Samsara Media, a digital OOH advertising and media company focusing on the public transportation sector, has signed an exclusive deal for entertainment programming on BEST bus screens with the Mumbai based production company, Smile and Soul.
Emnet has a 10 year contract to install and maintain surveillance systems and digital screens in all the 4,000 local BEST buses in Mumbai. Of these, 465 buses have already been installed with two screens each and 1,600 more will be ready by January 2009. Around 48 lakh people travel by BEST buses every day.
Smile and Soul deals in production, distribution and marketing of Bollywood content and will create content such as trailers, snippets on the making of films, and actors' interviews for these digital screens. It will also source non-government organisation (NGO) documentaries and social messages, short films of different genres and television content such as reality shows.
Following negotiations spread over six months, Smile and Soul signed the deal with Emnet on October 27, winning the rights with effect from November 1. Discussing the development, Kanishka Chaudhury, national sales head, Emnet, says, "Smile and Soul had approached us because they found this medium very innovative and offering tremendous visibility."
Chaudhury, who has spent 19 years in the media selling space, adds, "With Smile and Soul, we have a semi-exclusive contract only for the films category against some tentative commercial commitment. Though a verbal commitment has been made for 10 years, we will review the contract every year."
Smile and Soul will pay Emnet a certain amount annually after deducting its commission. However, both companies chose not to reveal the mutually agreed monetary consideration.
Though BEST buses already have some ad spots and educational and social messages running in the 465 buses with screens, entertainment content will be introduced for the first time.
Discussing the benefit of such programming in the buses (with an average of 1,500 commuters per bus per day), Sanjay Singh, director, Smile and Soul, says, "The obvious reason is the entertainment of the commuters - to make an otherwise boring and tedious ride interesting and entertaining. Where the commuters would have switched off, bored by the repetitive ads, now they will have something of interest to watch while commuting."
Singh, who has worked earlier with Zee TV for 13 years in various capacities, adds that for ads to catch eyeballs, it is important to create and encourage general viewership of the medium. "Advertisements on their own can rarely hold attention for a long period of time. Strategic programming will make the audience watch the ads as well," he says.
Smile and Soul has already started conceptualising and producing unique short duration programmes, keeping in mind the average time a commuter spends in the bus which, according to Emnet's research, stands currently at 20 minutes.
For the record, Smile and Soul Entertainment is a production and marketing house that has conceived and pitched a variety of television programmes to news and entertainment channels. Currently, Desh Ke Dil Se, marketed by Smile and Soul, runs on Aaj Tak's Tez. It also plans to produce feature films and is on the verge of launching a news channel and an entertainment channel for viewers in Central India.