Consider the following music videos currently on air. The first is a remixed version of Kishore Kumar's evergreen classic, 'Musaafir hoon yaaron'. Then you have a teenybopper love story from an album called Deewanon Ka Jalwa. The third is a 'dance party' number featuring the sultry Malaika Aurora, while the fourth is what can loosely be termed a 'masti' number. And what do the four have in common? All four videos endorse brands, one way or another.
The video for the Kishore Kumar remix tells a mildly interesting tale of a pair of shoes that gets passed on from one person to another. The brand being endorsed - Liberty Shoes. The teenybopper video endorses - much too blatantly - two-wheeler brand Scooty. The Malaika video reinforces the Romanov brand, while the last is called Digen's Jalwa. No prizes for guessing which is the brand being endorsed here. (Incidentally, the album for the Malaika video is called Romanov Party Mania.)
For a nascent medium, in-video advertising seems to have suddenly become pretty popular among Indian advertisers and agencies. Of course, it's not as if Indian advertising has just chanced upon 'in-video brand placement', the broader term for the concept. In the past, music videos have intermittently endorsed brands. There was this Bombay Vikings video ('Kya soorat hai') that endorsed Wall's Feast, Frooti was a key component in a forgettable 'poolside' number, Ford IKON had associated with Shankar Mahadevan's 'Josh mein'… But it's only now that more and more advertisers are hopping on to the bandwagon.
So what makes in-video advertising such a hot property? One, the popularity of music videos. Two, considering that there is absolutely no clutter for the three or four minutes the video is on air, brands can get as much latitude as can be hoped for. "The biggest bonus is the album becoming a hit - the brand gets excellent exposure," opines K.S. Chakravarthy (Chax), director, Persistence of Vision. "The medium is particularly good for product categories with youth appeal and badge value."
"I think in-video advertising offers the scope for subliminal brand placement," feels Shabnam Panjwani, vice-president and manager, Everest Integrated Communications, Mumbai, which has been instrumental in creating both the Digen's Jalwa and Romanov albums. "The idea is that each time the video is flashed on screen, the brand makes a simple connect without being blatant." Citing the example of the Romanov video, she says, "The real advantage of in-video advertising is that, if handled properly, it gets the audience at a time when they are most receptive. In this case, when they are in a party mood."
Yet advertisers jump in without giving a second thought to placement and its relevance in the video. For instance, there was this chartbusting video for Jalwa with a glow-sign for Sonora Tiles somewhere in the background. The incongruity of that glow-sign in a discotheque couldn't be missed. "It's a good idea if one makes sure the placement of the brand is correct, and one does not sacrifice the creative integrity of the video," says Sanjay Bhutiani, general manager, Leo Burnett India (and head of Leo Entertainment).
Guarding against overkill is another issue. "There is a very fine line between use and abuse of branding," says Rajiv Agarwal, managing director, Enterprise Nexus. "If the brand is too intrusive, it undermines the credibility of the medium, the brand and the channel. Plus, you are being unfair to the consumer, as she is dedicating a portion of her time to be entertained, not watch ads. It's a great idea as long as you are not disrespecting the consumer." Bhutiani agrees, adding that if the 'placement' distracts the audience from the video, there could be a consumer backlash.
The concept itself is not without drawbacks. For one, music videos (read Indipop) are on the downslide. With most videos passing like ships in the night, it's so much money down the drain. At the end of the day, the longevity of a music video is only that much - unlike ads, channels don't air music videos that are past their prime. Of course, one cannot really equate videos and ad films. "They are two different mediums," points out Bhutiani. "You cannot expect an in-video ad to drive volumes. It's more an image thing, a support medium. You have to evaluate the risk versus the result."
There is another way of looking at it - as a gamble. "For an advertiser who has allocated budgets that run into crores of rupees, an in-video ad is a risk worth taking," points out Chax. "If you were to make a decent TV commercial, you would spend at least Rs 25-30 lakh on production. Then there is the cost of airing the film. In in-video placements, the only cost that the advertiser will incur is the making of the video. Everything else is taken care of by the music company. And all it takes to make a decent music video is Rs 12-15 lakh."
Panjwani adds, "The longevity of your video is the same as that of your press ad. The advantage with a video is that for that one month, channels play your brand and you get press support from the music company."
A gamble it might be, but perhaps a more scientific approach to the concept could tilt the odds in the advertiser's favour. "There is a lot of potential here, but it has not been tapped because enough mind has not been applied," Agarwal insists. "The starting point has to be the music. It has to be good enough to appeal to people. Then you have to see how to get your brand into the video. For that you have to get the artiste and the producer involved in the thinking and share the brand philosophy with them. It just can't be a cut-paste job of doing silly things like putting a hoarding somewhere in the background or focusing the camera on the back-patch of a pair of jeans."
Backing the right artiste too is important, but need not necessarily pay off. Often, a rank outsider does better than an established performer. Also, very often, so-called 'non-youth' artistes' albums do very well, an example being Shubha Mudgal's Man Ke Manjeere.
Perhaps one thing that advertisers could do is drum up excitement about the album, thus influencing purchase and adding to the popularity of the video. "Co-promotions like road shows and contests centered at the album and the brand are among the things that can be done," offers Bhutiani. Panjwani cites the example of Digen's Jalwa, saying, "We are doing a cross-promo with Times Music where you get a cassette free with a six-pack of Frooti. The bigness of the idea is not in placing the brand in the video, but in harnessing the connect with the brand."
One thing is clear. The advertiser's job does not end with getting the brand into the video. Unfortunately, that has been the case with most in-video advertising in India. To be fair, Indian advertisers and agencies are still coming to grips with the concept, but the sooner they understand the synergies and ramifications, the less the wastage factor.
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