Going beyond the commercial breaks

Updated: Nov 28 2006, 08:43am hrs
With close to 13,000 brands clamouring for attention on the small screen (as opposed to 2,154 brands in 1995) marketers are constantly seeking value for money for their brands. Given that 30-second commercial breaks on mainstream channels have consistently registered low TVRs, advertisers have found innovative solutions to break advertising clutter by introducing in-programme advertising on television.

A relatively new concept, in-programme branding in still at an experimental stage in India. From in-programme advertising to spread social messages woven into the plot of soaps in India (Tulsi of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi advocating the use of oral rehydration salts to Parvati of Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki supporting education for the girl child), marketers have adopted this format to showcase their brands on popular shows.

Reality and game show formats offer the best platform for marketers/advertisers to display their products. Shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati (Lenovo computers and Kotak Mahindra Bank), Khulja Sim Sim and Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke started the trend of in-show branding with considerable success. Even news channels have started seeking in-programme advertisements. Information about product/services along with the logos of the brands are provided on the ticker scroll at the bottom of the screen during news bulletins.

A perfect example of how in-brand advertising worked on television is perhaps Sonys Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin. Satya Paul unveiled a special Jassi designer collection in 2004. When Jassis makeover took place, brands like VLCC, Kaya Skin Clinic, Bausch & Lomb and Mauritius Tourism Board found their way in the show. Jassis wedding jewellery was designed by Neelam Jewels, owned by actor Neelam Kothari, in the wedding episode, screen husband Armaan wore outfits designed by Nisha Bedi Rai and Ritu Deora. And the ceremony took place in Singapore, courtesy, Singapore Tourism Board.

Ekta Kapoors Kavyanjali (Star Plus) had 10 episodes shot in Hong Kong, courtesy Hong Kong Tourism Board and the show promoted Hong Kong in a big way. Jassi was also shown openly eating Kellogg cornflakes and promoting it as a cereal for smart people! Zees Kasamh Se promoted Dubai in the show when a 6-episode chunk was shot there. The Australian Tourism Board played host to the Kyunki Saas and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki team, which had an Australia stint shot free of cost.

We have promoted Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong as tourist destinations in our soaps and those episodes have been woven into the story, explains producer Ekta Kapoor of Balaji Telefilms. Zees talent hunt Lil Champs uses Munch and ICICI Bank credit cards (for minors) as in-branding in the show. MTV uses Hero Honda branding for its reality adventure show, MTV Roadies. For its Style Awards, branding was done with Lycra. BSNL, MTNL and Airtel emerged as the biggest beneficiaries of KBC2. In July 2005, BSNL and MTNL subscribers made 10.7 million calls to participate in the show.

BSNL and MTNL subscribers paid Rs 2.40 for a call to KBC, while Airtel subscribers paid Rs 6 per call. The telecom operators shared revenue with Star TV from the calls for KBC2. KBC2 is believed to have raked in, according to market estimates, on an average, Rs 3 crore in ad revenues per episode.

The total ad sales revenue generated solely from KBC2 could be pegged at Rs 255 crore with actual profits standing around Rs 170 crore. Reliance Mobile logos are flashed everytime correspondents report during NDTV bulletins. During Zees Kam Ya Zyada show and Sonys Deal Ya No Deal, Hutch figured prominently.

Zee also has a tie-up with Playwin for HouseZee, which is part of the channels programming and not aired as an advertisement.

Ditto for Saharas Dial Aur Jeeto which openly announces the prizes and their sponsors which works well for advertisers where they get visibility throughout the 20-25 minutes through on- show presence, thus enhancing the brand recall among viewers. For Kituu Sabb Jaanti Hai Moov is used as an in-brand placement. AR Rehmans Airtel ringtone buzzed during KBC2, when a participant used the phone-a-friend lifeline; actor Shahid Kapoor conducted a workshop on confidence-building on Sonys Fame Gurukul, at the same time positioning the brand Clinic All Clear; Pepsi even launched it Cafechino flavour on Sonys Indian Idol 2. The list of in-programme placement of brands is growing, with advertisers pulling out all stops to grab eyeballs in a non-obtrusive manner.

