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Hotstar's Billions OOH campaign is intriguing but not all are impressed

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Hotstar's Billions OOH campaign is intriguing but not all are impressed

The latest outdoor campaign by online streaming service Hotstar for the TV series Billions may have got the fans to chuckle, but not all are impressed.

The OOH campaign conceptualised by an in-house team at Hotstar seeks to create intrigue. One of the OOH creatives features a QR code which is an invitation to watch the show. The QR code goes with the line - Scan to get Billions. This hints at a possibility to make a quick buck upon scanning but instead leads to the show’s landing page on Hotstar. The other creative goes with a minimal approach and simply says ‘We have Billions to spare.’ Both the campaigns rely on viewers understanding the pun and the reference to the show.

While the QR code is bound to pique the curiosity of people, its effectiveness in an advertising campaign is debatable. “QR codes per se feel very dated and very cumbersome to be an effective medium,” said Rohit Raj, co-founder, The Glitch. He noted that the average time taken to reveal the mystery behind a QR code is about 2 minutes. Therefore, expecting users to find the scanner app or in most cases, download a QR scanner and scan the code is a “little unreasonable,” he said.

Commenting on the use of QR codes in an outdoor campaign, Prathap Suthan, Chief Creative Officer, Bang In The Middle said, "It would be effective in places like malls, elevators, foyers, bus stops, etc. If it’s employed where there’s non-static traffic, it doesn’t work. In the sense if you are driving it’s dangerous to even try it, or if you are travelling you may not get the time to focus the phone to scan it etc." 
Suthan added that while it is dangerous for those in vehicles to try scanning it, it could get pedestrians curious. "And some will indeed scan it. But as a technology, it’s an old trick. And unless something new happens as you scan it, it would be another QR code led campaign," he said. 

The seed and the idea behind the campaign is unknown, said Karan Rajpal, Head of Social Media, HCL Technologies, speaking about the campaign that has puzzled him. “The QR code approach just does not deliver. No one has a QR code reader on their phones; if at all someone has it, it may have been used to make Paytm payments,” he added.

“It makes sense for Hotstar to use a QR code as part of the campaign given that it is an OTT platform,” said Mandeep Malhotra, CEO, The Social Street. The agency handles the Outdoor media duties for Hotstar. He added that the campaign has generated some traction, but it is too early to make a definitive statement as the campaign is still on.

The campaign targets existing viewers of the show or those who have heard of the show and are looking for a platform to watch it on. “The line ‘We have got Billions’ does the trick for them. The ones who haven’t heard of Billions could possibly be intrigued by these hoardings and may have Googled the line to figure what it is about. So, I’m hoping they did a parallel search campaign to generate stronger impact,” said Raj.

The pun on Billions misfired for its part but not enough to hurt Hotstar. Raj revealed that someone he knows mistook the line “We have got billions” to be they have a billion content pieces on Hotstar. “That sentiment shouldn’t hurt Hotstar either.”

In the past, Hotstar won hearts of Game of Thrones fans with the Torrents Morghulis (All Torrents Must Die) Campaign. Hotstar ran a war on torrents with that campaign, which was “perfect connect for the streaming service platform and worked very well,” said Rajpal.

Unlike Torrents Morghulis which went viral, the Billions campaign is yet to realise its full potential. But it has got everyone wondering about the QR code that promises Billions. “Did the hoardings catch my attention, yes, they did. When a Big QR code stares at you, you do spend that extra time trying to figure what it is,” said Raj.

Billions is a show that examines the profits and perils of chasing the American dream. Season 1 and Season 2 are available on Hotstar Premium.

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