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Plenty On The Slate

Rudrarup Datta, Head of Marketing and Operations, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, tells Sagorika Dasgupta, what it takes to create a unique marketing campaign and discusses their choc-a-bloc slate of films

Aiyyaa seems like a fresh concept. What is the marketing strategy for this film?

The marketing of Aiyyaa revolves around the character of Meenakshi played by Rani Mukerji. She is a young, vivacious, middle-class Maharashtrian girl. And like any young Marathi girl’s family, their top priority is to get their daughter married. Matrimonial ads are hilarious and so are the expectations of families. The way they express the qualities of their daughter is quirky. We wanted to use that element of curiosity and the intrigue element before we released the trailer. So we decided to go ahead with matrimonial ads. And it seems to be working.
You did a similar teaser campaign for Kahaani, where you plastered ‘Missing’ ads all across the city. How effective are these campaigns in grabbing eyeballs?

The Kahaani campaign did not include ads; they were more like ‘Missing’ posters. The theme of the film was different. Aiyyaa needs ads to include the comic factor, whereas with Kahaani, the aim was to generate curiosity and also point out that something like that could happen to you. For instance, when someone comes across a ‘Missing’ poster, they end up forwarding it because they relate to it. They realise it could happen to anyone. It was with this fear that the Kahaani campaign began. On the contrary, Aiyyaa is fun and very entertaining. Campaigns like these build anticipation and they end up making a lot of people smile once they connect the dots, from the teaser to the trailer and finally to the film.

Prithviraj is a big name down South and is making his debut with this film…

(Cuts in) He is fantastic in the film and is going to be a revelation. We don’t want to bring him in, in the initial stages of our marketing activities, but only after we establish Rani Mukerji’s character Meenakshi. We will promote him in a big way too as he is very crucial to the film. He is brilliant.

What is the best way to market content-driven films and what kind of spends should studios set aside for them?

Each kind of film has a unique marketing strategy and media approach. We don’t have a formula, whether it is a large film, quirky film or small film. Each one has its own unique identity and approach. We are led more by the idea for what we want to do for the film rather than its marketing budget. Aiyyaa may seem like a different film but it is very mainstream. It is entertainment for the masses.

But don’t smaller films require a bigger marketing thrust?

To some extent, yes, because you have to bring out the uniqueness of the product far more and these films are not purely led by star power. And we have maintained that in every film we have released. The focus of the marketing campaign is more on the concept than on the star in the film.

How do you decide on a concept for marketing your films and yet manage to be different each time?

By getting close to your product and deciding which consumer you are going to target with your film. Not all films are meant for everybody. Then, the only films you will be doing are large-scale entertainers in the Rs 70 crore plus budget bracket. But that’s not the only segment we tap. So we first decide the content of the film, what its audience is and whom we are catering to and then create strategies to engage the audience to watch the film.

Paresh Rawal, who is co-producing OMG – Oh My God! with your production house, said that marketing can turn into an overkill especially mall activations, where celebs are taken to meet and greet their fans.

It all depends on the film. With certain films, it’s crucial. When you are trying to reach out to a bigger audience, it makes a big difference when you take a star to a small city and they get to meet the star. There are certain other films where this approach does not add value. But even this is not a formula. So it should be done in the right manner. You have to question how you are going to use it and how you are going to milk the maximum value out of the star visiting a particular city.

So what is the right marketing route for OMG!?

We did a daan peti campaign, where we kept these donation boxes at multiplexes with placards that read – Have you bribed God today? We also have an extensive plan which will roll out during the release of the film, where we have created two commercials especially for the film, print ads and a whole plethora of ads. All these will come into full force in a week’s time.

Viacom18 Motion Pictures has plenty of releases lined up, one almost every month up to May 2013. When you have so many films releasing with such short gaps, does marketing become a problem?

Not really. In fact it’s good. I don’t think an environment where you do three films a year is really viable for studios like us. We thrive on doing more and there’s not a single movie you can point at and say, we didn’t market it properly. I think for every single film, small or large, we have outdone, out-shouted and out-presented in the best way.

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