N. Shatrujeet

'Value Creation' seminar throws light on marketing-entertainment nexus

The seminar looked at some aspects of ‘marketing through entertainment’ and the ‘marketing of entertainment’

Entertainment needs better marketing. And marketing can benefit from associations with entertainment. This, very broadly, was the takeout from the daylong seminar organized by the Bombay Ad Club on Saturday last. Titled ‘Value Creation', the seminar looked at some aspects of ‘marketing through entertainment' and the ‘marketing of entertainment' through the eyes of speakers such as Pritish Nandy, Ashutosh Gowariker, Hemant Sachdev, Anish Trivedi, Rekha Nigam, Sanjay Bhutiani, Zarine Mehta, Sameer Nair and Amit Khanna.

Presenting the filmmaker's point of view, director Gowariker, for instance, spoke about the marketing and merchandising opportunities that go a begging for want of professional support. "I don't think films in India have leveraged marketing or merchandising effectively," he observed, "Film publicity is limited to the music release, some promos, maybe a contest and sometimes a premiere. We have a long way to go." Citing reasons for the state of affairs, he said the production and distribution of the film consume filmmakers, leaving them with little time to focus on marketing it. "We failed on a lot of merchandising plans for Lagaan simply because we didn't have the time to see them through, especially after the Oscar nomination. The film industry needs an organization that gives it support and advice in terms of marketing and merchandising strategy." He added that having a marketing advisor to prepare a complete rollout plan "would be welcome, even at the film's inception stage".

If Gowariker gave the entertainment industry's point of view, Hemant Sachdev, director - marketing, Bharti Enterprises, provided instance of how marketing can leverage entertainment to sell more. Explaining the need to associate with entertainment, Sachdev said that unlike in the 80s and early 90s, brands today could not rely purely on the classical ‘linear' product delivery mechanism. "Today, companies need to envelop the consumer with a 360-degree experience, and build relationships," he said. "Entertainment helps in giving a 360-degree experience." Drawing an example from a telecom company (Globe) in Philippines, Sachdev demonstrated how ‘entertainment and fun' features - such as anonymous SMS, crazy ringtones, lottos and sweepstakes, and Bible verses on the cell - enabled the company to gain leadership position. "Today, entertainment and fun services account for over 75 per cent of all SMS-based-service traffic," he pointed out. "The ringtones concept has become huge in India, and will explode even further. This is very good news for the music industry." He added that technology makes anything possible, but the trick is in creating content that can leverage technology.

In what was perhaps the most well presented and insightful sessions of the day, creative consultant Rekha Nigam made a case for marketers to pick television personas as brand endorsers. "‘Kyun Ki…' and ‘Kahaani Ghar…' have hugely influenced TV programming in India, and Tulsi and Parvati bhaabi are stars in their own right," she argued. "The soaps are bigger draws than even events. The ‘Asha Bhonsle Live' event was a big thing on television. It was aired at night, and got a TVR of 9 - a TVR that an afternoon airing of ‘Kyun Ki…' has managed." Nigam believes that television personas (even ones from the past, such as Karamchand and Krishna) have not been leveraged, as their impact has not been quantified. "As compared to film personalities, television personalities are more identifiable, more intimate and share a bond of trust with the audience," she explained.

She, however, cautioned that television personalities have their weaknesses. "Audiences know Tulsi, not Smriti Malhotra. And the actors get lost once the show comes to an end. So you have to leverage the strength of the character, not the actor." Giving an example of a recent ad for a hair oil brand that used Malhotra, she said, "The ad had Smriti talking about how she uses the brand in all her serials. The audience couldn't care less. They associate with Tulsi. On the other hand, the commercial for Nerolac (which featured ‘Tulsi' and ‘Parvati') was good because it was true to the traditional personas for Tulsi and Parvati." She added that it was important for marketers who roped in television personalities to keep abreast of turns in the story "to know where the show was going". Another thing to keep in mind while going for TV personas: think short-term. "The personality may not be around for long," she advised, adding that television personalities may not be the best bet for ‘aspirational' brands. "If you're thinking Pepsi, forget it. But why not for brands like Rin or Wheel?"

