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Marketers give theatres a thumb-down

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Marketers give theatres a thumb-down

Clutter meets you at every step, when it comes to conventional media options. Yet brands are still to overcome the television and print hangover.

Looking at the big screen objectively, the medium is seen tailor-made for certain categories such as retail, durables, automobiles, finance and cellular entities. Marketers have the option of restricting themselves to larger than life commercials prior to the film or during the interval, or going all the way with posters, banners, contests and direct marketing efforts. The options are many - you can gauge the exact number that you are reaching out to, and you can assure yourself that you are communicating with an 'active' audience. On the flip side, however, it's a fairly localised medium; rates are often in a state of flux, there are limited initiatives from the theatre owner's side and no measurement system that safeguards investments.

Says Chandramouli, VP, Marketing, Onida, "To be honest, I don't see much point in investing in theatres and multiplexes. It is a localised medium, it addresses a handful of people and a few banners or display boards at touch points within the theatre, which barely catch five minutes of the consumer's time. Plus, the consumer is so busy buying popcorn or other knickknack that he barely glances at a banner or a display. In addition, most people make an entry pretty late, and are certainly not in the mood to interact with pushy sales officials. The most important point is that the people you are targeting through this medium, are already being targeted through television and print, which means that it's a duplication of efforts."

Have there been any recent efforts from Onida's side in the theatre arena? Chandramouli comments, "We did put up a display at Inox in Mumbai, but it was a fairly small initiative and one that did not reap any obvious dividends."

However, Sanjeev Shukla, Marketing Manager, Hyundai, narrates a different story. He asserts, "We already have a deal running with a multiplex chain wherein we provide Hyundai customers with free parking space, enable them with coupons that gives a 50% discount on the next movie ticket that they purchase, and pep them with contests, free gifts and popcorn. It's been working well for us. With print and television, involvement levels are low and hence, this kind of an exercise makes more sense."

Isn't Shukla concerned about theatres addressing a fairly niche audience? He answers, "I am in the business of selling cars, and not too many people can afford a car such as Hyundai. For me, it does make sense to address smaller numbers. Upmarket theatres, with tickets that are way more expensive than the normal theatres are the perfect solution."

HK Press, Executive Director & President, Godrej Consumer Products, states that being associated with a mass brand, he can't possibly target a handful of people that make little or no difference in the overall consumer dynamics. He says, "We are mass brand, and a teeny tiny minority is not going to make much a difference to us. In addition, we don't see much point in direct marketing efforts in a theatre or a retail outlet, since sampling has never been on our agenda. Running commercials, during the interval or prior to the film also makes no sense since we are already running enough ads on print and television and it's simply a duplication of efforts."

Harit Nagpal, Vice President, Marketing, Orange, joins the brigade that declares theatres as a non-performing entity. He asserts, "You are going to a theatre with your wife and kids. How much time will you spend looking at a display that's seated near the popcorn counter? In all probability, you will charge up to the counter because you are already late for the film, wade your way through the popcorn and rush towards your seats and, in the process, miss out on the commercials that are running prior to the film. In addition, if you have a guy distributing pamphlets at the entrance of a multiplex. It could prove to be extremely annoying to the consumer. So, from the marketer's side, it's a complete waste of effort and resources."

If there is one category that's supposed to gain much mileage from theatres and multiplexes, it's the retail sector. But Himanshu Chakravarty, GM, West Side retail outlets, gives a testimonial, which is quite at loggerheads with the above statement. Says he, "We have placed few hoardings at touch points and run commercials at a handful of theatres in South Mumbai. But it's not been too great an effort. And I can't possibly say that we have garnered much out of it. We prefer occupying ourselves with in-store promotions and print ads. As and when multiplexes take off in a big way and develop a national footprint, that's when we would be getting into some serious advertising in that arena. Right now, there is a lot of confusion about the right kind of money that ought to be charged for in-theatre advertising, in addition, we don't have much clue about the audience profile that makes it to these theatres."

Play it safe, say most of the brands as they sashay through the broadsheets and the soap operas. The fact of the matter is that theatre-owners ought to organise themselves better and aggressively highlight the plus points of the medium. Because, at the end of the day, it is a mindset that they have to fight with.


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