Alokananda Chakraborty & Prajjal Saha

Channels see rise in soft brand advertising

With television viewership dropping considerably during commercial breaks, brand owners are taking recourse to ‘soft brand advertising’ on television channels

With television viewership dropping considerably during commercial breaks, brand owners and marketers are increasingly taking recourse to ‘soft brand advertising' or ‘non-television commercials' -essentially, the concept of placing products within television programmes - to get their brands noticed. And while reasons for the rise in soft brand advertising are many - rising clutter on television, falling viewership during ad breaks, spiraling media costs and a fall in the effectiveness for television commercials - a TAM Media Research study suggest that the increase in the duration of commercial breaks has taken a toll on break viewership.

As per TAM, in 2002, if the TVR of a programme stood at 8.3, the TVR during commercial breaks was 7.6 - an 8-per cent decline in viewership. However, in 2003, if the TVR of a programme was 9.5, the corresponding commercial break TVR stood at 7.7, a 19-per cent gulf between the programme and break TVRs. However, not everyone bases media planning purely on programme TVRs. Anita Nair, managing director, North and East, Starcom, says, "While planning the media for a particular brand, we look at the TVRs during the ad breaks and not the TVRs of the programme." However, she concedes that soft brand advertising has "lots of potential" and "advertisers can use this as a vehicle to create brand awareness among consumers, provided the brand is well established".

While cricket has widely been used for soft brand advertising in the country for some time now, in the last few years, television channels have also started offering opportunities for soft brand advertising.

For instance, in popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (on STAR Plus), host Amitabh Bachchan mentioned ICICI Bank every time an ICICI Bank cheque was given to a participant. Khullja Sim Sim (also on STAR Plus) is a classic example of soft brand advertising, where a variety of products are displayed right down to their baselines and price tags.

As per a TAM analysis, if one compares placement grading scale with calculated billable seconds, the conversion factor of verbal mention with hands on the product is 100 per cent, while the conversion factor is maximum in product-centric episodes, going up to 150 per cent. In a 60-minute, product-centric health show titled Morepen Tango on STAR Plus, the brand Dr Morepen was visible 134 times in three episodes (an average of 45 times per episode) as a part of the programme. Overall, all logos, product packs and auditory mentions put together, the brand was visible, on an average, 73 times in an episode. The total duration of brand exposure was 796 seconds across three episodes, with an average of 265 seconds per episode.

Recent instances of soft brand advertising on television channels include popular soap Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin on Sony and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki on STAR Plus. In Jassi, the lead character (Jassi) is gifted a Maruti Zen by her boss, Arman. Talking about the placement, Sunil Lulla, executive vice-president, Sony Entertainment Television, says, "These kinds of innovative platforms work only when they are a part of the story and not forcefully inserted. In the case of Jassi… Arman gifting a car to Jassi was part of the story, and we availed this opportunity to insert the product subtly." Similarly, in Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, when Parvati's daughter Shruti and her husband plan their honeymoon, they are shown visiting an SOTC office.

Soft brand advertising has also made their presence felt on news channels. In a recent development, Sahara Samay has tied up with advertisers such as Orange (Hutch), Asian Paints and Bajaj Electricals for election results. Interestingly, alcohol brand Gilbey's, which also has soda as one of its products, is also one of the advertisers on Sahara. The brand and its baseline pop up from a scrawler bearing the headlines. Similarly, Aaj Tak has also roped in advertisers such as Acer, Nutrine, Parker, Electrolux, Pan Parag and Hero Honda for the graphical presentation of election results on counting day. Rajesh Sheshadri of Aaj Tak says, "The section is not being branded by any particular brand. All these brands would get exposure in the background of the graphics by rotation."

Soft brand advertising is definitely becoming popular across channels, and could turn out to be an add-on vehicle for brand owners. However, at this stage, it would be too presumptuous to suggest that soft brand advertising will pose a threat to the conventional television commercial. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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