Anirban Roy Choudhury

How to integrate a brand in online content without killing it?

AIB's Ashish Shakya, Arré's Ajay Chacko, Fosters' Arjun Kalra and 101India's Cyrus Oshidar discussed this at vdonxt asia 2017 last week.

"How many of you remember the scene in Chennai Express where Shah Rukh Khan described features of a Nokia phone?", was the question thrown to the audience present at vdonxt asia 2017 and a majority of them replied with affirmation. The audeince was immediately asked "How many of you were offended by the brand placement scene?" and almost as many hands went up.

Ashwini Gangal, executive editor, afaqs! was moderating a session on "How to integrate a brand without killing the story" and used these questions as to kickstart the session. The response of the executives present reflected the irritation that a brand integration often cause. Ajay Chacko, co-founder and chief executive officer, Arré; Arjun Kalra, brand head, Foster's & Miller AB InBev India; Cyrus Oshidar, managing director and CCO, 101 India and Ashish Shakya, AIB were the member of the panel.

How to integrate a brand in online content without killing it?
If the audience's reaction was humorous, Shakya went a step ahead with his timely banter, "Watching Chennai Express is itself offending, why should someone pay so much money to watch Chennai Express," he said.

The pre-decided media planning formula, which brands and agencies are used to in India, is a problem at this stage believes Oshidar. "A particular number of insertions in a video formula is the reason why the integration looks forced," he said. He further added, "Brand integration always need not be a conflict," he thinks, if the story is understood by the brand and it sees itself as an organic fit, conflicts can be avoided.

Kalra though contradicted Oshidar's point when he said, "The conflict between marketers and content creators will always be there, but that conflict can be managed too. Proper communication and understanding of each other's point is the key."

Gangal quickly reminded him of Fosters' association with TVF's 'Humourously Yours' and asked him to draw some light on the integration. Kalra replied, "We went to TVF becasue they are the best content creators in the digital space at this stage..." Oshidar immediately interrupted, "I don't agree..." Kalra humbly rephrased, "Okay... one of the best content creators in the digital space... We did not go to TVF asking for a particular number of mentions, we just asked for a quality association. We saw 'Humourously Yours' resonating with the brand and that was the primary reason behind associating with the web series."

Chacko then got in to the discussion, "In digital, content is what gets the viewer on board. And if you analyse, in cases of all smart brand integration that was kept in mind," he said. He believes, if the content flow is interrupted, the integration will neither help the brand nor the content creator.

Shakya drew light to the positive sides, "Lot of things have changed and I see discussions getting better, mindsets are changing. The more we have young CMOs, or when the newer generation climbs up to the CMO's position, things will change more." Shakya's comment concluded the session.

Event partners include: Adobe (Presented By), Viu (Powered By), Akamai (Technology Partner), Voot (Digital Partner), EY (Knowledge Partner), Unruly (Video Partner), Dropbox Business (Collaboration Partner), Web Talkies (Entertainment Partner), (New Age Digital Partner), Culture Machine (Content Partner), 24 Frames Digital (Streaming Partner), (Blogging Partner), NDTV Prime (TV Partner), Content Asia (International Media Partner), and Advertising Agencies Association of India and The Advertising Club (Community Partners).

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