Television branding experiences on-ground is not a new phenomenon at all. In 2011, Star Movies, the English movie channel under the Star India banner, launched the Star Movies Chillout Nites initiative to engage with consumers beyond television. As part of the initiative, Star Movies organised parties at over 200 homes while a movie premiered on the channel. The parties were executed by Fountainhead Events. 9XMs 30-feet-long Wall of Music is another innovative example. On the occasion of World Music Day 2012, 9XM set up a 30-feet-long Wall of Music enabled with augmented reality technology at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai and at The Great India Place, a shopping mall in Noida, bordering Delhi. This digital wall enabled viewers to download Bollywood songs free of cost by scanning movie posters on the wall using their smartphones. Being a first-of-its-kind innovation to make World Music Day memorable, the activity got 9XM featured in the Limca Book of Records.
To be sure, such larger-than-life activations from the television industry have been too few and far in-between, with auto and consumer durables and increasingly personal technology products hogging the limelight. Ernst and Youngs white-paper on the Business of Experiences states that the organised segment of the Indian events and activation industry has grown at over 20% since 2010. As marketers plan to increase their below-the-line (BTL) spends, the industry is expected to grow to R 4,375 crore by mid-2014. But having said that, the study also suggests that the events and activation industry in India has seen its lowest transaction activity among all segments of the media and entertainment sector.
Quite a few industry pundits agree that it is primarily because of a very weak push from televisionthe most dominant slice of Indias R91,700-crore media and entertainment industry. They observe that large-scale BTL activation is still not a marked trend within the television sector. The reason for this is not too difficult to understand the role of on-ground in the case of television differs in two ways. First, the kind of reach that a broadcaster is able to deliver from its promos on its own channel is far greater than any on-ground activation and at a far more competitive price. Second, a lot of brands conduct on-ground activation as an opportunity to do immediate sales, something that the television industry does not exactly look for. In television, there is no immediate sale value. What you are really trying to do with on-ground activation is to establish a close personal encounter of the consumer with the brand or the show message. Here, the desire is that the message should stay with the consumer which in turn will help him/her tune into your channel and the show, says Nikhil Madhok, senior vice president, marketing and programming strategy at Star Plus, the flagship general entertainment channel (GEC) of Star India.
That is now changing with the television industry increasingly banking on on-ground events to do the talking for them. The sector has already started experimenting with novel on-ground designs where innovation is the key. In July 2013, Set Max, the Bollywood movie channel from the MSM stable, launched an extensive on-ground initiative to spread awareness about the television premiere of Aashiqui 2, which was scheduled to air on the channel that month. The channel erected larger-than-life images of the movie protagonists at several key points across Delhi and Mumbai. The images were used to replicate a romantic scene from the movie. As a further extension to the innovation, the channel used several models as mannequins, who stood at Bandstand and Marine Drive in Mumbai on a given day and representatives from the channel joined them with huge posters to promote the movie.
Talk of a more innovative example and Star Plus innovation for its mega serial Mahabharat cannot be missed out. In September last year, the channel created the Mahabharat Museum in malls across Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Indore, Lucknow, Baroda and Allahabad. The museum showcased selected weaponry, jewellery and finery worn or used by the characters in the show. The museum also gave viewers a 3D virtual tour of Mahabharats grand sets. In a bid to reach out to viewers deep in the small towns of India, the museum was converted into a Mahabharat Museum on Wheels with LED-installed canter vans travelling through 50 towns in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
An on-ground experience can bring forth a huge and lasting impact which helps strengthen a channels and/or networks brand equity and connect with the audience, says Vaishali Sharma, vice president, marketing and communicationsMax. For the record, Max is organising skits in popular cinemas across the city of Mumbai to promote the telecast of the film, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, on the channel. Here, people who habitually break the queue at the ticket counter will be advised against No Badtameezi ( a pun on the movies hit song) with the help of a script.
