Films take the innovative outdoor route

By Surina Sayal and Rohit Nautiyal , afaqs!, Mumbai/New Delhi | In OOH News
Last updated : August 12, 2009
Unique, and sometimes bizarre, ideas for outdoor promotions have created a buzz for various movies recently

People do it, animals do it and even brands do it. Call it 'clutter-breaker', 'striking', 'eye-catching', 'peacocking'-- it is common knowledge that anything done differently attracts attention and stands out from a crowd.

Brands, for instance, have used innovations across media to attract eyeballs. But a recent trend is that of movies using unique outdoor advertising ideas, the latest one being for the new horror flick, Agyaat.

The movie is about a film unit that gets trapped deep in a forest where members of the unit are killed by an unknown entity, which they can neither see nor hear.

As part of the marketing initiative before the launch of the movie, UTV Motion Pictures, along with its outdoor agency, Bright Outdoor Media, hung dummy, rubber 'bodies' on the film's hoardings. Though the innovation gripped attention and also scared people, it elicited shock overall.

On August 3, as a part of an innovative marketing strategy, the dummy bodies were hung at 10 locations across Mumbai: Goregaon flyover, Andheri Lokhandwala, Chitrakoot near Citi Mall on New Link Road, Andheri Gold Spot junction, Andheri JVPD Circle, near Mahim Church, Juhu beach, Dadar Tilak Bridge, Mahim Tulsi Pipe Road and near Mahalaxmi station.

The hoardings were all up by 7 am, but because of intervention by the police and the local people, who were horrified at the sight; these were taken down within three hours. People mistook the dummies for real dead bodies, and the outdoor agency started getting frantic calls to pull them down.

All in all, the idea and execution generated enormous response from passersby. Even those who didn't see the hoardings, read about them the next day, in newspapers or online. Mission accomplished.

Prior to this idea, an innovative pre-launch promotion stunt was carried out by 20th Century Fox for its film, Night at the Museum 2, where characters from the movie came alive.

Akin to the film's concept, two important characters from the film -- Jedediah, a cowboy (played by Owen Wilson) and Octavius, a Roman General (played by Steve Coogan), who shares a comical rivalry with Jedediah -- came to life on a mobile van hoarding. They were seen to be involved in an amusing fight on top of the hoarding at Mahim Causeway in Mumbai.

Big Street, the out-of-home division of Reliance Big Entertainment, too, drew in crowds for the film, New York, when it brought the New York skyline to Delhi.

The company executed an innovative, larger-than-life campaign, where a life-size replica of the actors, along with a fully illuminated New York skyline was placed at the Delhi Metro stations. This innovation was so attractive that people were seen clicking photographs with it, which they later uploaded to social networking sites, to share their experience of 'visiting' New York in Delhi.

Creative movie marketing ideas have, so far, mainly been executed in movie halls and multiplexes, a recent example being the tie-up between the film, Ghajini and Big Cinemas, where male employees had their heads shaved to resemble Aamir Khan's character from the film. But what's causing movie marketers to take these innovative initiatives outside and into the streets?

Praveen Vadhera, country head of Bates' OOH division, 141 Wall Street, says, "In outdoors, in the media and entertainment category, movies have contributed a large chunk. Be it old style hand-painted posters, historically, movies as a genre have used the format better than brands have. The reason they are getting more innovative is the same as for brands -- to get more eyeballs and break clutter."

Also, since movies are made for the masses and the common man is out-of-home, this is a great way to target him. He believes that new touch-points in outdoor, including mobile vans and media in malls allow movies to be marketed in a better manner.

However, Mangesh Borse, director, Symbiosis Advertising, is of the opinion that only some movies have used the outdoor medium well, while others are a long way from marketing movies innovatively on OOH media.

He says, "Movies tend to use OOH media primarily to create noise, without really wondering about the desired impact. That's probably why the word 'publicity' is used, when it comes to film marketing."

He thinks outdoor advertising should be able to deliver like an activation medium for films, something that can convert publicity into walk-ins at the cinema halls. "OOH media for films is bought purely on volumes.

Hence, qualitative impact is only a bonus. It's a typical high-reach, high-frequency campaign, which is weak on impact. Print ads and posters are adapted to OOH. That's not going to yield results at the counters," he adds.

Movie marketers can use the outdoor medium better by building curiosity and reasons to watch the film, he thinks.

Mukesh Manik, man-in-charge, Encyclomedia Networks, too, says that innovative ads, which depict the theme, genre and essence of the movie in the design, prompt viewers to go and watch the movie.

Manik says, "It is rare to see good innovation done for movies in India. Some interesting ones that do come to mind is the one for Spiderman, where a web and a large blow-up of Spiderman were hung on a mall facade."

Also, big budget movies that want to create a buzz can go the innovative outdoors way. It is usually action, superhero and horror movies that lend themselves to such advertising, he thinks.

Borse recollects that Cheeni Kum used the medium to great effect, with Amitabh's ponytailed chef look, the sugar bottle and their product placements; while Agyaat has probably been designed to create a shock response in a short span.

Shikha Kapur, vice-president, marketing, UTV Motion Pictures, agrees, "A horror flick is certified to grab attention by using shock therapy and the same is reflected in its marketing initiatives. So, for Agyaat, we chose to go for a short-lived campaign that was able to create a stir."

Vadhera also points out that just as brands highlight the product, brand name, tagline and other elements on an outdoor format; movies, too, highlight their sub-brands -- the actors. "Be it Shah Rukh Khan, Rekha or Amitabh Bachchan, the marketer is conscious of what is going to make the film work and he highlights that. So, three-fourth of the visual will consist of the actors."

He adds, "These days, the way outdoor creatives are done for romance, action and other genres are very different from each other. These are hugely effective visuals and that is how outdoor should speak."

Vadhera also thinks that such innovations for movies are done equally in rural areas as well as urban markets. But Manik feels that due to the dense population, the metros have the advantage of having more visibility.

"Since the success of a movie is measured on the basis of how well it fared in the metros, it is the preferred choice to execute innovations," he says.

Borse concludes, "We need to challenge this belief that a movie is a perishable product. The pressure on the release week has to ease out. We have interesting films being made today and these deserve better OOH."

So be it the 'wow' factor with an innovation like the NY skyline, or a shock response elicited by the Agyaat promotion, or even a comical fight sequence between characters of a film on a hoarding, we can safely say that the competition between movies to woo audiences and create a buzz with unique, and sometimes strange, ideas, has moved outdoors.

First Published : August 12, 2009
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