Brand integration in movies have come a long way. The social media video app — TikTok, plays a dominant role in the recently released movie 'Bala'. We look at the brand integration...
Hindi cinema or as we like to call it, Bollywood, is undoubtedly the world's largest film industry with an annual output of 1,986 feature films (2017) — an average of 5 movies/day. Given the diversity in the country, cinema is sure the binding feature (other than cricket, of course). Considering its reach into almost every household, brands have, for what seems forever, used it as a platform to communicate with their target audience. From Rishi Kapoor riding around a Rajdoot in Bobby (1973) to Balmukund 'Bala' Shukla (Ayushmann Khuranna) falling in love with TikTok 'star' Pari Mishra (Yami Gautam) in the recently released Bala (2019), brand placements in movies have certainly come a long way.
The 'balding' Bala, a fairness cream salesman in his mid-20s adores Tik-Tok famed model Pari, who he manages to meet at a brand endorsement shoot for his company. Together in the movie they are seen making TikTok videos, with zoomed in (and out) shots of the social media app. During this video-making time, the app occupies the screen — with an increasing likes counter and perfectly placed hashtags — for not less than 15 minutes and keeps reappearing here and there until the court finally declares their 'one-day-long wedding' annulled.
"Bala is a unique concept that perfectly resonates with one of the primary purposes of our platform, which is to create an environment of acceptance and encouragement for people from diverse backgrounds. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy to the lives of people and our association with Bala is yet another step for us in that direction,” shares team TikTok.
The movie also has a product placement — of Coca-Cola, but it does not grab as much screen space as the social media video app.
Brand integration and product placement have been existent in the industry since the development of the mediums of communication. Where product placement is the placement of a brand or a product in one or more scenes of the film; brand integration is when the entire scene(s) revolves around the brand. In layman terms, product placement is the promotion of branded goods and services within the context of a show or movie (or even personal videos) rather than as an explicit advertisement.
It works both ways, sometimes brands pay movie marketing agencies for their product to be integrated into the plot of the film, who in turn reach out to production houses and there are times when production houses reach out to brands.
Come to think of it and you'll realise that sometimes the integrations are so seamless that we don't even notice it. A Volvo XC 90 is on the screen in almost a third of the movie 3Idiots (2009), Laila (Katrina Kaif) follows Arjun (Hrithik Roshan) on her Royal Enfield Classic 350 in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Ferrari Ki Sawaari (2012) is based on a Ferrari, Mere Dad Ki Maruti (2013) revolves around Tej Khullar's (Ram Kapoor) Maruti Ertiga, Insia (Zaira Wasim) becomes a YouTube sensation in Secret Superstar (2017)... the list is never ending.
On the other hand, some integrations are oddly placed. Remember Nokia Lumia 920's integration in Chennai Express (2013)? The movie script stands still for almost half a minute as Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) starts to enumerate the product's features to Meenamma (Deepika Padukone).
The brand integration in question here was not limited to the theatre screen. Prior to the release of the film, Bala and TikTok together launched the #Dontbeshyagain challenge on the platform. Inspired by a song in the film, TikTok users could use the 'Bala' filter, sync it with the soundtrack to make videos. Khuranna and Gautam also collaborated with TikTok influencers to make fun videos to promote the movie.
Oindrila Roy, head of strategy - India, Essence, hasn't watched the movie yet, but has watched 'Bala Challenge' TikTok videos. She says it is, perhaps, one of the best user-generated content pieces she has seen for a movie promotion.
She says, “The first thing that struck me was that this is a fresh take on social media influencers. Anyone with a smartphone has the potential to become an influencer today. Staying true to the platform, the #BalaChallenge on TikTok does not rest on the movie stars' influence, but leverages the power of user-generated creativity. Promotions were taken to another level and it is no surprise that the #BalaChallenge has almost 60 million views on TikTok.”
Roy is of the opinion that the takeaway for brands here is that creator culture is here, and it is here to stay. “Whether it is TikTok, or another platform, we have to learn to engage the audience and get them into action at this magnitude. If the Bala promotion is any indication of future mobile-based content consumption behaviour, we should constantly challenge ourselves to develop ideas that will lend to fuelling this level of consumer engagement — one that is authentic, creative and enables fans to express themselves.”
Dhunji S. Wadia, chief executive officer, Handloom Picture Company (ex-president, Rediffusion Y&R), feels TikTok has emerged as the hottest medium and is at the peak of short-term video format. “Predictably, movie promotions are created on this short-form video platform too. But the major part of their promotions are formulaic — around the trailer release, promoting songs and social media presence, including the stars of the movie promoting on social media.”
He finds the Bala promotion extremely unique as it has a wonderful off-line integration with TikTok combined with in-film presence.
TikTok is an extremely popular platform in tier 2 and 3 towns — he reasons that this is where Ayushmann’s movies are mostly based. “I consider this a commendable effort where the app never steals the limelight yet is omni-present throughout the movie. However, there’s one question that keeps nagging me — since both Ayushmann and Yami have TikTok presence, why didn’t they use this to increase their popularity?,” he says.