How advertisers are leveraging the movie screen

Updated: Jun 10, 2019 9:22 AM

Advertisers see greater ROI from brand integrations within movies

Bahubali 2: The Conclusion, Bahubali Tiger biscuits, ICICI Bank, Alkem Laboratories, ESP Properties, Amazon SellersBrands have historically leveraged movies because of the hype and aura of the ‘superstars’.

Venkata Susmita Biswas

In 2017, when Bahubali 2: The Conclusion was set to hit the theatres, brands went into an overdrive with co-branding partnerships, giving us Bahubali Tiger biscuits, Bahubali-themed debit cards from ICICI Bank, and Bahubali-2 4G SIM by Airtel.

In contrast, Alkem Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company, partnered with an unconventional, low-budget 2018 movie Badhaai Ho!, organically integrating its condom (Playgard) and pregnancy test kit (Pregakem) products in a comical and relatable manner within the movie.

There is a marked shift in the way brands engage with films. A recent study by GroupM’s entertainment and sports division ESP Properties indicates that there was a 30% drop in co-branded associations in 2018 over 2017. The average screen time for co-branded associations came down from 51.7 lakh seconds in 2017 to 35.2 lakh seconds in 2018.

Screen time

Brands have historically leveraged movies because of the hype and aura of the ‘superstars’. But the last one year has seen new-age actors and filmmakers make a solid impression. “That’s a great learning from a marketing standpoint. It has made advertisers rethink their strategies,” says Vinit Karnik, business head, ESP Properties.

BharatMatrimony has associated with many Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil films through in-film integrations. Kamal Kumar, GM, marketing,, believes in-film integrations bring good ROI, in terms of visibility and impact. “If the movie has a story that fits the brand, popular star cast and a recognised banner behind it, the amplification for the brand can be very good,” he adds.

In-film integrations give marketers the most bang for their buck, but at a cost. Binda Dey, marketing head, Red Chillies Entertainment, says that in-film placements are charged a premium “as the brand stays in the movie for perpetuity”. However, despite this, in-film placement could prove to be more cost-effective as compared to co-branded campaigns, as the latter involves buying media separately for promotions.

A brand placement within a movie could cost Rs 20-60 lakh depending on factors such as the level of integration and the scale of the movie. However, the measurement of the impact of in-film integrations is rudimentary at the moment.


The scope for brands to carve out truly meaningful partnerships is limited because film studios are not comfortable sharing the script with marketers. For instance, Amazon Sellers’ association with Sui Dhaaga was forged after the first trailer of the movie was launched and the brand spotted an opportunity.

Furthermore, brands do not have much say in the partnerships; some have even been edited out of the movie entirely. A Rs 20-50 lakh partnership deal is insignificant when compared to the high budgets of Rs 125-200 crore that the movies are made on. “Brands need to bring in investments of Rs 10 crore and above to then demand sizeable industry-changing partnerships from the film and television industry,” says Pranay Anthwal, executive director, Publicis Entertainment (India).

Brands and filmmakers need also spare some thought on ‘how much is too much’. Veere Di Wedding, for instance, aggressively leveraged in-film integrations and came under fire for becoming a blatant brand endorsement vehicle. BharatMatrimony, Uber, Amul, Air India, Bikaji Namkeen…the list of brands featured in the movie was long, unfavourably so.

Brands and filmmakers are more cautious now. Sidharth Ghosh, CEO, ITW Playworx, an agency that offers branded entertainment solutions, says, “While advertisers are not openly demanding a cap on the number of brand integrations in a movie, they are careful about the associations they enter into and are seeking opportunities that have a meaningful fit, beyond mere placements in the frame.”

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