Avid TV viewers, who are hooked on to Jassi and her thirst for revenge, can brace themselves for a parade of brands while they are at it. Come January, and Jassi and Nandu purchase a larger than life Mercedes car…and don't stop making hoots and gurgles about it. Another scene from the soap displays the Oh-So-Beautiful model Malaika Khan in the folds of Loreal Fashion Week...a lot more noises made about Loreal than about the model per say. A few days after the Malaika incident, Mandira Bedi stops by at the office…just to say hi …and while she's at it, she displays Asmi diamonds in addition to an Asmi carry bag. What more…she mouths the 'Inner Fire' message quite a few times for those who haven't noticed the brand message on hoardings already.
Evidently, product placement in serials is no longer just passe. Says Tarun Katial, Business Head, Set India, "I see brand placement within serials a mutually beneficial association for both brand custodians and channels. For those who seek an unconventional route to reaching their target audience…this is the next big thing. You can position your brand in a scene, and be assured that involvement levels exist and your brand is noticed. I am not denying that it's a money spinner for television channels….our experience has taught us accordingly. But having said that, it must also be said that the placement is engineered with much care…and it does not stick out like a sore thumb. Any kind of a brand placement that's carried out in Sony serials is carefully weaved into the story...and it does due justice to the plot. It's not like a brand comes out of nowhere and screams 'Please Buy Me'
At a certain point, wouldn't product placement result in fatigue levels? Katial states, "Clearly, we haven't reached that point in Jassi. If and when viewer feedback asserts that the brands portrayed are starting to interrupt the story …we would put a break on it. As of now, it's a profitable venture…and as mentioned, it's carefully executed and fits in well with the story. We do not think that it's an overdose of any kind."
Star meanwhile asserts that it still has certain reservations about product placement…and would only take on contracts of the kind, if it offers the right fit. Says Sameer Nair, COO, Star, "We are not going to look at in-programme product placement unless there is a perfect brand fit and the brand gels well with the story line. In the case of Kahiin to hoga and Lux there was a perfect synergy between the brand and the plot. Besides it had characters that were just right for the brand. It worked very well for the client as well as for us."
He adds, "There is a price attached to it. Right now there is no agreement on how its effectiveness and hence pricing ought to be measured. This hinders the growth of product placement in serials. For instance we were in talks with a particular car company on how all the cars depicted on StarOne would be from its stable but it did not work out for similar reasons."
What are the real impediments that stand in the way of product placement within serials?
Sanjay Bhutiani, CEO, P9 states, "Unlike placement within films, this arena involved three stake-holders…the marketer, the channel and the producer. Channels insist that deals on product placement ought to be chalked out with them…while production houses feel that while they are the ones depicting the brand within the story-line…shouldn't they be the beneficiaries? There is no clear consensus on the sharing of moolah, between the channel and the production house. The marketer is thus a confused man. Plus, placements within serials are shoddily executed and do not involve as much money or prospects as the big screen."
Kacon Sethi (CEO, K Sera Sera) agrees with most of what Bhutiani states. She asserts, "Product placement within serials is all set to take off in India…but there must be standardization of some kind, as far as production houses and channels go. What part of the proceeds should go to the production house? And what part should go to the channel? Or is the channel the sole beneficiary?"
Evidently product placement can work as a big money spinner for channels if executed well. But like the movie "Mein prem Ki Diwani hoon' where viewers starting counting the sashay of brands on their finger tips and dedicated much time to pooh-poohing at the lavish displays… the whole science of brand placement could backfire if done wrong. Where do you draw the line, that's a question channels need to decipher.