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From Popcorn to Promotions – Reel Marketing gets more Real now!

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Smitha Sarma Ranganathan, Professor, Marketing Management, IBS Business School, Bangalore

Smitha Sarma Ranganathan, Professor, Marketing Management, IBS Business School, Bangalore

Silver Screen
Bollywood, one of the largest movie production hubs is finally attempting to market itself beyond the clichéd dancing-around-the-trees sequences to its audiences. With big moolah being raked in by large production houses, increasing returns of investment is obviously the top most business objective. The mushrooming of multiplexes across the country has paved the way to improving both audiences’ access and the experience of a movie. On the flip side multiplexes allow for parallel screening of movies bringing about a reduction in the number of days a movie is screened at a cinema hall, further reducing the average shelf life of a movie. With Indian audiences’ appetite for entertainment being the driver, corporatization of production houses and better movie experiences functioning as enablers, the entertainment scene in India just got more enticing than ever. This is reflective in the pre-release marketing initiatives by production houses to grab eyeballs and capture the mindshare of the target audience.

Larger than Life
While the star pull has traditionally been considered as the biggest promotional lever for a movie, production houses now realize there are dimensions to audiences’ sensibilities than just the super star.The last decade has seen a palpable change in the consumption trend of movies; from being the mainstream avenue for entertainment, movies now compete with a number of equally if not more exciting generic entertainment experiences that range from adventure sports to virtual games .While movie content continues to be crowned the king, setting the right context about the movie has come to the forefront in movie marketing. Hence, promotional techniques for movies have moved on from being just hand painted wall posters and theatre trailers to a 360 degree activation approach. These include creating movie-centric content that trigger the curiosity of the audience and deploying them across a variety of platforms – radio, television, internet and mobile. In the first move of its kind, the Hrithik Roshan starrer Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara was promoted only via mobile phone and online platforms wherein Excel Entertainment partnered with Aircel, to enable a push of two three-minute trailers for free to its 55 million subscribers. This mode of technology enabled marketing for films help seize attention of the audience, increasing the odds of healthy box-office returns. An interesting promotion concept that failed to materialize had the marketing team for Talaash (meaning search) consider partnering with searchengine giant, Google to replace the Google Search button for a short period of time with the word ‘Talaash’ in an attempt to establish a distinct connect with the audience. More recently, Balaji Telefilms in an attempt to promote its upcoming release Ek Thi Dayan aired an eight-part TV series titled Ek Thi Naayika at 11.00 pm on Life OK. Featuring TV industry’s top actresses, the spooky series was based on the ‘daayan’ characters in the movie to achieve audience engagement. Movie stars promoting the movie characters via reality shows and promotional tours are also getting increasingly popular in
Bollywood.

Additionally, creating a relevant context that goes beyond the movie content is discernible in the activation programs seen at malls and in the merchandising and co-branding initiatives that are now common in India. Around the release of the movie Ghajini, ‘Ghajini- style’ haircut parlors popped up in auditoriums screening the film, and ushers sported the Ghajini look inside the screening hall, helping viewers to take their seat. Again referring to the recent release Ek Thi Dayan, a spooky environ was created by having three daayans appear in front of the screen, chanting and distributing T-shirts and CDs in the beginning of the show and during intermission. While fear is a universally experienced and acknowledged rasa (emotion), elements that evoke fear are a culturally coded phenomenon. Thus, Ek Thi Dayen seems to be a perfect case in point wherein this aspect has been effectively leveraged in creating a pre-release promotional campaign that weaves an aura of thrill using television and multiplex activation as platforms.

The Cinematic Climax
A recent research study conducted by a team form IIM-A points out the correlation between the pre-release promotional budget of a film and its success. The study included a close look at 50 Hindi movies released over the decade and goes on to prove that irrespective of the genre and content of a film, the pre-release marketing budget decides the opening weekend success for a film.

After all, the audience perceives value in ‘experiential aspects’ of movies that helps them escape from reality; no better value if that experience extends before and after the show, and the movie content just becomes incidental to the whole experience.

Acknowledging inputs from Prof. Bharathan Kandaswamy, Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad.
Smitha Sarma Ranganathan is a brand communication specialist with keen interest in focused marketing communications and brand building initiatives. Currently teaches Marketing at IBS Business School Bangalore, and is an active contributor in designing industry-relevant curriculum. She is also currently pursuing her doctoral program in advertising from Jain University.

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