In a country where apart from cricket, Bollywood is nothing less than a religion and where actors are worshipped, it is no wonder that brands see the medium as a lucrative way to reach wider audiences. In-film branding or embedded advertising is not new, but over the years, brands and production houses have been collaborating in ways different from the usual blink-and-you-miss-it type brand spots.
Dilwale, although a dud at the box
office, saw four different brands with four unique solutions, all tying up with the film. For example, Ariel was seamlessly integrated in the movie as an extension of its award-winning campaign, ‘Share the Load’. Apart from this, Paytm interacted with its entire consumer base by sending push notifications about Dilwale and allowing them to book tickets for the film in advance, with cashback offers.
Similarly, for Mary Kom, Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Bhansali Productions saw a slew of brand associations — more than a whopping 20 brands. Mother Dairy, one of the brands, even had a television campaign on-air, which extolled the virtues of the product featuring Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom. Or take Yash Raj Films’ Jab Tak Hai Jaan, for instance. The production house got Discovery Channel on board for the Shah Rukh Khan-Anushka Sharma starrer. A big-ticket Hindi movie can see as many as 15-25 brand associations. Aamir Khan’s PK saw participation from brands like Hero Cycles, Cycle Pure Agarbattis, Duracell and Pierre Cardin, among many others. Today as more and more brands and production houses collaborate, it is clear that this new level of in-film branding is not only giving prominence to brands but also reducing risks as well as costs for filmmakers.
Given the sheer clutter, noise and competition out there, brands are looking at newer, fresher and more innovative ways to connect with their audiences. And cinema and entertainment are probably the surest bet to fulfil that ambition. Over the years, cinema as an industry too has undergone a change as it has become more organised with bigger studios and with professionals running the set-up which in turn, has increased measurability. India, in the recent past, has also witnessed greater theatre penetration and scales of the movie business ramping up; the audience delivery in terms of reach has also gone up dramatically. For production houses too, embedded advertising is an interesting new tool as an alternative revenue stream and a marketing partnership to promote the project smartly using third party resources.
Says Ashish Patil, business and creative head, Yash Raj Films (YRF), “Yes, this has started becoming a bigger option than what it was in the past, but the charge is still led by more traditional media like TV, print, radio, outdoor and digital.” The production house, which has collaborated with numerous brands, has witnessed its topline revenues grow exponentially, north of 300% in the last five years. Mere Dad ki Maruti, released in 2013, was one of the first collaborations between a production house (YRF) and a brand, Maruti Suzuki, where the name of the brand was in the title. Maruti Suzuki’s Ertiga was one of the central ‘characters’ of the film.
Not new to the concept of in-film placements, Maruti Suzuki had also done something similar with Swift, in Bunty Aur Babli in 2005. “A brand needs to be wherever the potential customer is,” says Sunila Dhar, vice president (marketing), Maruti Suzuki. Being a full-fledged brand film, it pushed up test drives by 30% during the window of release of the film and created incredible buzz for the mother brand, and trade excitement for showrooms as well as retailers. Brands feel that with traditional media being overpopulated today, one needs to look beyond the usual. ‘In-content’ is what they prefer these days. This means to integrate the brand seamlessly into the content, be it in films, TV soap operas, reality shows or even digital films.
“Marketers doing so need to keep in mind that films aren’t like a Bigg Boss. Hence, the whole activation needs to not be the in-your-face type,” cautions Subhashis Basu, business head – dairy products, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable, while elaborating how the brand didn’t plan for in-film branding with Mary Kom or Kick until it synced with the storyline seamlessly.
Not only this, but the tourism industry too depends on films to bring a country/location on the Indian traveller’s mind. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara made Spain a must-see destination for many. As per reports, it boosted Spanish tourism from India by 32% after its release. From a song in an exotic destination, today the association has broadened its horizons, allowing both the production house as well as the destination city/country to reap the benefits of the exchange.
As per reports, in 2013-14, brands had spent about `350 crore on film branding opportunities and this is expected to grow by 15-20%. To support the medium’s growth, according to the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report, the revenues from in-cinema advertising are growing at a steady pace in India, and were believed to have reached `4.9 billion at the end of 2014.Considering the fact that major exhibitors have announced their expansion plans in India, this growth is expected to continue over the coming years. Major spenders include sectors such as FMCG, banking, automobile and real estate. However, it is difficult to give an average cost assigned to embedded advertising in the overall media mix, as brand associations vary on things like levels of integration, star-cast, marketing budgets and what has been given as barter. On an average, a brand can spend as measly an amount as `25 lakh to as much as double digits in crores.
