At a seminar
organised by the Indian Television Academy (ITA), TAM Media Research, for television production houses on various industry issues, it was discussed how in-film placement could be of great monetary value for content providers and an effective way to reach out to consumers.
The panel was moderated by Rahul Welde, general manager, India, Hindustan Unilever, and the speakers included Dilip Venkatraman, director, marketing and online projects, CNN-IBN; Dheeraj Kumar, chairman and managing director, Creative Eye; Prem Sagar, producer, Sagar Films and Entertainment; and LV Krishnan, chief executive officer, TAM India.
It was during the good old days of Doordarshan when the popular music-based show 'Rangoli' was aired on Sundays. On a particular day, all the songs of the programme that were chosen started with the word, 'chand' (moon) because the advertiser wanted to promote his soap brand, which had the tag line 'Chand sa mukhda' (a face as beautiful as the moon). Therefore, purposefully, a context was created for the brand to fit in with the content of the programme.
Another example Sagar gave was of the brand 'Ujala', which was promoted during the mythological show, 'Jai Ganga Maiya', on STAR Plus, a few years ago. Ujala is synonymous with cleanliness and gelled well with this particular serial as people could relate it with the purity of the holy river, Ganga.
Venkatraman pointed out that integrating a brand, especially in a news channel, was equal to approving it editorially. Therefore, it has to be calibrated and controlled. He said that the principals of journalism were more important to them than product integration. For example, CNN-IBN will not look for in-show product placements for a show being hosted by Rajdeep Sardesai. However, for a show such as 'Sports 360 Degree', sporting material such as Adidas balls could easily be placed around the anchor.
Krishnan said that although there was no effective method to measure the impact of in-film and in-show product placement, the impact could be evaluated if the product had been placed in the right context in the programme. After the context had been set right, it was also important to see the number of times the brand was shown on the screen during the show and the duration of the exposure.
Welde stressed that as there was no governing body to look after product placements in films, serials and shows, the biggest problem a marketer faced was to place his product in the right context in the script of the producer. If the producer made a little bit more effort and came up with ideas that supported brand integration in the script, it would be a tremendous help to the marketers. He gave an example of when product integration in a soap had generated negative results for the brand a few years ago. The protagonist in a serial was shown using Fair & Lovely face cream. When Fair & Lovely had notched up enough screen presence in continuing episodes, it was taken out of the show, assuming that it had made the desired connect with its target audience. Ironically, after three weeks, as per the script, the protagonist died. Although Fair & Lovely's role was over long ago and it had been pulled off the screen, the female audience was left subconsciously thinking about the negative impact of the brand.
Welde also made the point that product integration in soaps was a bit difficult because women tend to be emotionally involved in the story. Therefore, if a wrong context is chosen for the brand, it would instantaneously deliver a negative result. Finding the right context was easier in reality shows because there was no emotional attachment and the shows were generally more informal.
The panel discussion concluded on the note that the story of the programme should not be compromised for the brand; the integration of the script and brand should be very subtle. There was also a need to monitor negative brand associations, which could create harmful results for the brand. Negative brand associations are powerful, especially with respect to cricket matches, when a batsman gets out at a humiliating score and immediately shown endorsing a brand in a commercial; the brand gets put in the line of public fury as a result.