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No Second Chances


In the digital age, the audi­ence has become ruthless and relentless, and it is even more important for a mar­keter to keep their eye on the ball


‘The best kind of marketing doesn’t feel like marketing’

From being ubiquitous to being selectively present, marketing campaigns through the years have had to adapt to the changing dynamics of the content ecosystem in Bollywood.

The biggest metamorphosis in film marketing has been one where the studios/creators are embracing the front end of the business, i.e to start knowing their consumers and conversing with them directly.

Being safe now is too risky

The box office is too fickle

And the audience will not give you a second chance

There has been a paradigm shift and it’s been rapid, and the writing’s on the wall: ‘If you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind’. So here are the 8 changes in film marketing over the years.


The Digital Hijack:

To say the digital medium has changed the way we view, perceive and consume content is stating the obvious. It has in fact gone a step ahead and hijacked traditional media in ways we couldn’t have imagined, making us think ‘digital first’, whether with dynamic motion posters, teasers or even key asset breakouts.

The scheduled spends and build-up plan around the asset starts with us thinking ‘digital first’. Today, pre-rolls and True Views are more important than running trailer cut-downs on television. Perception is more about hitting 10 million views on your asset in less than a day than publishing a full-page print/ newspaper ad.

The digital revolution in India means there are multiple touch points constantly emerging, and each one guarantees its own consumer experience. Almost 80 per cent of the time spent on social media platforms happens on mobile phones so the reach, targeted approach and the propensity of the content to go viral have made it the obvious first choice for us to launch our campaigns in the digital and mobile space, first.

Visual content is 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content, hence besides the key assets – i.e trailers, posters, songs etc., audience is fed with a steady stream of additional content like teasers, character posters, gifs, memes, BTS videos, Boomerangs, etc., which enhance the consumer experience and create high engagement levels..

The sheer accessibility has helped us get our content to the audience quicker, more effectively and in a more cost-effective manner.

TV spends at one point commanded 50-60 per cent of the marketing budget, while digital sat a meager 5-10 per cent. In the last few years, the scales have tilted and the gap is fast closing.


Social Media & Influencer Marketing:

The face of film marketing changed forever with the social media boom. SNS giants like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,

Snapchat, etc., have attained cult-like status among the youth today. Each of these platforms have a well-defined, distinct audience base. On average, a user revisits Facebook more than three times a day; every second, around 6,000 tweets are sent out on Twitter and 1/4th of the Indian population uses Instagram daily. This strong social matrix is one that movie marketers can’t afford to miss.

With specific demographics and psychographics, social media has helped create ‘conversation currency’ around the film in the right circles. Through social media, we’ve allowed audience into the green rooms, shooting floors, script sessions et al, making them feel like they are a part of the journey of the film.

With a bevy of new social media influencers, there has been the birth of unofficial brand ambassadors for our content. Employing influencers to build in subtle promotion adds a lot of credibility and complements the efforts of the marketer. These new-age influencers have the power to ‘influence’ and add ‘credibility’ to what would otherwise be ‘pure advertising’. Today, we pick a friend’s recommendation over an advertiser’s promise, which is why positive social media mobility is critical to a campaign’s journey.

Social media is no more a ‘likes’ and ‘views’ game; it’s a two-way street. You have to listen while you’re talking; rejection and acceptance are just a click away. The motto is to use social media not just to impress people, but also to impact people.

When it comes to films, people aren’t buying a product, they’re buying a story and with it the magic that we as content providers are putting forth for them.


Budget Corrections:

The fundamental flaw in the earlier media mix was the inversely proportionate relationship between costs and its efficiency in reaching out to its target audience.

It’s becoming harder and harder to justify the semi-effective yet expensive marketing methods that are still a commonplace today. There are too many boxes to tick. In the fear of who may get missed, we spoke to everyone. But the trend has gradually faded. The polarity in the taste of the audience has made our approach far more targeted.

There is a set audience universe for a specific genre offering and star cast. Keeping the universe and its commercial potential in mind, marketing monies are invested. The idea is to get more bang for one’s buck. To kickstart conversations, propel PR and let the big idea take center-stage. As is rightly said, ‘Films don’t fail, budgets do.’ The shrinking budgets are a reflection of a targeted, new-age approach to content dissemination and marketing, as a whole.

The overall dependency on marketing to deliver on the film’s fortunes, has significantly come down. The realisation of content acceptance or rejection in spite of as many gimmicks has dawned. With no directly proportionate relationship between spends and opening numbers, the marketing budgets have been capped. And novelty in presentation of content has taken precedence over enormous budgets.


