Barfi would respond to it all. Does it get more novel than this?
Then come the brand tie-ups, in films or offline, it is a win-win situation for the movie producers and the brand. The cost of in-film placements is comparatively lower than advertisements and also helps show the core value of the product. For the film maker, the film gets visibility with the brand at all levels. For example a film like Fashion featured brands like Sunsilk and Kimaya while Dostana featured the fashion magazine Verve in a smooth integration. Dharma Productions also tied up with Maybelline to promote Priyanka Chopra’s look in the film. The brand doled out invitations to customers to experience Chopra’s Dostana look. Though Maybelline has not been shown in the film, the association worked owing it Priyanka’s glamorous avatar in Dostana. Some recent tie ups include Agent Vinod with McDonalds for an exclusive meal and contest. Going beyond products, films also join hands with tourism boards and examples of this include the Ek Tha Tiger deal with Ireland tourism and of course ZNMD tying up with the Spanish Tourism Board. But integrating a product into the storyline of a film is often not child’s play and needs to be looked in to carefully.
Often filmmakers tie up with the brands that celebrities are already endorsing. For instance, UTV Motion Pictures’ Heroine signed on brands like Lakme and Head & Shoulders which have Kareena Kapoor as their brand ambassador. On the other hand, Offline brand associations include products which are not directly featured in the film but are synonymous with the brand philosophy. For example, ING Life Insurance tied up with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara as it resonates with their core proposition – with ING Life Insurance you can live your dreams, after all you live only once. Keeping in mind the competitive theme in the film, makers of Student of the Year, tied up with Tata Nano and FedEx Express for the Nano Student of the Year and FedEx International Student of the Year contest respectively. Though the brands were not seen in the film, they were well integrated with the core subject of ‘competition’. The all India contests targeted the student community and received a grand response.
If that was not all, exclusive movie merchandise is available for patrons through specialized tie-ups. Take for example, Om Shanti Om which tied up with Shoppers Stop to launch an exclusive line of clothes and merchandise. Saif Ali Khan’s Cocktail partnered with Myntra.com to feature the movie’s merchandise available on sale. With the onset of various online fashion brands, movies leave no stone unturned in exhibiting the style of their actors which the movie-goer can emulate. It helps you dress like your favorite stars and feel stylish yourself! Other e-commerce portals like Bookmyshow.com, Snapdeal.com, Yebhi.com also promote films by offering movie tickets and other movie related merchandise. And of course there’s the exceptional association with a brand like Fevicol as seen in Dabangg 2.
The latest in your face fad is celebrities promoting their films on the small screen. Reality shows or even fiction drama, prior to the release of a film the actor is seen everywhere. So Bipasha Basu was a special guest on Nach Baliye prior to the release of Aatma (what does a supernatural thriller and a dance show have in common you may ask) but her role as narrator on Fear Files was more apt. Sridevi shook a leg with Madhuri Dixit on the sets of Jhalak Dikh La Ja and Akshay Kumar visited the sets of Bigg Boss 6 for Khiladi 786. A pregnant Vidya Balan was seen on the sets of Uttaran while Manoj Bajpai promoted Special 26 in the show Hum Ne Li Hai..Shapath which revolves around police officers. Barfi aka Ranbir Kapoor set a record of sorts by appearing on Afsar Bitiya, Phir Subah Hogi, Hitler Didi and Pavitra Rishta, 4 shows, all on the same channel. Surpassing it all is Ek Thi Daayan which has used TV in a never seen before way. Balaji Motion Pictures created a series titled ‘Ek Thi Naayika’, which featured the top actresses of the television industry, coming together for the first time, in a thrilling and spooky 16 episode series based on the ‘daayan‘ characters in the forthcoming film. Trust Ekta Kapoor to go beyond the ordinary! The small screen being such a powerful medium, no filmmaker can afford to leave it out. However sensible integration is the key even in this form of integration. Though the audiences know it is a gimmick, weaving a story with the actor’s involvement is vital.
And with TV gaining such importance the radio is not far behind. Around the release of Rani Mukerji’s Aiyya, Radio Mirchi modified their signature jingle to sound like the popular song. Just lately they gave listeners an exclusive opportunity to enjoy the music of Aashiqui 2 on the station through ‘Mirchi Music Premier’ and also an opportunity to attend the special Aashiqui 2 concert. UTV had tied up with Red FM for the ‘Rowdy Hunt’ to look for people who work towards social betterment. The prize – winners get to accompany Akshay Kumar during the films promotional tours.
The latest addition in the plot is releasing films on festivals, long weekends and the likes. In a bid to get a good date and also not lash with other biggies, film producers have started pre-booking release dates, much before the completion of the film. Trade analysts call this a smart business move to ensure a good opening weekend.
And that brings us to the most important question – do the extensive marketing budgets and promotional sprees guarantee the success of a film? Marketing works as a clutter breaker in the stream of films being churned out from the industry. If the films aren’t marketed well, they cannot do well. That is one of the main reasons that big budget films allocate a great deal of money to the marketing campaigns. Not just that, even small budget films dedicate special funds to create a noise. For example, Eros International which produced Vicky Donor with a budget of Rs 5 crore, spent Rs 7 crore on marketing.
On the other hand, there are films like Veer, Raavan, Kites etc. which involved massive budgets and marketing gimmicks yet failed to lure audiences. But the irony is that these films did manage to recover their costs owing to satellite rights, home video rights etc. Sometimes they even manage to make a profit without a good theatrical run. Though bad content isn’t a threat to revenue generation, it surely isn’t a good trend.
But a point that counters this notion is the ‘100 crore club’. How can a film which lacks a sensible storyline and logic make it to the 100 crore club. Some reasons could be the increasing multiplex rates, lowered audience expectations and the stars that drive their fan following to the theaters. Yet these films cannot hold a candle to the real blockbusters like Sholay, Amar Akbar Anthony and so on.
The fact remains that, marketing can drive people to watch a movie but not guarantee a long box office run. Films may make 100 crores but not go down in the history of cinema. If a film lacks content, the marketing hype will not be able to sustain it beyond the initial days. In recent times, small budget films with unique storylines have been doing wonders. They have used marketing techniques but the film has rested primarily on the content.
Movie marketing can get you a good opening weekend but only good content can give you a blockbuster!