Guest Article: Gaurav Srivastav: Did you see the red Volvo in '3 Idiots'?

By Gaurav Srivastav , Independent, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | May 18, 2012
Movies are the biggest religion in India after cricket and cut homogeneously across the consuming class. How is this relevant for the brand manager?

Last time I checked, the cost to reach a thousand people through a TV advertisement campaign of a mass brand from the stable of an FMCG giant on television (OTS 2) was well over the 100 paisa per person mark. This is when the reports are at best an extrapolation of numbers up to 10,000 times. To a serious media manager, this situation is scary, especially when he knows that people switch channels during ad breaks.

Gaurav Srivastav

dy>Brand and media managers have been conscious of this for a while now and hence, we have seen a gradual inclination to take the content approach. Brands have invested in TV serials, songs and viral videos for YouTube. An ardent TV watcher (the number is on a decline) would remember Cornetto Luv Reels or the cookery shows created by LG. The Boost song for Sachin Tendulkar sung by Dhanush also garnered good views on YouTube.

Here again, a brand faces similar issues. The cost of creating content is huge and its utility will only accrue if it's a hit. This now becomes a creative problem, and the marketer now needs to know how to shoot arrows in the dark. The fundamental of measurement science, pre-evaluation, goes for a toss and most post-evaluations determine that the cost/benefit ratio is acute.

So what does a modern marketer do to ensure that he spends less amount of money per possible consumer reached, and is more effective in conveying the message across? The answer, in theory, is simple - ride on someone else's content and pay only if it is able to reach your audience. In practice, however, there are many bottlenecks to be taken care of.

a. How do you ensure that the content source is regular and has mass reach?
b. Is it possible to benchmark the content for pre-evaluation?
c. How do you measure the delivery of the message and treatment of the brand in the content?
d. Most important, how do you arrive at cost per consumer reached?

The problems are being faced by marketers around the world - in North and South America, in Europe, West Asia and Southeast Asia. In the Indian context though, there is a possible answer.

The Indian film industry
The makers of more than a thousand films in a year, controlled by a few big names in every language, with more than 3 billion walk-ins every year. Movies are the biggest religion in India after cricket, and most importantly, cut homogeneously across the consuming class audience. Of course, the most potent tool of setting fashions and trends.

What the Indian film industry can do for a brand manager is to
1. Provide a regular, year round source of content. Content that pulls in eyeballs and has a captive audience.
2. Most of the films have a predefined way of being made - songs, action, drama and comedy in equal doses, and a star cast that people follow - so development of a benchmarking system is easy.
3. A consensus can be reached on parameters of brand placement in the movie. It would be an easy exercise as the people who control the big productions and distribution are few in number.
4. Points (2) and (3) can be used in combination to generate the CPC model.

Once the above is achieved, movies will become a true gift for the brand manager trying to reach the Indian audience.

Consider this for a perspective: a successful movie like '3 Idiots' can reach up to 1.5 crore of the target audience for a mass brand through theatrical release. If you add TV, DTH and DVD release - the number would swell up to about 2.25 crore and, if negotiated well to start with, the average cost of reaching to this base would come to about 18-20 paisa per person.

For a more conservative estimate, let's consider something like 'I hate love stories'. Assuming we are working with a mass brand and we do negotiate well, the movie would have taken the brand to a target audience of about 45-50 lakh through theatrical release. TV, DTH and DVD would add a further 30 lakh eyeballs at an average cost of 15-16 paisa per target reached.

The Indian film industry is at an age and time when it can serve as the biggest and most economical medium to reach the consumer. It is time for the brand manager to put a proper strategy in place and look at placement in movies as a potent way to communicate with his audience.

The author is a media and marketing consultant.