Mahabharat: An epic launch

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | September 17, 2013
Star Plus has launched a disruptive promotional campaign for the mythological show to create multiple touch points and engage with viewers. The campaign covers innovations on the outdoor, digital and print media, and on-ground activations. Technology is the key element of the campaign since the show targets young audiences.

If differentiation is the key to being noticed, then Star Plus has left no stones unturned to get its mythological show 'Mahabharat' come in the public eye. The fourth version of the epic on Indian television after BR Chopra's Mahabharat (1988-1990), Chandraprakash Dwivedi's Ek Aur Mahabharat (1997) and Balaji Telefilms' Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki (2008), in addition to other mythological shows based on Krishna's life, Shiva's life or Ram's life, Star Plus' Mahabharat is produced by Swastik Pictures and targets young viewers.

Shakuni innovation hoarding

Maharashtra Times masthead

Life OK capture for Mahabharat

Innovation on Yahoo!

Innovation on MSN

YouTube innovation

HT Café half-flap page ad

Mobile App

3D print ad in newspaper

3D print ad in newspaper

While it is quite normal for a channel to spend about Rs 10 crore to promote reality/talent hunt shows, this is for the first time that a fiction show (especially a mythological show) is being promoted at this scale. As per industry estimates, the channel must have spent Rs 12-15 crore in promoting Mahabharat.

The leading Hindi general entertainment channel has broken all boundaries with its innovative "larger than life" marketing campaign. Apart from high value spots on television, the campaign uses innovations across media such as print, digital, outdoor and on-ground that have been acknowledged and appreciated.

The technical warfront...

The channel has banked heavily upon the evolving technology and has used the best of it to get the audiences' attention for its new offering.

Nikhil Madhok, senior vice-president, marketing, Star Plus, says, "We are targeting youth in a big way with this show and hence have used modern day technology to bring them on to the show. The use of technology is in three parts - the show's content as it's at a grand scale and looks different, bigger than any other content on TV. We have invested a lot of money and resources on research. The promos are also of larger than life appeal. The whole idea is to create a visually delightful and magical world. The on-ground activities like the museum, virtual wardrobe and apps have also seen use of a different level of technology."

While Madhok refused to divulge the marketing spends, he tells afaqs! that digital and on-ground activations were two media on which the channel spent a lot more than usual. On digital, the channel used YouTube mastheads and pre-rolls. The YouTube masthead has a game to engage with the target group. There are also innovations on websites like MSN and Yahoo. While the MSN innovation shows a 'gada' that hits the page resulting in a split of the page for a few seconds, the Yahoo! innovation shows an arrow tearing the page.

Mahabharat is being extensively promoted across group websites. There are site takeovers on, and

The digital agency of the channel is Grey Digital.

The channel has also launched a free app called Mahabharat mobile app, which runs across all platforms. The app has interesting features including one wherein if you use the camera of a smartphone and scan visual of the print or outdoor ads, the character will come to life on the phone and will give more information about itself. The other features include 'strike a pose' (allows users to pick an ancient weapon and click pictures as if they are holding them, share and save the picture), details of characters, ringtones and gallery access.

As reported by afaqs! earlier in Star Plus plans big launch for Mahabharata, the channel has done a lot of on-ground activities which include interactive museums, virtual wardrobe, museum on wheels and glasstron technology.

On to newsprint...

In association with The Times of India and Contract Advertising (the channel's creative agency), Star Plus' marketing team released a cutting edge, 4 full page print ads in Bombay Times and Delhi Times. Instead of regular print ads, these were 3D ads which were visible through the 3D glasses that came attached to the papers.

The print 3D ads include three individual ads of Arjun, Duryodhan and Draupadi, and one of the three of them together.

The Maharashtra Times masthead was changed to Mahabharat Times on September 16 as the show went on air on September 16. The channel had also tied up with HT City and HT Café to release four half-flap page advertisements.

Other than these, there have been print ads across 30-40 publications, including national and regional publications.

Hoardings personified...

If you reside in Mumbai or Delhi, you may have come across huge innovative hoardings with 3D sculptures mounted on them. The outdoor innovations for the show have come to life with collaborative efforts of the channel and the DDB Mudra Max OOH team.

There are three innovation-based creatives and six conventional creatives that have been executed in around 100 towns in India. While there are only three innovative hoardings each in Delhi and Mumbai, the conventional ones have been put up in 900+ sites across the country with key focus on Mumbai, Delhi, UP and Gujarat markets.

The OOH campaign for Mahabharat reflects and amplifies the scale and impact of the show, in line with its "larger than life" pitch.

The three innovative hoardings have focused on the three key instances or climaxes in the epic. The "larger than life" 3D sculptures have been created by sculpture artists especially hired for this project by DDB Mudra Max OOH.

The first hoarding portrays a 22 feet tall Arjun kneeling down and looking into the water pot in front of him to take a shot at the rotating fish above his head during Draupadi's Swayamvar. At its peak, the sculpture protrudes six feet out of the billboard, while a large 3D golden fish rotates overhead. The billboard has a huge backlit Star Plus logo on the top right corner.

The second hoarding is a 17 feet tall Draupadi standing with her eyes closed, praying to Lord Krishna, depicting the famous "Vastraharan" scene. A satin saree comes down all the way from the billboard above, showing the protector Lord Krishna blessing her and saving her modesty.

The third creative just shows two human hands throwing a pair of dice and knocking off five crowns. The five crowns depict the five Pandavas who were deprived of their kingdom by Shakuni using his famous pair of dice during the game of Chausar. The background creative provides further perspective and depth to the sculptures. The Shakuni innovation has multiple elements of varying sizes ranging from 4 feet to 12 feet in height.

Talking about the challenges of executing this idea, Mandeep Malhotra, president, DDB Mudra Max, mentions, "The biggest challenge OOH has is the ability to tell a good story in a single frame; a story which one can understand in less than five seconds. Also, the creation of the sculptures within the available time frame and ensuring that the output comes to life especially as it involved recreating human forms. The other challenge was the onsite installation of the sculptures given their size and weight. The sculptures range from 17 feet to 22 feet in height."

Though the innovative hoardings have been costlier by 100 per cent from the usual cut outs, they are far more effective.

Innovations on other media

On radio, Star Plus is running spots across radio channels. It has tied up with Radio Mirchi for a show called 'Vicharon Ki Mahabharat' wherein the RJs are initiating provocative discussions about the characters of the epic and their behaviour. Through a 'stationality change', the Mahabharat title track has been integrated with the jingle of Radio Mirchi.

On cinema, the channel has tied up with about 350 screens across the country and has been promoting Mahabharat for the past two weekends. The promotion will continue for the next two weekends.

For the record, on the sponsors front, while Fortune and Ghari Detergent are the presenting and powered by sponsors respectively, the other brands that have come on board as associate sponsors are Super Vasmol 33 Kesh Kala, Marvel Tea, Vinod Intelligent Cookware, Cycle Agarbatti, Lux Inferno, Syska LED Lights, Siyaram's and Eyetex Dazzler.

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