Tarana Khan

The marketing of Ghajini

In the business of marketing films, the target is to get several million consumers in just a few weeks. Ghajini is a lesson in how to do it right

The Aamir Khan starrer Ghajini has created waves at the box office by raking in Rs 90 crore worldwide on the first weekend of its release. But much before that, the film had already created waves in the world of marketing by setting new standards for the industry.

Khan’s buzz-cut was just one of the things that generated buzz for Ghajini. The hairstyle, which has been gradually invading our consciousness for months now, made sure that there was no getting away from the tattooed hulk. However, the marketing of a film today, as Ghajini is proving, is much more than creating a buzz around a haircut.

The marketing of Ghajini
What the makers of Ghajini also did was tie up with an apparel brand, toy stores, cinema halls and a mobile phone company. And more than anything, the hero of the film is not just giving the occasional interview leading up to the release. He seems to have taken the marketing of the film as seriously as his role in the film.

Madhu Mantena, producer of Ghajini, says, “Marketing expenses have gone up. Films are released in a large number of theatres, so that there is maximum collection in the first two or three weeks. So, one has to create urgency around the film and make it an event.” According to estimates, Ghajini’s marketing involved spends of Rs 10 crore by the brands associated with it. Other promotions are estimated to have cost Rs 4 crore.

Making it worthwhile

The marketing of Ghajini
The marketing of films has changed dramatically in the past decade. If multiplexes have allowed filmmakers to target urban audiences in small lots – 150 seats at a time, instead of about 1,000 in the cavernous halls of old – they have also created a lot of extra pressure on film marketing. With consumers paying Rs 150 (more on weekends) for a ticket alone – the popcorn, the cola and the conveyance being extra – the cost of choosing a film is high. And with so many other forms of entertainment available to urban Indians, bringing them into cinema halls is getting harder by the day.

Because Hindi films are so oriented towards metro-based “people like us”, only a handful of films every year try to appeal to a pan-India audience in the old-fashioned way. In fact, there is a point of view that Hindi films are losing their grip on small-town India because the stories and characters belong to the metro world. Only big films with big stars (and even bigger marketing budgets) can dare to tempt the whole of India, both big and small towns. The only two films last year that did so had Shah Rukh Khan (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) and Aamir Khan (Ghajini).

The marketing of Ghajini
Where marketing once meant painting a few hoardings, now, it can account for as much as 30 per cent of a film’s production cost (including the cost of making prints). In Hollywood, it is much more – nearly half the total budget of a film could go into its marketing. In money terms, even that may not be enough, which is why marketers have to use a variety of devices to make the film a conversation point in order to make people want to watch it so that they can become a part of the talk around it. It makes them feel “with it”.

Sooraj Bhalla, director, creative and content, at MATES, the entertainment marketing division of Madison, which promoted the film, Dostana, says, “Movies are a high-involvement product and it’s important to engage viewers at every step to encourage them to buy tickets. Fortunately, actors today have understood that their role doesn’t end with the release of the film, but continues until the viewers pass judgement.”

Those connected with the making of a movie are sure that every marketing paisa is worth the outlay since there are multi-channelled revenue streams to look forward to. These include selling music, TV, DVD, overseas and online download rights, some of which start accruing much before the release date. Take the case of Om Shanti Om, which was released at Diwali 2007. The Shah Rukh Khan-starrer created a record of sorts, when it reportedly sold its worldwide rights to Eros International for Rs 73 crore (excluding music and satellite rights).

According to media reports, the India theatre rights for Ghajini were sold to Studio18 for Rs 40 crore. Its music and home video rights were bought for Rs 8.5 crore by T-Series and the overseas deal with Big Pictures is worth Rs 10 crore. The satellite rights have also been sold to Studio18 for Rs 20 crore.

Grab their attention

The marketing of Ghajini
The marketing of Ghajini
Everything in film marketing is governed by the potential audience’s short attention span. Traditionally, a Hindi film was released with a few dozen prints in some select cinema halls. Other towns had to wait their turn till the metros had had their fill of the film and the limited number of film prints (in increasingly damaged condition) wound their way down into smaller towns.

Today, the situation is different. The game is played out in the first few weeks and means marketing a product with a brief lifecycle and selling it across dozens of cities simultaneously. If things go wrong, there is no second chance.

To capture the public imagination, Ghajini was released on 1,400 screens (including digital cinemas) with 1,200 prints. It is estimated that about 10 per cent of the 12,900 theatres in India are digital. Ghajini was also released in 300 theatres outside India. Its 1,200 prints make Ghajini a “big” release – in the league of SRK’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (1,200 prints) and Om Shanti Om (1,300 prints) and Akshay Kumar’s Singh is Kinng (1,050 prints).

Contrast this with ‘smaller’ releases like a Bheja Fry or Welcome to Sajjanpur or Cheeni Kum, which came up with 200-350 prints. It costs nearly Rs 70,000 to make one print. But creating the pull to get a few million people to part with Rs 100 or more per ticket is a tricky exercise. It is here that star power comes to the rescue as Aamir’s has for Ghajini.

The two years that it took to make Ghajini included 135 days of shooting. Besides being on the sets most days, Khan also spent a month on the marketing. According to Ashoo Naik, the head of marketing for Ghajini, the promotions were planned in the pre-production stage itself and the buildup in the media was created throughout this time, with the action peaking a few weeks prior to the film’s release.

Khan’s role in the promotions points towards a new trend, where actors are closely involved in promoting their films, possibly even as part of their contract. Komal Nahta, editor, Film Information and Film Street Journal, says, “The turning point came with SRK in Om Shanti Om. Before this, no star had promoted his movie so aggressively. I think Aamir’s haircut was a masterstroke!”

Amidst all this noise, isn’t there a danger that people will forget that it’s just another movie? Naik disagrees, calling Ghajini “India’s first event film”.

Given the effort that went into promoting Ghajini, the results are there for all to see. Other upcoming productions, such as Chandni Chowk to China and Dilli 6, have little option but to follow suit.

The marketing of Ghajini