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Guest Article: Gaurav Srivastav: A Dummy's Guide to In-Film Promotion

By Gaurav Srivastav , In Film Placement Evaluation Matrix, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 20, 2013
Gaurav Srivastav, founder, In Film Placement Evaluation Matrix, has written a piece for afaqs! for a better and easier understanding of what goes behind in-film placement deals.

Gaurav Srivastav

If advertising refers to a message that helps to inform or influence consumers, and content refers to entertainment, what happens when you mix the two? The impact is higher and the benefits of the content maker multiply, simply because viewers can't ignore advertising imbibed in the content.

Surprisingly though, one can't as on date calculate the returns and the best possible investment in such a deal. An easy understanding of what goes behind these deals.

What is in-film placement?

In loose terms, putting a brand inside a movie, soap or reality show, such that it becomes a part of the scenes/footage/story line is called in-film placement. The process, benefits and issues of doing an in-film placement in every medium differs but the basic underlying principle remains the same. It is weaving the brand as part of content.

Which categories use it the most in India? Which categories can gain the most out of it?

FMCG, consumer durables, automobiles, cosmetics and tele-services have been using the proverbial in-film placements to a good extent in India. Although in strict number terms, television content gets a lot more placements than the movies in our country.

Which categories can benefit the most from in-film placement? And, which cannot?

All tangible goods are easier to place and build in the story of the content being created and hence stand to gain the most. Service categories are harder to build in. But this is just the general rule. Creating content being an art form, how much a brand can gain from a particular placement has to do with the quality of the content maker.

Every opportunity needs to be understood in terms of the kind of placement, characters handling the brand and how the brand stands in the context of the story.

On what basis is the pricing done?

Pricing in Bollywood - this is still a supply demand game. As of now the industry has no quantitative benchmarks set in terms of duration and/or kind of placement being offered. The calls are still based on the gut and tend to happen only for the biggest movies of the industry.

Television - based on the current going rates of the ad slot during content telecast and the extent to which the brand is integrated in the scene. But the point to note here is that placements are not stand alone, they also include FCT (free commercial time) and other benefits from the channel to the brand.

What are the various types of placements?

In broad terms, the kinds of placement are:

Passive - where the brand is just shown in the foreground or background of the said scene.

Active - where the brand is shown being used OR being spoken about.

Hyperactive - where the brand is shown being used and also spoken about.

How different is product placement for an established brand vis-a-vis a newly launched one?

The difference lies only in how the brand team wants the placement to work for the brand. The aim can be to use a mass reach medium to create recall and recognition; or to help people understand the different uses of the product. Also, the placement could be purely functional or aim to touch an emotional chord.

In-film placements can be used for all such permutations and combinations.

How does product placement differ in various properties such as soaps, reality shows and films, in terms of costs, reach and category of product?

For both reality shows and soaps, which are content telecast on television, the costing is usually based on the popularity of the show, slot time and the type of placement. For example, a home cleaning product will be able to get a 'hyperactive' placement in Bigg Boss, where the contestants can be made to use it, talk about it, show its benefit to the wide mass (SEC B,C,D, 15-50 M/F) audience watching the show at a considerable premium on the ongoing 10-second rate. However, placement in a soap will be much less costly as the placement can only be 'active' and may not command as wide an audience as Bigg Boss.

For films, the cost of product placement and its reach work independently as the quantitative benchmarks have yet not been set in the industry. Currently the cost of placement of a product is directly proportional to the number of brands wanting to do the placement and keenness to get the placement done. In simple terms, the top five-six movies every year command the bulk of placements which happen in the industry. The deal size per placement can go up to Rs 1-1.5 crore (with the brand promising similar or greater amount to be spent on a co-marketing tie up).

Reach, on the other hand, is a post placement phenomenon, that is, it depends on how well the movie performs after release. A much anticipated, big star movie with multiple brand placements just might dismally flop at the box office. This would make the brand lose a lot of money as it does not garner eyeballs.

A major difference between the approach towards TV and movie content is that while TV in India is still very much run on the ad revenues from the brands, for movies, brands are only an ancillary medium of making revenues. Movies make their major chunk of money from the box office and hence the content is treated as more sacrosanct.