Talking on the subject of how to market television serials, UTV's Zarine Mehta said the important thing is that while making a serial, you need a single strong selling point in the serial that meets a consumer need. "Only then will it be a success," she offered. The accent was clearly on the consumer need. "What is ‘Shaanti'? A story of a middle-class woman's revenge on two powerful men who had raped her mother. And what was the consumer need there? The need among Indian women to be strong like Shaanti and to be able to fight for their loved ones. ‘Tu-Tu, Main-Main' is about the eternal struggle between the saas and the bahu… The need it fills: to be able to laugh at the inevitability of the struggle that every saas and bahu goes through. The story in KBC? You can win a crore. The need it met? The need to win a crore. So you have to make sure there is a consumer need, and then find a positioning to fill it."

Explaining this, Mehta also took some instances of failures. "‘Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai' assumed that there was a consumer need to watch arranged marriages on television, which perhaps was wrong," she said. She also feels that the show was not sold properly to the viewer. "It was a marketing failure because audiences didn't know what to expect. Research told us that some viewers thought KKKH had to do with Madhuri's marriage! You have to prepare your audience when you have something so radical. Similarly, during the ‘Khushi' launch of Zee TV, there was no consumer need anywhere - it was simply assumed that the viewer wanted to know about the new face of ZEE, whereas viewers are only interested in shows. Some people thought Khushi was a new show on ZEE. A channel cannot say, ‘Watch Sunday'… the viewer is not interested in ‘Sunday'. You have to say, ‘Watch such-and-such show'. You must communicate your one-line story to the viewer."

In-film placement, naturally, came in for a lot of discussion. Gowariker felt that a professional body would come in handy here too, adding that, in his opinion, the endorsement of HMV Records in Subhash Ghai's Karz and Apple's placement in Mission Impossible were relevant and "well done". Leo Entertainment's Sanjay Bhutiani observed that placements are a good idea because, among other things, films (i) afford brands an association with big stars at relatively low costs, (ii) cut across geographical and age barriers, (iii) offer a clutter-free environment and (iv) allow for cross-promotions. "Audiences are also in a receptive mood which makes brand recall more possible, plus the rise of multiplexes are allowing the airing of target-specific films (such as Bend It Like Beckham or Let's Talk) for niche audiences who can now be reached easily," Bhutiani said.

He, however, warned that a bad or force-fitted placement can do more damage than good, and that the placement should evolve from the script to be credible. "The artistic integrity of the film cannot be tampered with, and there has to be a natural brand-situation fit. Sometimes, films and brands flash identical messages to audiences, and this synergy can be capitalized upon." He cited the example of the Kaante-Thums Up ‘macho/male' association, and also referred to the ‘Bobby' bike (from the seventies hit, Bobby) and FedEx (from Tom Hanks' Cast Away) as examples of clever brand integration.

Bhutiani also explained that in-film placement is just one part of the pie - the whole association needs to be leveraged. For instance, in Pooja Bhatt's upcoming release, Jism, beer brand Zingaro finds itself in many a frame. "Apart from that, what Leo Entertainment has also created Jism calendars and Jism posters (showing a drool-worthy Bipasha Basu, the heroine in Jism) which will be part of Zingaro merchandising," he explains. "The whole association between Zingaro and Jism has been leveraged."

STAR TV's Sameer Nair spoke about how the entertainment brand's myth must eclipse his or her reality for the brand to become an icon in the eyes of the audience, and argued that demystifying the entertainment brand is perhaps not such a good idea. Anish Trivedi of GO 92.5 FM pitched for FM radio's cause, while Pritish Nandy (of Pritish Nandy Communications) insisted that there can be amazing opportunities in the interface of marketing and entertainment. "We all need to create those opportunities," he said. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com