Tarun Mehra, senior vice president, Zee TV, feels: Subliminal advertising works when it doesnt disturb the shows format at all. The product profile should match the show, and advertisers feel it works better than overt advertising and makes more impact. One has to remember that commercial time is limited and product integration helps break the clutter. In serials, it is tough to integrate brands, though we have done it for Kareena Kareena in 2005 when Alpenliebe and Pepsi were promoted in the show. Now we have Provogue and Roopam clothes being sported by our Zee Cinestars Ki Khoj participants and we use these brands again as in-tv advertising. Agrees Star India vice president Satya Raghavan: Worldspace Radio was promoted in Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka (Star One), Tata Tea in Aek Chhabi Hai Pados Mein (Star Plus). Aek Chhabi is set on a street in a mohalla, so the kind of integrations we have done are apt - Reliance Mobile branding has been done in the telephone booth, there are Tata Tea vending machines in the caf on the street, etc.

Product integration is a revenue model for us and the key is to integrate in a manner which is relevant to the show and the brand. Sunil Alagh, chairman, SKA Advisors feels when well-known brands are shown in a serial it has to be woven into the story. Any reasons why theres a sudden rush for in-serial advertising Says Aditya Swamy, VP-marketing, MTV, In-serial advertising is an innovative way of integrating brands with content in a serial/show. For Roadies, Hero Hondas Karizma is our in-show brand which is promoted, for Semi Girebal, Sprite is the brand weve woven into the show.

Product integration has to be done sensibly keeping viewers sensibility in mind. Albert Almeida, E-VP and business head, SET India says, We have done product integration in Jassi, Indian Idol, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and now Bigg Boss. Clients the world over are beginning to question the efficacy of the 30-second spot. So, there is a movement to consciously integrate brands into content. However, given the fact that it is early days and people are experimenting with it, you often end up being heavy-handed which does not work very well for the brand in question.

Brand integration certainly helps a channel enhance the value of its offering to its clients. But integration needs to be handled cautiously, executed tastefully, thereby bringing alive the brand experience at a time when the viewer is completely involved. Does in-serial advertising work Product placement works depending on how involved the consumer is with the serial and the popularity of the serial.

For Hum Log, Buniyaad, KBC2 and Jassi... the product placement was used smartly, feels McCann Ericksons Prasoon Joshi. Neeraj Roy, CEO, Hungama, says that with as many as 650 brands trying to attract consumers, weaving the brand proposition into the content of a TV programme is an effective way as these programmes are shot in an environment to which people relate. Is branded content on TV a good idea We ensure that the brand has synergy with the show. The brand integration is done discreetly so that the show doesnt look like a brand promo, says MTVs Swamy. No channel can afford to upset viewers by meaninglessly integrating brands with its content. In-programme placements have to be done carefully, adds Zees Mehra. According to a recent estimate of Adex India, a division of TAM Media Research, in-TV placements are a Rs 400-crore industry. Swamy of MTV says that in-programme placements are still new in India and broadcasters are not yet looking at it as a major revenue model. Advertisers have to pay about 300% more to get their brands woven into a programme as most in-show placements have to be done subtly and smartly without making it appear as an ad. At this point of time, most broadcasters agree that while in-programme brand placements can become a big revenue earner, it is a formindable challenge for channels to convert this into a good revenue stream. Channels have to develop credible formats to blend the brands into their content and then make it a viable revenue earner.

Analysts in the industry claim that in-programme contributes just 1% cent to the revenues of the channels now and in the future its contribution would be about 4%-5%. However, it is a given that in times to come, in-programme placements would complement the 30-second spots and is here to stay. With in-programme advertising likely to increase in the not-so-distant future, content providers will need to be sensitive to viewers to reach out to them more successfully.