From The Long To The Short Of It:

Film marketing today is a multi-channel experience, in an ecosystem where there is a risk of information overload, it’s important to have a timely campaign breakout. In the past, campaigns would kick start about 8-10 weeks in advance. While there is an increase in access to multiple touch points, the audience’s attention span is getting shorter. Longer campaigns are thus counter-productive in such a landscape.

Creative assets are reaching consumers at an accelerating race, owing to the access of multiple touch points. Within a few days, the content has travelled, been consumed, been loved or been thrashed; but it has managed to penetrate the market within a few days from the asset launch.

The looming fear with long campaigns is that you peak too soon. With so much competition from different content styles, a shorter campaign reduces the risk of audience fatigue.

Campaign bursts of 4 to 6 weeks are the current trend. And with the ability of media channels to carry information, the life cycle of a marketing campaign will further


be compressed. The shortening, though, means the spurts and bursts are more powerful. Buzz wins over long-standing visibility. To market a movie, you have to use techniques that are low on shelf life but high on impact.


Strategic Alliances & Collaborations:

In-film branding and co-branded product promotions are a template now; the next level shift has been towards collaborations and strategic partnerships with digital content creators. New-age content creators boast of a loyal audience base across demographics and psychographics, which help broaden our audience horizon. Collaborations look to further the core ethos of the film and play on thematics to excite and mobilise audience.

With Lipstick Under My Burkha, we clocked in about 8-10 strategic associations with key digital publishers/portals and collaborated on content that shamed patriarchy and dissed gender stereotypes, hilariously. The shoulder content went viral.

The future of the movie business lies in niche markets - not in generalised mass appeal. And the right collaboration and alliances, give the campaign an extra edge. These strategic associations make the film seem relevant to the current times and aren’t burdened with being ‘shameless plugs’ of the film. In due course, such collaborations will soon be mainstream.


Its All About Loving… Your Peers

From the Beat pe booty challenge to the ‘Bang Bang Dare’, to endorsing, supporting and promoting each other’s films, marketing and buzz have taken an all new turn with peer endorsements. Song challenges, dares, nominations and countdowns; the cross-promotion between the talent pool has created the right noise not only for the film at hand, but also for the brand of the actor.

The excitement to imitate and follow stars has been around for longer than we can remember. A lot of the social media challenges and dares are taken up by the audience, thereby making them a part of the content of the film.


Break The Template

Audience is immune to recycled, homogenised marketing plans. City tours, print ads, interviews are too much of a ‘tick-in-the-box’ to stand ‘out-of-the-box’. The extension of the ‘theme’ of the film, via videos, images, collaborations, etc. gives the audience a taste of the world that they’re supposed to bite into.

Earlier, the more you were seen, the better your marketing. The more you talked, the more you told, the more they heard. Circa 2017: Less is more. Covert is the new overt. Leaving the audience with intrigue is important to create a call-to-action value. It’s important to get them involved, without spoon-feeding them. The more you strategically hold back from parting information, the more they want to hear you. But this is trickier than it seems. Studios are increasingly attempting to break templates. The successful deviants manage to create a new template for others to follow, until that too is toppled over.


The Power Of Word-Of- Mouth:

Word-of-Mouth (WOM) is a lethal, new-age weapon. With niche, meaningful cinema, WOM is a tool that’s being used to create pre-release hype, instead of letting it take over post-release.

The current generation happily endorses what they bite into. For small, strong content driven films, WOM is a critical tool that takes over even before the release of the film. Be it reviewers or key media personalities, the correct press around a film and the celebration of its larger purpose are cues that are cashed, early on.

As marketers, the acceleration of positive WOM is of prime importance. Statistics suggest that 72 per cent people post on social media after watching a film, 20 per cent post before watching and 8 per cent while watching the movie. Quick to leverage the positive audience reactions, crowd-sourcing videos help convert fans and loyalists, to ambassadors of the film.

While there have been many changes in marketing films, there is one notion that needs to be dropped: “If the film worked, it was a brilliant film. And if it didn’t work, it was the marketing.” An

able pillar, a convenient punching bag, the metamorphosis of marketing will continue, with all the advancements in technology; but at the centre of it all, marketing should always be about ‘telling’ a story, instead of ‘selling’ it.

– 8 changes in film marketing over the years, Ruchikaa Kapoor, Senior Vice-President, Balaji Motion Pictures

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