Amul and Fortune are regular mentions on both TV and OTT. Pushp Masala and Vinod Cookware feature in the TV broadcast and Bosch Appliances and Dr. Oetker appears only on Sony LIV.
- Pouring Amul Fresh Cream into her dish, Priyanka Biswas says it will provide the right texture for her dessert.
- As the timer ticks closer to the end, chef Garima Arora asks the contestants to get their serving dishes from the Bosch dishwasher.
- Santa Sharma uses Fortune’s Kachi Ghani oil, saying its high pungency level will enhance the flavours of her dish.
These are just some of the instances in 'MasterChef India' 2023, which is currently streaming on Sony Entertainment Television and SonyLIV, where we see various brands being integrated into the competition. The culinary reality show franchise, based on ‘MasterChef Australia’, features a wide array of brands, ranging from food to kitchen appliances.
Amul, Vinod Cookware, Bosch India, Pushp Masale, Fortune Adani Wilmar and Dr. Oetker are some of the brands that feature in the show’s narrative.
Ranjana Mangla, senior VP and head of ad revenue, Sony LIV, says that such integrations help the brands to break through the clutter. “Advocacy is an important element for brands today to drive awareness. The right context is required, and ‘Masterchef India’ is that context for brands to showcase their products, without being a force fit,” she adds.
These integrations help the brands to showcase the features of their products and how they can be used in Indian kitchens. For example, when a contestant uses Pushp Masale's white pepper powder, she states, it will help enhance the flavour of her dish.
Sandeep Mehrotra, head-ad sales, network channels, Sony Pictures Networks India says that its content solutions are structured in a manner that is unobtrusive and with products that have the right fitment, so that the viewer experience is not hampered yet it has maximum visibility for the brand because it’s an authentic integration.
“'Basmati Rice se no compromise' is the Brand communication around which all integrations of India Gate Basmati Rice have been crafted. They also intend to highlight the benefits of choosing packaged rice vis-a-vis loose rice. We have integrations where contestants say that they do not wish to compromise with the quality of the dish and hence they have used India Gate Basmati rice while cooking their dish," he says.
Karthik Nagarajan, CEO, Hogarth India, says that these integrations are increasingly becoming a more viable tool for brands and they will continue to provide context to the audience.
“The regular TVC doesn’t have context anymore. For decades, we saw ads of white shirts emerging out of buckets and a swipe of a sponge cleaning a plate. Those things don't have a great recall anymore. But with shows like ‘MasterChef India’, the engagement is tight and emotions are high. Hence, if brands are integrated contextually, people will remember it.”
Sunil Agarwal, director, Vinod Cookware, adds that this helps improve to brand recall. “When brands are actively integrated into celebrity reality shows, they appear to have a seal of approval. The audience also subconsciously develops trust for the brands and is more predisposed to purchasing from them, especially during launches and market expansions.”
TV versus OTT brand integrations
While in-program advertising is not a new concept, ‘MasterChef India’ has brought in different brands for TV and OTT.
Amul’s Pantry and Fortune’s Rack are prominent and regular features on both TV and OTT. However, brands like Pushp Masale and Vinod Cookware are exclusive to the TV broadcast. Bosch Home Appliances and Dr. Oetker feature only on Sony LIV.
Brands tend to choose their preferred medium based on the core TG they want to target.
Highlighting the idea behind this strategy, Divyesh Panchal, founder and CEO, D2P Consultancy (a Mumbai-based boutique consulting firm), shares that consumer preferences have evolved over time and so has the digital entertainment sector.
“A user logs into an OTT platform to watch a movie or show of his/her choice and is voluntarily receptive to the content. The audience, thus, becomes highly targeted and the budget can be focussed. TV uses a conventional form of advertising and connects with its audience at multiple levels,” Panchal says.
Are reality show brand placements a costly affair?
It is needless to say that brands get a chance to interact with a highly engaged and passionate audiences through reality TV shows, like ‘MasterChef India’. The show’s narrative is altered and made interesting to make these brand integrations fit seamlessly.
For example, to integrate Pushp Masale, ‘MasterChef India’ created a small segment in one of its episodes, where the participants were asked to identify the spices be smelling them. (Interestingly, the branding was shown only in the OTT version.)
Highlighting another integration, Mehrotra says, "We curated a ‘Farm to Table challenge’ where our contestants were taken out of the comfort of the MasterChef India Kitchen to an organic farm in Anand, Gujarat. Here they were given fresh produce for their challenge, and we seamlessly brought alive the Amul organic range on our platform."
Do such interesting narratives give the brands an edge over advertising through traditional TVC that experiences a great amount of clutter?
Vinod Cookware’s Agarwal says that program placements get around 20-25% higher viewership than an ad aired during commercial breaks. “Both are important, as they have different purposes and complement each other. A TVC represents the brand’s persona, while in-show placements largely represent its functionality.”
Comparing a TVC with a brand integration, Nagarajan of Hogarth India says that it’s not about putting money on one versus the other. It’s a combination of both that should work for the brand to achieve its desired RoI.
He explains this with the help of an example. “If a watch brand wants to become a fashion brand, it's impossible to convey this through a TVC. It needs to be seen in that context. However, if the RoI is to get maximum people to buy something in a limited period of time, TVCs can work.”
How can brands ensure better integrations?
While most ‘MasterChef India’ integrations seem to have a natural fit with the episode’s narrative, there are a few that come across as a force fit. One of the OTT episodes featuring Dr. Oetker’s integration, for example.
In a standalone segment, we see one of the contestants showing how the brand’s mayonnaise can be used in an Indian recipe. The culinary competition suddenly turns into a cooking class.
Divyesh Panchal of D2P Consultancy points out that subtle product placement can be a smart approach to bypass overblown advertisements that actually entail more expense with lower impact. He states, "With the right show selection based on target audience and strategy, in-program advertising can go a long way in ensuring powerful brand growth."