Now, quite pertinently, such innovations attract more relevance from genres where differentiation through content is not easy. Says Kapil Sharma, vice presidentmarketing, 9X Media, Since it is very difficult to differentiate channel content for genres such as movies and music, it helps in building brand differentiation through events and other brand experiences.
Today, what is really catalysing this shift toward innovation on-ground by television is the acknowledgment of the medium even from genres where differentiated content continue to be the key (GECs, kids, youth networks). Says Nitesh Kripalani, executive vice presidentSony Entertainment, Differentiation through content is just not enough anymore. Marketing teams are now pushing their creative limits to come up with unique ideas that are rooted in the brand essence and build experiences on-ground which are relevant where the brand in concerned.
Currently, entertainment marketing is steadily moving from being a communication medium to a medium that is expected to engage. For its most popular show Devon ke Dev... Mahadev, Life OK launched the Mahadev Ganga Mahotsav in Haridwar in January 2013. The campaign is propagated as a social awareness initiative to find plausible solutions to save the river Ganga. The intent was also to establish Life OK as a channel that cares. Says Shailendra Jha, head of Mahadev Ganga Mahotsav and creative director, Life OK, Ganga, as per mythology, flows from the locks of Lord Mahadev. Therefore, we felt that a campaign that focuses on saving this very Ganga would serve as a perfect connect with our audiences.
The Mahadev Ganga Mahotsav focuses on two things the Samvaad and the school outreach programme. With the Samvaad, which is an open discussion with all the stakeholders that are impacted by the Ganga, the channel proactively reaches out to political leaders, spiritual leaders, environmentalists, scientists, academicians, communities to deliberate and work towards a cleaner Ganga. The school contact programme involves students through fancy dress and painting competitions to raise awareness in them about the need to save the Ganga. The event has already traveled to multiple states and their key cities through which the Ganga flows reaching out to over 100 million people. It is now headed to Kolkata where it plans to reach out to over 30 schools.
It is important to connect one-on-one with the viewers and provide an experience that they will never forget. With the Mahadev Ganga Mahotsav we want our viewers to know that Life OK will always be socially relevant to their lives. That is our benefit, says Jha.
UTV Stars, the Bollywood channel under the Disney-UTV umbrella, launched a unique property called Walk of the Stars in 2012. It is a landmark property devoted solely to Indian cinema in a bid to pay tributes to the fraternity and reinforce the channel positioning as the official channel of Bollywood. Besides customised slabs consisting of handprints or signatures placed at these locations, the property also has brass statues of select legendary celebrities. The property is located at Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai, which is also home to a number of Bollywoods rich and famous.
Walk of the Stars has become a significant tourist destination with an average footfall of 5000 over weekdays that goes up to over 10,000 on weekends. We are in talks with Mumbais tour operators to include Walk of the Stars as a must-see destination in Mumbai since Bollywood is a significant part of the citys DNA, says Shikha Kapur, vice president and head of marketing for studios, interactive and youth and movie channels, Disney-UTV.
Talk of the networks kids brand initiative and Disney Channels 2012 and 2013 Jet Set Go campaign needs a special mention. As part of the campaign, the channel took a plane-full of families to Hong Kong Disneyland. It all started with a contest where children had to spot a plane on the channel and through a simple missed call mechanism, they could win the trip to Disneyland for their entire family. Thirty kids and their families from across the towns of Guwahati, Amreli, Patiala, Jagdalpur, Jabalpur along with Nagpur, Nashik, Bangalore and Mumbai travelled to the park.
The importance of increased focus on innovative on-ground activities is not just about the event, but about the amplification that it produces in terms of coverage over news channels and press articles. Hence, though the reach of on-ground activities is limited to a small section of the audience, the amplification that it creates reaches viewers and readers across geographies. Experiential marketing coupled with positive word-of-mouth is what creates brand resonance and large-scale sampling for a show or a channel. These activities aim to make the consumer the marketer and ambassador of the idea, says Ashish Pherwani, partner, EY.
