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The Meltdown: Movie marketing looks for innovative ways as purse strings tighten

The Meltdown: Movie marketing looks for innovative ways as purse strings tighten

Author | Geetanjali Minhas | Monday, Dec 22,2008 6:37 AM

The Meltdown: Movie marketing looks for innovative ways as purse strings tighten

Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Ghajini’ is set to end the year with a bang. The movie has been in the spotlight of late due to its innovative and heightened marketing burst. However, another superstar starrer, ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’, saw a relatively low key launch. With budgets being curtailed across the industry, movie marketing, too, has taken a hit. But this has also led to movie makers becoming innovative in their promotion efforts.

For long movies have been largely funded by money raised from various sources, with banks being reluctant to fund movies, given the unpredictable nature of the movie making business, where a return on investment is not guaranteed. There have also been more than whispers of underworld money being pumped into films.

But with movie production houses becoming more professionally organised and run, several corporates have jumped into the movie funding business. According to industry estimates, nearly 90 per cent of movie marketing is being funded by corporates these days.

There have also been several foreign collaborations and co-productions in recent times. Several film production, distribution and exhibition companies are listed on stock exchanges in India and even abroad, thus becoming 360-degree media and entertainment companies, offering satellite broadcasting, Internet content, movie production, FM radio, distribution, multiplexes and so on.

This apart, quite a few small budget offbeat movies like ‘Aamir, ‘A Wednesday’, ‘Bheja Fry’, Khosla Ka Ghosla’, ‘Mithiya’ – all innovatively packaged and marketed – have drawn audiences into cinema halls, especially the multiplex audience.

In fact, properly packaged movie marketing initiatives have played a big role in the success of new releases. During times of robust economic growth, corporate funding had propelled movie marketing to nearly 40 per cent of the production costs, when traditionally only 20 per cent was earmarked for same.

However, with the current economic slowdown hitting nearly all sectors of the economy, no longer are funds so easily available. There is more rationalisation of marketing budgets. Innovative, affordable, no frill mediums of marketing are being relied upon more as has been in the case of ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’.

According to Siddharth Roy Kapoor, UTV, “The recession has, in fact, rationalised movie marketing costs. Budgets have been curtailed and media costs have come down. It is a very positive trend as marketers have to do more with less in shoestring budgets. Innovative marketing is the need of the hour. We need to target audiences in a more focused manner on the ground and direct level rather than using mass media so widely. At UTV, we have always done innovative marketing like press conferences, online promotions to present our movies in a clutter breaking manner.”

His views are seconded by a senior official with TV18, who, on condition of anonymity, said that the movie industry was actually going through price correction as it was long overdue. “Cash rich companies have nothing to worry, but companies looking at raising funds are finding it difficult,” the official added.

Manish Mathur, COO, P9 Integrated, said, “The biggest challenge for the producer/ distributor is to get the audience to multiplexes. Given the tough economic times, families are thinking twice before visiting a multiplex. For example, a family of four usually has to shell out Rs 1,000 on a visit to a multiplex.”

Mathur explained, “Traditionally, movie marketing is a B2B deal between a producer and distributor, where the consumer always takes a backseat, and actually more of a Mumbai phenomenon to attract the distributor/ exhibitor. But now, due to the recession and the resultant cash crunch, mediums like online promotions, mall/ ground promotions, coffee bars, OOH, print promotion, and theatre advertising are aimed directly at the consumer. In a way, budgets have gone up due to proliferation of media. Factually speaking, due to paucity of buyers, producers are looking at new mediums to absorb maximum costs like in the case of ‘Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye’, where the film was released on DTH in a paid preview barely two weeks after its theatre release.”

Brands have been associating with well publicised movies for greater visibility and connect. A case in point is Van Heusen, which has tied up with Aamir Khan starrer ‘Ghajini’.

Dhruv Jha, Business Head - Brand Experience, Lodestar Universal, is upbeat when he says that in recession it makes better sense to innovate and do better stuff than others and stand out. “People need to amplify their tie-ups in different media, create a buzz, as we have done for the Aamir Khan ‘Ghajini’ Van Heusen look and hairstyle with The Times of India, where they will bombard the same in their 13 editions. This is a co-beneficial tie-up that will create awareness for the Van Heusen brand. When people watch Aamir wearing Van Heusen outfits in ‘Ghajini’ they will want to wear the same. In fact, Van Heusen has launched an entire ‘Ghajini’ line, modelled on Aamir’s character in the movie. We also plan to reward our audience for watching the movie,” Jha added.

Putting things in perspective, Rajneesh Chaturvedi, National Director - India, MEC Access, said that movies were marketed either directly or through tie-ups. He felt that recession had not impacted marketing of movies per se. “There is always a certain amount of advertising that a movie does. Earlier, movies opened with 100-200 prints, now they open with 1,000 prints and costs have to be recovered in the first week itself. Earlier, media fragmentation was also less. In the current scenario, big budget movies from top production houses will not be affected, but middle rung might be. Brands may get choosy about vehicles to market themselves and hence, will choose their titles accordingly,” Chaturvedi pointed out.

In a similar vein, Manmohan Shetty, Founder Adlabs, “Essentially, everyone wants to draw out the audience to the theatres to watch movies. This is done via movie trailers on TV channels, song telecasts, teasers, etc. Marketing budgets have surely increased, but they don’t have premieres in different cities anymore, although patterns of movie marketing remain the same. Movie marketing depends on the target audience, hence the format varies. Individual films will be marketed individually.”

For the movie industry, it has been a long story of nearly nine decades. Currently, India makes about 1,000 movies a year, including Bollywood and other regional movie industries. This is 10 times of what Hollywood produces in a year. From small set-ups to corporate style structures to tie-ups and co-productions with Hollywood studios like Warner Brothers, Fox Searchlight, etc., the Indian movie industry has everything for everyone.

While piracy continues to plague the industry, affecting profitability, some production houses have taken to releasing their movies online with simultaneously with the theatre release. But that is yet to catch up in a significant way. Another option is using the DTH platform to launch the movie on a paid per view basis soon after its theatre release, as is seen in the case of ‘Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye’. Lowering the rates of DVDs and VCDs will also see another avenue opening up for filmmkers.

With some interesting releases lined up for 2009 – ‘Chandni Chowk to China’, ‘Delhi 6’, ‘Dev D’, ‘Billo Barber’, ‘New York’ and ‘Raavan’, among others, it remains to be seen how innovative their marketing would be.

Tags: e4m

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