Hard sell in Bollywood

Written by Alokananda Chakraborty | Sudipta Datta | Updated: Jan 14 2009, 04:28am hrs
Will Dibakar Banerjee lift the Best Story award for Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, or will it be Neeraj Pandey for thriller drama A Wednesday! Will AR Rahmans lilting musical scores for Jodhaa Akbar clinch the trophy for Best Background Music, or will it be Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy for their campus-rock music for Rock On!!

In the run-up to the 15th Star Screen Awards slated for January 14, 2009, The Financial Express flagged off a three-part series on the state of Bollywood on January 10. In the first part, we examined the effects of the economic slowdown on the Hindi film industry, and in the second the giant strides Bollywood has made towards corporatisation. We end the series today with a look how marketing is gaining ascendance in tinsel town.

Some weeks after movie Krrishdirected by Rakesh Roshan, and starring Rekha, Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, among othershit theatres in 2006, a television commercial had a little boy asking his friend, Aey Chhotu, Krrish banega In exchange for five wrappers of Lifebuoy soap, we were told, we could get a Krrish mask and a chance to meet the superhero. This was one of the many initiatives Filmkraft, the maker of the movie Krrish, launched to prop the Rs 50-crore movie.

In Madhur Bhandarkars low-budget flick Corporate, the main characters are seen in Allen Solly shirts and trousers. They worked on Lenovo laptops and lounged on Durian furniture. News channel Times Nows correspondents could be spotted in the movie reporting news stories. Trade pundits say the marketing budget for Corporate was nearly as much as the films cost of production.

More recently, Madura Garments premium menswear brand Van Heusen launched Ghajinis apparels in their stores all across India and is backing it with in-store campaigns and giant posters of Khan dressed in formal attire. again, Samsung has launched special Ghajini editions of L700 and M200 handphone models. These handsets have preloaded with Ghajini ringtones, pictures and songs. For its part, Tata Indicom has launched an outbound dialer service with Khans pre-recorded voice.

Get the drift

These three are not isolated events. Movie marketing has become big business over the past few years. If trade sources are to be believed, a films marketing budget is now 40-50% of the films total budget. To ensure that no potential ticket buyer goes home empty handed, movies are being launched with 1,000-1,500 prints nationally, at a cost of Rs 50,000 per print. Even songs are treated as a key weapon in a movies marketing arsenal.

And the marketing activities are no longer limited to hoardings, print ads and music channel placements. Studios are pumping in crores on pre-launch marketing initiatives and following them up with ongoing razzmatazz. Ad agencies have also been quick to cash in on the trend. Leo Burnett was among the first to set up a separate division, Leo Entertainment, as far back as in 2001.

With Bollywood grossing well overseas, collections too are steadily growing. According to a PwC-Ficci report, in 2007, overseas collections were estimated at Rs 850 crore, up from Rs 700 crore in 2006. With opportunities galore, the film industry is also making content so that can be put into different mediums, says Farokh Balsara, partner and director, advisory services, technology, communications and entertainment, Ernst & Young.

Bollywood is also adapting other growth strategies from the West. In 2006-07, 90% of Hollywoods revenues came from franchises. Think Spiderman, which is already in its third part, or Harry Potter. At Percept Picture Company, a plan has been put in place so that by 2010 60-70% of its revenues come from old films, sequels, prequels and animations.

We must build brands, says Naveen Shah, CEO, Percept Picture Company. The success of the Munnabhai and Hanuman series and Golmaal Returns should encourage Bollywood to think about building a franchise out of a product, says an analyst.