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Points of View: In-film branding: Why is it booming?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | September 03, 2013
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Who needs commercial breaks when the whole movie is your play-ground? afaqs! looks at the recent spurt in in-film brand placements.

In 2008, afaqs! carried a POV titled 'Why hasn't in-film placement taken off?' So much has changed since then. Besides the spurt in volumes of brand appearances in films of late, one can even make a case for how in-film branding has become cruder than before. Sure, the insipid product pack still appears almost as an apology, in the background of the occasional movie scene but we also have a Shah Rukh Khan rattling off the product features of Nokia in Chennai Express. Not to mention the barrage of brands that have integrated with the recently released political drama Satyagraha -- Sahara Q Shop, Ultratech Cement, Rupa, India Gate Basmati Rice and Wishtel India, to name a few.

Shah Rukh Khan enumerates the features of Nokia Lumia in Chennai Express

Scene from Mere Dad Ki Maruti

Anushka Sharma uses Canon equipment in Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Anushka Sharma works for Discovery Channel in Jab Tak Hai Jaan

And, in-film placements have gone beyond product appearances and superstar testimonials. Today, brand names appear in song lyrics (Fevicol) and film titles (Mere Dad Ki Maruti). Of course, there's still no way to measure ROI on in-film branding. But one can always look for a weak connection. After Mere Dad Ki Maruti released, the Ertiga saw a 30 per cent spike in test drives and enquiries. And around that time, there was no other advertising for the brand on air.

Measurable or not, subliminal or shameless, the fact is, in-film brand placements are on the rise. So what makes the present times so conducive to in-film branding? There are several reasons.

For one, given the exorbitant endorsement fees charged by leading actors today, brand tie-ups with films starring them seem like a cheaper way to get access to the rub-off effect of these stars.

Secondly, many professional managers have come into this business. A lot of in-film placements take place through media barters - in exchange for getting placed in a film the brand gives the producer media space worth X amount, say Rs 2 crore. Which means, instead of the usual brand campaign, co-branded content is used in the brand's ads. This content typically comprises scenes of the movie in which the brand is visible, like in the case of Tourism Ireland and Ek Tha Tiger. Besides this, brands get a lot of ancillary visibility around the films, such as X number of tickets/CDs/merchandise from the film and meet-and-greet opportunities with the cast as contest giveaways.

Besides overseeing these barter deals, these professionals also craft '360 movie strategies'. For example, if a camera brand (Canon) is being endorsed by an actor (Anushka Sharma), they ensure the actor uses this brand in her next movie (Jab Tak Hain Jaan) for a role that requires her to use a camera (her character Akira Rai is a videographer).

And these aren't the only reasons. Edited excerpts of what our respondents said in response to the question in the headline:

Ashish Patil

Anil Jayaraj

R S Suriyanarayanan

Himanka Das

Ashish Patil, business and creative head and vice-president, youth films, brand partnerships and talent management, Yash Raj Films India

Conventional forms of advertising have become basic, hygiene factors. Now it's all about disruption, which is why getting embedded in entertainment content has become critical for brands. Cinema, in this country, is just too large a platform to ignore. Nearly 80-85 per cent of all movie goers are 15-35 years old and this is the group most advertisers are talking to these days. It's a high impact medium and the shelf life is infinite.

In-film placement is not a media campaign that's going to go on air and then off. A film has multiple touch-points - cinema, promos, songs, digital, satellite premier, VOD (video on demand) in hotels, pay per view, DTH, in-flight, DVD release... and the producer doesn't go to the brand and say 'Hey I delivered three crore more eyeballs for you. Pay me more.' Also, with in-film placement, a brand can't get zapped by the remote and people can't click on 'skip ad'.

Anil Jayaraj, chief marketing officer, Pidilite Industries

The benefits of in-film branding go beyond just the on-screen presence of the brand. It also extends to film promotions. In-film branding works well for brands that already have a link with popular culture. For example, what we've done with Fevicol in Dabangg 2, the use of Zandu Balm in the prequel or Aston Martin in James Bond films.

With in-film branding, you're basically there for perpetuity! The impact lasts forever because the film lives on. It is telecast on satellite channels and lives on with repeat views; that's a big advantage. And when it's done through a song, there's an even bigger advantage because the song gets played many more times than the film gets viewed.

R S Suriyanarayanan, associate vice-president, Initiative

Brand placements help subsidise the promotion of films. The biggest advantage for producers is that these contracts are made such that it's not directly about the brand endorsement money itself; it's about the movie promotion. For example, if brand X is being placed in a given film, the agreement is not just about the integration money; the producer would want the film to be promoted through the brand around release-time. For this, producers allow brands to use film clippings in their promotional material/tactical campaigns. This invariably popularises the film.

Many brands also look at the rub-off effect of lead characters on the product. From the perspective of the brand, any celebrity association with a larger consumer base is welcome and doesn't cost a bomb either.

Also, new movies hit the small screen faster than they used to earlier. Producers have realised this. Since movies hit small screens so quickly, the cost of movie-title acquisitions has gone up. The sponsors of WTPs (World TV Premieres) have to shell out more than double the amount today, as compared to three-four years back. Given this high on-air association cost, in-movie integration is considered to be the best bet.

Himanka Das, senior vice-president, West, Carat Media

The change stems from the way movies themselves are being marketed these days. A few years back, movie production wasn't as much of a corporate affair as it is today. Movies today are marketed as professionally like any other brand. Production houses have dedicated marketing teams. Which means right from the scripting stage, products are being woven into the movie, by design. In-film branding is being done in a very well-thought manner, right from the scripting stage, sometimes to the extent that scripts are tailor-made to suit the product placement. For example, Anushka Sharma's character in Jab Tak Hai Jaan works for Discovery Channel; her character has been conceived as being part of this brand.

A related trend is the rise of co-branded promotion of movies, wherein various elements of a movie are associated with brands. For example, the movie Heroine was associated with the clothing brand Jealous 21. The brand introduced a 'Heroine range' at the retail level, though in the film there's no brand visibility as such. With increase in co-branded promotions, the opportunities for brands to associate with movies is also increasing, indirectly increasing in-film brand placement opportunities.

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