A large number of products are being promoted on television shows
Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) tied up with the serial “Kahiin To Hoga” on Star Plus to promote HLL’s Lux Orchid. The product was seamlessly woven into the storyline through a Lux Orchid Beauty Contest featured in over 12 episode.
In “Indian Idol,” the music reality show on Sony Entertainment Television, Nokia was a big brand integration partner. In fact, its Hindi SMS feature was promoted though the programme.
On the lifestyle channel Zoom, “Red Or Dead”, a hair colour contest was created specifically for the hair colour brand L’Oreal.
We’ve all seen the camera pan slowly over consumer products like newspapers or soft drinks in the movies. But Indian television channels too have now picked up on this. Over the last few months many TV channels have integrated brands into their entertainment shows. And, increasingly, they’re moving away from just placing products in programmes to creating the kind of content that advertisers want.
Almost two years ago, Mudra Communications’ media arm Optimum Media Solutions (OMS) set up a separate cell called Brandcast to deal with branded entertainment for TV. The company’s president, Sandeep Vij, thinks that Brandcast was set up too early. Only now has the time for promoting brands through television shows arrived, he says. So OMS is strengthening its unit and planning to use Mudra’s two television content production companies, Videotec and Tantra, to create programmes around specific brands.
To be sure, OMS is not the only advertising agency that is bracing to tap the potential of branded content for its clients. GroupM has set up a new cell on similar lines with former Star News CEO Ravina Raj Kohli as its head. Not to be left behind, TV channels too are creating special cells for the purpose. CNBC-TV 18 set up Focus six months ago.
Says the company’s vice president (sales & marketing) B Saikumar: “At CNBC, we have actually put our money where our mouth is by launching the division. This looks at creating content and allied association opportunities for clients across categories.”
Saikumar claims that the Focus teams have the expertise and the “focus” to handle the myriad brand needs of the client and break it into executable briefs for the promo or programming teams.
Says Rohit Gupta, Sony TV’s executive vice president (advertising sales): “Integrating products with entertainment programmes was not popular till now. Brand integration has just started and is being driven by advertiser demand.”
Speaking at the FICCI Frames session on branded entertainment in April, GroupM CEO Ashutosh Srivastava said that 63 per cent of the top marketers in the US participate in branded entertainment. Of this, 85 per cent use television programmes, 34 per cent use magazines, 31 per cent films and 24 per cent do it through games.
Why exactly are advertisers and channels resorting to branded content? The common perception is that plain advertising is not working as well as it used to. Too many channels are vying for eyeballs and the advertising clutter has peaked. For instance, Hindi film “Sholay” aired on a TV channel some months ago had a whopping two hours and 26 minutes of advertising. Obviously, the message of the advertiser gets completely lost.
Advertisers also believe that the brand recall of products that are integrated with TV content is much higher than, say, a 30-second spot. A GroupM study in Canada showed that the awareness levels of a product went up by 16 per cent through branded entertainment and the message did not interfere with the viewers’ enjoyment of the programme.
That’s not all. Technological changes also have a bearing on the way brands advertise. Says Vij: “Globally, with products like TiVo and iPod coming in, the consumer is completely in control of what he watches. In a TiVo, for instance, viewers can conveniently skip ads.”
In his book Madison & Vine,“Advertising Age” editor Scott Donaton observes: “Advertisers are losing the ability to invade homes as the consumer is fast-forwarding the messages.”
Space sellers also see brand promotions via television shows as an opportunity to optimise revenues for television channels. “There are only so many commercials TV channels can carry. So channels are also looking at non-commercial time revenue,” observes Saikumar. He adds that “tailormade associations” ensure that agencies help the client achieve his larger brand or marketing objective.
Still, executives at other broadcasting companies feel that the advertiser cannot get top billings — the viewer comes first. “But yes, we do encourage it, and provide a service to the advertiser. We will do it as long as it does not compromise the show,” says a Star TV executive.
While broadcasters in India may be cautious about introducing branded content, advertiser-funded programming seems to be gaining credence worldwide. “Madison & Vine” cites the example of an NBC reality series called “The Restaurant” whose production costs media-buying agency Magna Global Entertainment agreed to underwrite.
In return, three of the agency’s clients, American Express, Coors and Mitsubishi, were integrated into the plot of the series and got premium commercial position on the show, reports Scott Donaton.
So will the percentage of branded entertainment in India grow? “Not much more than what it is today,” feels Apurva Purohit, who was Zoom’s chief operating officer when Ice World spoke to her. “For the simple reason that advertising is still not such an irritant in India.”
To back her point she quotes industry estimates: at the mid-point of an ad break, only 20 per cent of the viewership drops, “which may not be so bad after all.”
Besides, broadcasting company executives also claim that they would not compromise their content for an advertisers’s benefit. “At CNBC and Awaaz, what matters most is editorial integrity and the credibility of the platforms. Any content endorsement will have to steer clear of infringing on editorial rights and discretion,” claims Saikumar.
Though Sony allows branded shows, Rohit Gupta says that a channel can have only a limited number of such shows. “One, branded entertainment keeps other advertisers away from a show. Two, I do not want my serials to look like a supermarket,” he concludes.