Which brands have made memorable product placements, both globally and in India?

The most famous one has been Fed Ex in Cast Away. Others that got prominent eyeballs recently were

• Ford vehicles in Quantum of Solace.

• Mercedes Benz in 'A good day to die hard'

• Audi in Iron Man.

• Sony Products in Skyfall

In India, the famous ones have been

• Coca-Cola in Taal

• ICICI Bank in Baghbaan

• Bournvita in Krrish

• Fevicol in Dabbang

On what basis do you select the content for your brand?

This is the most important question to answer while doing the placement. Apart from the obvious criterion of how big the property under consideration is, a serious brand manager also needs to consider

-Whether the content (and channel when it's TV-based content) appeals to his TG or not.

-The kind of placement being offered.

-What kind of character is handling the brand.

-How important is the brand in the storyline.

-What precaution can be taken to hedge the investment if the content does not work with the audience when released?

How is placement different in Hollywood and Bollywood? Which brands appeared more frequently in both the industries?

Hollywood has developed a unique 'pay as per placement duration' model for product placements. The studios have drawn basic guidelines for the kind of placement that can be offered to a particular category and the cost for each kind is defined in 'per second/per minute' terms. Long term deals are negotiated with brands on the above criteria then the studios start putting them in all the movies they produce during the period of agreement. A very important characteristic of Hollywood placements is non-exclusivity in a category, i.e, two competing brands may get placed in the same movie.

Bollywood has still not evolved to any set models or processes for in-film placement. The deals are still very much case to case and are mostly gut-based decisions. Hence, the number of deals is few with a long implementation process. Also, it does not hedge against the final output not coming out right, although almost always, the deals are exclusive in nature!

The brands which have used movies both in Bollywood and Hollywood are the car brands - Mercedes and Audi being the front runners. Apple products have also got very good exposure in both the film industries.

How are the regional markets evolving to product placement?

The regional channels are still learning the ropes of doing product placement. Although TV being a measured medium and availability of television sales people in the industry will eventually bring them at par with the Hindi GECs.

In terms of movies - brands have shown huge inclination to do placements in south (mainly Tamil and Telugu) and Bhojpuri films. Punjabi and Bengali films are also being pursued a bit as of now.

The big problem of regional cinema is it being unorganised to a great extent. A lot of promised placements don't get delivered and with no measurement tools to give the extent of damage - disputes usually don't end amiably.

Is it an annual strategy or waiting for the right content?

For brands operating in Hollywood, movies are an annual strategy medium. The big players like Apple, Mercedes and VW group end up being present in 10-15 movies each in a year. With an approximate 2 billion+ tickets sold every year across the globe by Hollywood, movies are a very effective reach medium and can't be ignored.

In India, for the lack of a standard method (although we sell more than 3 billion tickets every year) movies are still not a strategic medium. The placements are few and most invariably tedious to implement. With the growth of the Indian film industry, brands have started asking for measurement methods for doing placement and are keen to explore options.

Which has been the costliest in-film placement?

Product placements in films are mostly bi-party/tri-party deals and knowing their exact value is a difficult proposition. But to hazard a guess - the Maruti Suzuki deal with Yash Raj films for 'Mere Dad Ki Maruti' seems to be the biggest that has been done so far.

How do you calculate the ROI?

For product placement - there can be two separate indicators of ROI:

- How much the audience remembers the brand and their current perception about it - this can only be a post study and has more to do with the qualitative aspect of the content.

- Reach and kind of placement - this is where the quantitative part kicks in. The important question is whether we calculate the number of people from the brand's TG who get exposed to the content and how 'importantly' the brand was treated in the placement scene.

Both indicators can be used independently or simultaneously. Although, with sales in focus, the reach and kind of placement becomes a more strategic way of calculating ROI and ensures the money is well spent when long term planning is being done.

Currently, the industry has been doing the qualitative research on and off for the placements. The quantitative work can only be done on TV placements as of now as the standard system for movies placements still needs to be put in place.

The author is founder, In-film Placement Evaluation Matrix.

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