A chat with the co-founder of House of Awe about digital marketing, film marketing and the nuances of content creation in times of COVID-19.
House of Awe was set up in 2018 as a film marketing company. Co-founder Carlton D'Silva says that it specialises in creating film marketing content that includes designing posters, trailers, social campaigns around trailer launches, and so on. Some of the movies that the firm has worked on include the likes of Badhaai Ho, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and Luka Chuppi. “We’re focused on film marketing right now, but as we establish ourselves, we are looking to get into brand marketing as well, since we have the knowledge on how to do it,” says D'Silva.
D'Silva was earlier the CEO & CCO at Hungama Digital Services. He joined Hungama in 1999, and has over 20 years of experience in the space of digital marketing, advertising and content creation. Prior to Hungama, he headed the creative department at Internet Resources.
At Hungama, D'Silva was mainly focused on advertising and digital marketing functions with different brands. He claims that at House of Awe, they're looking to go deeper into film marketing and find ways to integrate films with digital marketing. "With House of Awe, brands will talk to experiential marketing, experiential marketing will talk to films, and film marketing will talk to brand marketing. I want this to be a consolidation of all three divisions of sorts,” he explains.
He calls digital marketing and content creation the lifeblood of Hungama, and that the agency was associated with brands, content and digital marketing for the longest time. "I’ve always been part of the brand and content space. In those years of experience, I figured out that content plays a vital role in all forms of communication for brands. That’s the reason content marketing has moved up the value chain when it comes to any form of communication with the consumers," says D'Silva.
He calls the current forms of film marketing 'rudimentary', and hopes to help brands make connections with films to create new forms of content that prompt them to invest in films for a longer period of time. "At House of Awe, we’re very deeply rooted with different Bollywood studios. We haven’t gone down to the South market yet. We get to know the story of most of these films at the scripting stage. When you get to know a film at the scripting stage, it helps you figure out exactly what kind of brands can benefit from which type of content integration. We can then formulate and mould a brand’s message to fit into the storyline of the film, seamlessly – so it doesn’t feel like an intentional placement at all," D'Silva explains.
He is counting on disruption to draw attention to House of Awe and the work it does. "Most marketers focus on TVCs, print ads and other traditional forms of brand marketing communication. But marketing itself is also changing if you look at it from a brand’s perspective. Most users don’t even watch advertising on digital – mostly they’re just waiting for the skip button. If a user sees an ad on TV repeat on digital, he’s not going to be interested in what your brand has to offer. Unless the first five seconds of the communication are so interesting that it engages the user and he doesn’t skip the ad. That’s why long form content works on digital."
He takes the example of Mahindra’s release of its new XUV version – the model did not have new features, but was an extension of the existing car model. "One approach could be to list the new features of the car. But, the other way to do it is to create a piece of content, or a series of content pieces, that lists the features of the car, and a user is more likely to remember it. The response rate to this, if it were to be launched on digital exclusively, would’ve been far greater than if it was running on television as well," D'Silva adds.
He calls the film space challenging and interesting - and emphasises that now is the right time to experiment with this new form of marketing. "Five or six years ago, the film space was way too disorganised to be able to do anything of this sort. But now, people are also looking at content more than advertising – that’s what we’re hoping to create," he says.
D'Silva admits that the film side of the business has taken a hit - since it relies on announcements and releases, but he adds that he expects normalcy to set in after a month or so. "There is a backlog of films that couldn't be released, and production houses will want to clear that. There will no longer be concerns about two films releasing on the same day. People will have money stocked up for their movie watching kitty, and they will be an influx of moviegoers once the lockdown lifts," he predicts.
D'Silva also believes that the way working styles are changing, thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, is for the better, and now is a good time to be present in the digital space. "Everyone's logged in right now and OTT is on a serious jump, thanks to the increased interest in viewing content - be it on TV or on streaming platforms. There's a lot of brands trying to attach their message to the trend of COVID-19, and brands and agencies are finding creative ways to do it. I don't think there's much disruption in the way people work, from a digital standpoint. We can work remotely from anywhere because we're always connected. Even mainline agencies are working seamlessly with each other, remotely. Releases may not be taking place as much as they should, but there's a fair bit of work constantly going on. People are working within their existing spaces, working around constraints to create content," he explains.
He adds, as an afterthought, that advertising in the OOH space is affected by the outbreak and so are TVCs - whose shooting, as well as release dates have come to a halt because of the spread of the global pandemic... D'Silva signs off, "There’s a lot of unnecessary spending that we do when it comes down to the way we do our business. Thanks to the advancement of technology, availability of data, internet bandwidth, it’s completely possible to work efficiently, remotely…"