In an engaging discussion, film director, producer, screen writer, actor and television personality Karan Johar and film director, screen writer, producer and chairman of MullenLowe Lintas Group, R Balki spoke about the similarities between the ad fraternity and film industry, star endorsements, film marketing, product placements and the digital beast. Balki also answered the big question about Lintas Group’s participation at the Abby’s.
A full house greeted the duo on Day 2 of Goafest2016 as they participated in a discussion, moderated by Kubra Seth, as part of Leadership Summit presented by Times Network.
Starting the conversation on the similarities and differences between the advertising and film industry, Johar commented in jest that movie stars benefit a lot monetarily thanks to endorsements thus ensuring that they come cheaper to filmmakers. However, endorsements also hit film schedules because “some big brands always want them immediately.” On his part Balki said, “A lot of actors don’t look at the advertising industry as a creative industry because most of the time when we use them we aren’t at our best. In many cases, we make them substitute an idea and they tend to look at advertising as here’s some cash.”
He continued saying that stars are important part of cinema and a lot of survival of cinema is because of stars. Sharing his thoughts Johar said that sometimes ads with the biggest star are silly while sometimes tiny little thoughts which don’t have any movie stars are huge successes and resonate deeply with the consumer. “There are so many advertising victories which don’t have movie stars in them and those gems stand out and become references. Very few movie stars really work towards their ad campaigns to creating something special and don’t just treat it like a money job. My perception is everyone is counting the number of endorsements that they are doing, how much work they put into that and how much they really care for the product, I am not sure many of them do.”
Talking about content on digital platforms, Balki said that it’s the idea that’s important and the platform is immaterial. In Johar’s opinion, digital is a word that is thrown around without much understanding. He states, “No one has understood the future of the digital platform and there is a tremendous future. If you really strategize it and provide the right content, it is a humongous part of the entertainment future. Right now, everyone is excited about it and knows nothing about it.”
Moving to film marketing Johar said that nobody has sat down and analysed that maybe 80-90% of the activities done during film promotion are actually not working and advertising minds should be used for market research. He says, “Over marketing a film sometimes kills the product. I wish we could employ some the advertising minds and change the way we market films. Right now, we are doing it all wrong. Marketing bubble has to come to an end.”
Drawing a parallel to the advertising world, Balki said that with the media explosion and the advent of 360 degree marketing, it has become very difficult to quantify what is working. He said, “Research shows that people consume a lot of stuff on content itself and not so much of the product. They say what a great story or touching video or experience. It is very distant from what you are buying. There is confusion about what is working, so let’s do everything. Overall there is this unsureness with marketers and clients on what is really working.”
Commenting on product placement in movies, which we incidentally also got to see a lot of in his movie ‘Ki and Ka’, Balki said that it is a science and that the biggest myth is that brands actually pay a lot of money to be in films. In most cases, they help in promoting a film and not making a film. He emphasised that product placements work best when they are integrated into the script and are part of the scene and have characters interact with the product. He added, “Clients are getting cleverer. They do not want their products placed in your face. They want it integrated in such a way that the consumer has an experience of the scene through the product because they also look at it taking that scene out of your film and promoting it. Product placements alone are not giving them mileage. What gives mileage is the ability of the product to integrate into the scene of the film and use that scene to promote the product rather than the other way round.”
Talking about social media, Johar said that it is the biggest reality check today. He said, “People on social media have their opinions. You can’t criticize social media. You cannot be indifferent to the realities of our times. You have to know what to sieve and take what you can. I am obsessed by what people say – good, bad or ugly, because that’s what keeps you grounded.” Taking a contrarian view, Balki confessed that he is not present on social media and said that he doesn’t need to read negative views and neither does he feel the need to engage with people on this platform.
Finally answering the million dollar question on when MullenLowe Lintas Group would make their presence felt again in Goafest, Balki said, “We have always had the position, as far as advertising goes, we are really happy doing things that connect with people. We don’t want to say that we are creative in a way that you are judged to be creative or not and it used to like that before (@goafest). I am sure it is no longer that way. Juries have matured all over the world and the way we decide and judge advertising has changed. But, I don’t think we will come back only because it(staying away) has worked for us. It has motivated our people to be good without recognition, to be good with the recognition that comes from our clients. If an agency has achieved a positioning like ours by default; it will be foolish to give it away.”