Now, while most of the broadcasting networks choose to go on-ground only to market their brands and properties better, there are quite a few who have also started to look at the monetisation capabilities of such events. Currently, a lot of sponsors are open to the idea of investing in and associating with properties where the sources of on-ground revenue could range from food and beverage stalls, to exclusive barters and sale of tickets to consumers. Through such events, sponsors can meet their objective of having the attention of a niche and targeted audience.
On activations focusing on tier 2 and tier 3 towns, sponsorship from local retail advertisers and regional corporates is proving to be a significant revenue source, says Ashutosh Singh. senuior manager, EY. Media houses now have specialised teams/ divisions that are involved with creation of properties and producing of events. Associating with properties and events is a natural association for youth and kids genre focused-content, he says.
Says Martin da Costa, CEO, 70 EMG, The economics of the ground-event game has changed in the last 4-5 years. Then, you really could not get people to pay money for entry tickets. Now, we charge R3000 for an entry into IBW and that allows us to build the ground event up and makes the business more viable.
In March 2013, Viacom18 launched a division called the Integrated Network Solutions (INS) to provide customised branded solutions to clients. LIVE Viacom18 is a sub-division under INS whose mandate is to create live properties in the music and entertainment space for all brands of Viacom18. This sub-division created various new properties such as MTV VMAi, V. EMERGE, VH1 Supersonic, and Comedy Centrals Chuckle Festival under the youth and English cluster. ETV Kannada and Bangla Sangeet Samman, Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards and Doras Pirate Adventure marked the inception of kids and regional cluster of LIVE Viacom18.
LIVE Viacom18 has worked with different brands across various categories, which have found an opportunity to reach out to their
target audience through its properties. For example, mobile handset maker Micromax launched its Canvas series at VMAi. Auto maker Hyundai used Comedy Centrals Chuckle Festival as a medium to launch its Grand i10. Sangeet Samman Awards helped Hindustan Unilevers detergent brand Rin penetrate regional markets.
Consumers in the 16-34 years age group have become more dynamic than ever. There is a need for live entertainment in India as its consumption has increased significantly over the past few years. The events are monetised through sponsorships, ticket sales and by selling on air commercial space during the show telecast, says Indranil Sen Gupta, directorINS.
Adds Krishna Desai, senior director and network headkids, Turner International India, On-ground events serve as excellent platforms for brands to come on board and interact directly with thousands of their target audiences. In exchange for sponsoring part or the whole event, sponsors get the opportunity to advertise across all our available platforms. For example, our event Bheems Green Team was powered by Thomas & Friends with associate sponsors Junior Horlicks, Kelloggs Chocos and Zandu Sona Chandi Chyawanprash Plus.
And yet, currently the key challenge around these events is with respect to monetisation. Local sponsorships and brand integrations can help recover some part of the costs on on-ground promotions but it is nowhere near enough. TV channels have the advantage of providing advertising space for their on-ground sponsors, but these activities are still largely in the domain of being promotional rather than revenue generating.
Another challenge for the marketer is inaccessibility of stars, characters and other key elements in smaller towns and cities of the country. It gets logistically difficult to reach such audiences while coordinating the schedules of key talent and managing continuity of production schedules. Also, events and awards need time and investment for them to become recognisable properties. Results in terms of monetisation and brand building can only be seen over a period of years. However, with the existing space being extremely cluttered, it becomes even more difficult for a new property to establish itself and many such attempts wither away after a couple of seasons, says Singh of EY. And finally, amplification across other mediums comes about only when the concept is unique and innovative. In the absence of the same, the return on investment does not really add up for the brand.
With the increase in number of content options, a differentiating factor is expected to help sponsors and audiences choose the content to be associated with. As on-ground events grow and mark their space, it will get easier for them to get sponsorships, increase scale, get associated with more recognised artists and attract larger audiences.
TV channels will be looking at making their innovations more revenue focused rather than being just an expense, over the next couple of years. Reliance on innovative concepts, use of technology and increased penetration of digital mediums will be critical for amplification and monetisation of the activities, says Pherwani of EY.