Prachi Srivastava
Media

"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...

...Bheegi Billi, Betel Nuts and Bhabhi. He talks about how these characters have become a revenue source for 9XM and 9X Tashan, in a quick chat with afaqs!.

One would think that known actors from popular television shows are the biggest selling factor for any televsion channel. However, to break the clutter, Bollywood music channel 9XM has been using eccentric animated characters like Bade-Chote, Bheegi Billi and Betel Nuts to not just attract more viewers, and retain viewers (who switch the channel during an ad break), but also to introduce a new sort of revenue stream.

Following the success of these animated characters, 9X Tashan (Punjabi music channel) too launched an animated character Bhabhi, who plays 'love guru' on-screen. The character is hugely popular in Punjab.

All these characters have, over the years, developed different characteristics. Bade-Chote, the most successful characters of the lot, are famous for their 'Bakwas Band Kar' episodes. These characters have been on air since the channel's inception in 2007.

"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
According to Pawan Jailkhani, chief revenue officer, 9X Media, at the time when music channels were all focussed on getting RJs to engage with the viewers, 9XM broke the cliché and introduced these characters which served as a breather from the back-to-back music content.

The characters are funny, silly yet witty and have their own identitities. Bade-Chote segments are about Chote asking a question to Bade, which the latter is unable to answer. That's when Chote gives a silly answer, making people laugh. Bheegi Billi, meanwhile, is a singing cat who is always sharing his sob stories as he considers himself unlucky.

Betel Nuts are shayars who have come to Mumbai from Lucknow to try their luck in the entertainment industry. And, until that happens, the four of them, who have their own styles of poetry and time-pass, end up entertaining the viewers with their little pieces.

The channels in the music genre cater to audiences in the 15-24 age group. While majority of the revenue still comes from free commercial time (FCT), the genre has other advertisement options too, as many channels like 9XM innovate and experiment to open up more revenue options. Trailers, astons, advertiser-funded programmes, split-screen branding etc, are different sources of earning money.

Over the years, Bade-Chote, Bheegi Billi, Betel Nuts and Bhabhi have seen their popularity soaring. And, since the last three years, the network has found them to be a great way for monetisation. The two channels have been providing brand solutions by integrating these characters in brand communication. The brands are riding on the success of these characters which is, in turn, giving them visibility and buzz.

"As a unit of brand solutions, we have gone a step ahead with brand integrations with these characters. They are successful and have a huge recall value. They are sub-brands and it becomes imperative to monetising it at the right value. Today, it's a big vertical for us in terms of revenue," Jailkhani shares.

One of the very popular brand integrations was that of Nokia Lumia's with Bade-Chote, wherein the features of the phone were explained. Earlier this year, Bade-Chote tied up with Ramesh-Suresh (5 Star) to launch a campaign 'Jo Khaaye Kho Jaaye'.

"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
Recently, Betel Nuts promoted
- one of the characters was shown having a satisfactory bike riding experience with Honda CB Trigger. Bheegi Billi too has promoted Idea's '
' campaign and Lotus Fairness Cream recently.
"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
On 9X Tashan, Bhabhi was seen playing love guru to a couple as Hamdard's Sualin was integrated in the snippet.
"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
On choosing a brand integration of this sort over a 30-second commercial, Nilotpal Singh - brand manager, Hamdard-Sualin, explains, "Punjab is a very important market for Sualin, but, because of its relatively smaller share of voice, it had lower recall scores and was not being considered as the first option for sore throat and cough problems. 9X Tashan's Bhabhi is a very popular household name in Punjab and enjoys high recall. Hence, the objective behind this integration was to improve the brand recall for Sualin, also to design an innovative way to associate with the TG. This character is seen as young, beautiful, flamboyant and charming; so, such an association not only provides a window for recall enhancement, but also helps to establish the brand as youthful and trendy. "

Singh shares that the brand registered a growth of approximately 19 per cent in Punjab when the campaign was on.

Win-Win

"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
Ameya Sule, senior business director, Group M ESP, believes that these characters have got so popular with everybody that they are now celebrities in their own sense. "The channel has also been using them as fillers and also to drive some agenda or give social messaage - for instance, creating awareness against piracy. That's usually what celebrities do. They urge people not to drink and drive or not to smoke, but, because these characters are popular and people connect to them, they are as good as celebrities. Ultimately, both the advertiser and channel benefit from them. The channel made consistant efforts to keep this going and make them popular. They are reaping benefits of it," he says.

Rahul Datta, lead - marketing and communication, Microsoft, is of the opinion that these characters command high association. He says further, "These are established properties on their own and give a break to the viewers when they are watching music videos back-to-back. The idea is that, when you air normal commercials, people tend to change the channel, but when you associate with something like this, there are more chances that people will watch it and your brand will get noticed. The idea is not to be overtly branded, but within the style and characters that these guys already are, you build a story."

"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
Jailkhani maintains that, while it is a revenue earner for the channels, they are picky about the brands they want to give brand solutions to, through these animated characters. "These characters have basic characteristics and we make sure we don't lose that," he states.

Since it's 3D animation, it takes around three weeks to develop the script, the storyboard and then the animation. While there are animators who work for the channels and also on these animated characters, there are around four people who conceptualise these brand solutions, see what brands fit with the characters, and the message the brand wants to communicate.

"There is a lot of permutation and combination with product heads of the brands before we finalise on a concept. The biggest strength of the company is that we have been conceptualising ideas that no network has done till now. Innovation is the core strength of the network and the ideas that we monetise on," Jailkhani adds.

The categories that leverage these brand integrations include confectionery, automobile, telecom, e-commerce and FMCG. The channel shares that a standard animation integration costs around Rs 3-4 lakh. The brand bears the production cost of the videos and also shells out a premium for leveraging the success of these characters. Besides brands, broadcasters have also seen merit in promoting their big-budget properties through Bade-Chote and other popular characters.

Small snippets featuring Bade-Chote's take on television properties like 'Kaun banega Crorepati', 'Bigg Boss', IPL, ICC World Cup and 'Nach Baliye' have been aired too.

"These animated characters are our sub-brands": Pawan Jailkhani, 9X Media on Bade-Chote...
9XM, which earns around 15 per cent of its revenue from non-FCT, is hoping to increase the number to 30 per cent this year. Of this 30 per cent, the contribution from brand integrations with these animated characters is likely to be around 10-15 per cent.

Beyond TV

Bade-Chote, Bheegi Billi also have presence in the L&M world as MadRat Games has incorporated 9XM characters in its innovative version of The Bakwaas Game, Losers and Ladders, Twist-tac-Toe and Who's the Most Popular games created by the company.

The characters, especially Bade-Chote, are promoted through the social network pages of the channel. There are comic strips which end up getting thousand of likes and shares.