From a small film with a fresh star-cast and entitlements like placement, co-branded spots, tickets and digital promotions from the studio, to a unique association or merchandising spin-offs, the level of partnership depends on the level of integration within the film. For instance, HUL, which tied up with Dharma Productions’ 2 States for its newly launched shampoo variant, Sunsilk Natural Recharge, invested almost 50% of its marketing and promotions budget (estimated at `30 crore) for the in-film association.And though cinema lacks audience measurement unlike TV or print (which have BARC/TAM and IRS, respectively, to their rescue), in-cinema brands show up on faith, depending on the movie’s reach. However, there are many who believe that in terms of cost efficiency, cinema will never reach where TV is. Through in-film branding, brands might be talking to select, well-to-do families, and not the masses, considering the ticket costs. Hence, brands come on board only during big-ticket movie releases where occupancy is guaranteed. Having said that, one cannot disregard the fact that broadcast rights for television pose a double advantage for brands as this means viewers who missed the film in theatres can catch it on the small screen — multiple times, thereby improving recall of the brands associated with the film.
Logical next step
With filmmakers too eyeing potential brand associations while the script is being developed, there is a level of negotiation that happens at an early stage and at times certain scenes are even tweaked. But it is very unlikely that storylines are changed. The common ways of integration are theme lead, wherein one finds a fit according to the storyline and/or genre. For example, Pond’s and Kwality Walls Cornetto on a romantic film while Mountain Dew on a high adrenaline adventure/action-thriller. Sometimes it is script-led where one finds the need to place a certain category in the narrative. Maruti Ertiga in Mere Dad ki Maruti is a fine example here.Then there is also the angle of brand endorser actors who bring the brands they endorse on-board their film projects. This artist-led collaboration is what production houses feed on today. Thums Up with Ek Tha Tiger for Salman Khan was a natural fit.“More and more advertisers are investing in cinema advertising because it can guarantee the undivided attention of captive audiences as well as offer a range of advertising opportunities, both on and off screens at various areas around the theatre,” asserts Rahul Puri, MD, Mukta Arts.
The next step which brands have taken is to be associated with a film much before it releases. “Brands are spending, so why not spend a little more to be part of a film even before it goes on the floor,” says Vinit Karnik, business head at ESP Properties, a sports and entertainment consultancy of GroupM. Eros International’s partnership with United Spirits’ Bagpiper Soda for its Marathi film Guru is an example of the same. Through this association, Bagpiper Soda was an integrated partner across the film’s content and promotions. It was involved in every phase of the film, right from conceptualisation to promotion, instead of just a brand placement in the movie. The association also saw Bagpiper Soda promoting the film through a specially created TVC with the lead actors, with a creative aligned with the basic plot of the film.
It is clear that entertainment is the most aspirational space for any advertiser to be in. Those brands which, along with their media agencies, look at more innovative ways at these collaborations, will pave the way for the rest.
‘Bond’ing with brands
In the film world, one iconic character-led series which has mastered the art of product placement is the James Bond set of movies. After all, we know Bond for the car he drives, the watch he wears and of course, the drink he sips on.
James Bond has been one of the most popular spy agents since Ian Fleming first sent him on his mission in 1953. Since then, many actors have played the role of Agent 007; however, what has remained constant is the fact that brands, and we mean luxury brands, have stuck with him even as his lady love may not have.
Spectre, the latest film in the series released in 2015, is the most expensive yet, with a budget upwards of $350 million, as per reports. Apart from actor Daniel Craig, what has been instrumental in getting the film made and marketed well are the advertising partners. This, of course, doesn’t come cheap. Heineken covered one-third of the total budget of Skyfall as well as launched a $100 million campaign with Daniel Craig before Spectre was released.
Many of Bond’s sponsors are iconic brands, including Omega, Tom Ford, Martini, Aston Martin, Crockett & Jones and Sunspel, among others. As per experts, Bond films cross barriers — region, religion or class — and hence, attract brands like a moth to a flame. However, not all associations have worked.
For instance, Die Another Day was nicknamed Buy Another Day by critics and audiences because of the unprecedented number of advertising partners involved. So, throwing caution to the wind and not having a strategy in place may not be the best idea. Agent 007 would agree.