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Billboards & Bollywood: A longstanding courtship

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Billboards & Bollywood: A longstanding courtship

The year 2012 marks a century for Indian cinema. From the silent pictures to the talkies, from black and white to technicolour, from cinemascope to hand-held devices, Indian cinema has kept pace with its global counterparts. This applies to the phenomenon of movie marketing as well, where production houses began earmarking 15-30 per cent of their overall budgets for creating enough noise around a movie’s release. The media mix for movies evolved to include cross content promotion through advertising on television and radio, a larger and more active role of the cast came into play for the movie’s promotion, vanilla advertising across media and the different forms of OOH advertising.

OOH, led by billboards, once was the mainstay of a movie’s marketing plan. The medium is still crucial to Bollywood. Outdoor players share that the film industry's advertising spend on OOH went up by about 20 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year 2011. The age old medium of billboards continued to be a major part of this spend. Movies such as ‘The Dirty Picture’, ‘Rowdy Rathode’ and ‘Singham’ did try to draw attention of movie buffs with the old style effects on billboards.

Three decades ago, it was the dream of every film star to be on billboards across the city, promoting their forthcoming releases. It has been most effectively showcased in the movie ‘Om Shanti Om’ where Shah Rukh Khan’s character’s dream of becoming a superstar began with spending endless hours under a billboard.

OOH medium, largely marked by billboards back then, was the glamour quotient. During the peak of Indian cinema, which is the 70s and 80s, large hand painted billboards outside theatre halls gave an unforgettable visual treat to the onlookers, taking the definition of film poster art beyond advertising and transforming it into a cultural icon.

These hand painted pictures usually possessed vibrant and loud colours along with the artists’ personal touch. In fact, the legend MF Hussain in the early days of his work life earned a living by painting billboards for movies. This method of hand painting of billboards for advertising flourished mainly in the film industries of Chennai and Mumbai. But with changing demand and technology, hand painted billboards were quickly replaced by glossy, digitally-produced ones.

Industry positive on the medium
With the increase of other elements, have billboards lost the glamour quotient they once held? Haresh Nayak, Managing Director, Posterscope, replied, “I don’t think so, but yes, with increase in the captive audience networks such as malls, multiplex, gyms, beauty parlours, etc, the spends are moving more towards such ambient options.”

Sanjeev Gupta, Managing director, Global Advertisers, on the other hand is of the opinion that billboard is still emerging as a leading medium with an added glamour quotient for film industry for two reasons. “First, billboards, which used to mostly mean lighted posters are fast being replaced with digital billboards that use moving images, cut outs and other innovations that are making them more larger-than-life than ever before. Second, nothing works like billboards when your target audience lives, works or commutes (through) in a particular geographical location where the billboards are situated. Therefore, billboards deliver the brand promise to an entire neighbourhood like no other medium will do it for you. A brand’s glamour quotient, therefore, improves when it is communicated through billboards to a premium audience.”

Cult status

Billboards enjoy importance in the movie industry down south. They play a crucial part in every big budget movie’s release. Superstars on billboards are revered. We have witnessed numerous instances when billboards of Rajnikanth were worshipped. The 60-year old’s latest film, Endhiran got a king size welcome by his fans down in Tamil Nadu. Fans washed life-size posters of Rajinikanth with milk.

Billboard advertising has enjoyed the longest relationship with Bollywood in comparison to any other medium. The silver screen glamour has been best projected through a billboard. Even thought the role of Billboards has changed in the overall marketing mix of a movie, it still continues to be one of the key areas contributing to the increase in OOH advertising spends.

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