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Branded content integration – what’s holding it back in India?

01-June-2011
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Branded content integration – what’s holding it back in India?

Growing ‘remote’ penetration has become a challenge for advertisers with viewers switching channels during every commercial break. With DTH players giving the option to record one’s favourite programmes and viewing them later by fast-forwarding the commercials, the situation is not too happy one for brands who believe in plain vanilla advertising. The arrival of break-free content on HD channels is forcing marketing managers to think beyond the ordinary to gain visibility for their respective brands.

Advertisers are frequently opting for non-traditional advertising – from in-programme product placements to branded integration, and further advertiser-funded programming. But the question is whether brands are truly leveraging content in India?

Let’s see how some brands are leveraging in-programme integration. Max New York Life’s in-programme integration in ‘Balika Vadhu’ on Colors is one of the examples of content integration seen in recent days. Anisha Motwani, Director and CMO, Max New York Life Insurance, remarked, “It was the outcome of a long pending desire at Max New York Life to engage, educate and entertain the consumer in an environment where the viewer would not see the messaging as an interruption.”

Max New York Life also experienced a holistic integration last year on ‘Chak Dhoom Dhoom’, again on Colors. Motwani noted that though content integration had started in India years ago with films, it typically provided larger canvasses for either simple product placements or product integrations. But over the years, reality shows have started providing almost a formatted opportunity for brand mentions and product placements.

Few years back, Doordarshan and Hindustan Unilever’s detergent brand ‘Wheel’ had experimented with a reality show called ‘Wheel Smart Shrimati’. It was a game-show funded by the advertiser and the programme’s content was woven around the target audience of the detergent – housewives. This apart, to promote its two-wheeler brand Hero Honda Karizma, the group has been using the content of ‘MTV Roadies’. The content of another reality show – ‘MTV Pulsar Stuntmania’ – has also been weaved around the two-wheeler brand. The Pulsar Stuntmania is also funded by the advertiser.

Milind Bade, Head - Marketing, Bajaj Auto, said, “This hour-long programme is like a one-hour commercial.” Bade seems to be relying more on advertiser funded programme as he said, “Rather than doing promotion here and there in movies or TV serials, I would like to put money in these kind of programmes which communicate the strength of the products.”

But why advertisers are still hesitant of putting money on Integrated Content?

Why brands are so cautious…
Ajit Verghese, MD, Maxus, noted, “What stands in the way of that are often the huge premiums payable by the advertiser to integrate or create something for their brand, resistance from the broadcaster who often see an integration to affect stickiness of content and an industry mindset that still views branded content as an 'add on' to their regular campaign - where there is much potential for it to become a campaign in itself.”

Besides, experts suggest that the key to move away from tweaked content and force-fit integrations is to deeply engage with creative teams at a time when there is a room for the brand to become part of the regular content plot or format. It is also critical to be wary of brand messaging in the content that could cross over from context to a 'plug in content'.

Industry veterans suspect that most marketers are not willing to bet their bucks on a big idea, rather treating branded content as a means to drive media efficiencies. CVL Srinivas, Chairman, SMG India, stated, “Branded Content needs to be seen strategically. It has to drive both Brand Value and Media Value and thereby it has a cost. As long as the mindset doesn't change, we will not leverage the power of branded content fully.”

It can be noted here that Media Agencies in India such as Mindshare, Mudra Max, MEC Access have dedicated content practice cells. Very recently Starcom MediaVest Group has rebranded its content practice unit to LiquidThread India – this also marked the launch of the global entity of the group.

Varghese believed that it has become a must for agencies today to exemplify effectiveness of content tie-ups and for that many efforts in measurement and research, as well as a definitive currency, beyond the 10 second rate and GRPs, are crucial.

Srinivas of SMG India added here, “Agencies and clients must also figure out the metrics for defining success and be able to measure outcomes.”

The way forward…
Apart from TV content, in-film promotion in movies has been practiced a lot globally. In Hollywood the Bond series saw brands like BMW, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Mercedes among others, have being promoted extensively. In India also this trend has been picking up gradually. Two years back, in Bollywood blockbuster movie 3Idiots, Mahindra promoted its scooter brand.
Bade of Bajaj noted that the promotion of scooter in 3Idiots was a very good example of in-film promotion but we did not see activation surrounding that. “These activities should be supported by on-ground activities well,” noted Bade.

Varghese noted that while most advertisers are still skeptical to take a chance on the world of Bollywood - where release dates and Box Office numbers are still something fairly tentative, for some advertisers, it has become an annual strategy for a seasonal campaign.

Recently, few brands also tried to integrate with the gaming content. Beverage brand Pepsi tied up with games2win. In this game, player has to go through multiple levels to reach to the Pepsi. Apart from it, brands like Godrej, Scorpio, Close-up, Airtel, Vodafone among others, have leveraged the gaming content.
Experts believed that the best branded integrations are those that fulfill both a brand and content need. A brand leverages content strongly if it genuinely integrates its promise with the concept. It is important to see that any activity should be sustainable and hence should have a repeat value.

In India, there is still much to catch up on and the gap will only reduce moving forward not only through using Film, TV and Gaming content but by leveraging digital arena as well.

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