Marathi TV: The BTL surge

MUMBAI: While shows such as Bigg Boss and Dance India Dance are capable of drawing eyeballs on their own steam, they owe their popularity, at least in part, to extensive marketing and promotion undertaken by the Hindi GECs in question.

Contrastingly, the Marathi GEC space is not too well known for going aggro on advertising, however, there’s one element of the marketing mix which even these channels resort to frequently in order to connect with its audiences.

Viacom 18 EVP and ETV Marathi business head Anuj Poddar says, “On-ground activities integrate elements of emotion, logic, and general thought processes to connect with the consumer. The goal is to establish the connection in such a way that the consumer responds to the show offering at both an emotional and rational response level.”

Poddar gives the example of Kon Hoyil Marathi Crorepati(KHMC), ETV Marathi’s flagship programme, which garnered high views. He says a KHMC van with a ‘hot seat’ travelled to 90 markets in the state, with people getting an opportunity to experience the thrill of being in the coveted seat answering questions.

On the other hand, Zee Marathi, which leads the genre, has on-ground activities weaved into its shows such as Home Minister, which is entering its tenth year and involves meeting women in their homes on a regular basis; Aamhi Saare Khavaiyye and Madhali Sutti to name a few. During rainy season events are conducted indoors while during other times they are outdoor.

Zee Marathi claims to have touched all of Maharashtra’s prime markets, whereas ETV is looking to expand its on-ground activities, mainly in towns and villages. Both the channels undertake these activities on its own. Zee Marathi says the local part is taken care of by local agencies such as booking places.

Most of the times, the cast also accompanies in such activities for which they are also paid. “The casts of the shows are a major crowd puller and play an important role in driving audience for any on-ground activity,” says Poddar.

“Our audiences don’t sit in Mumbai and Pune and so, our on-ground activities are targeted at other towns,” points out Poddar, adding that the channel is currently into on-ground operations for its upcoming dance show, Mhanjech Assal Dancer (MAD).

“On-ground activities, especially experiential marketing, will play a pivotal role in all marketing campaigns as we move from mere product attribute communication to focusing on delivering experiences that develop relationships and bonds that enable brands to grow over time,” he adds.

It turns out ETV devotes 10 per cent of its entire marketing budget to on-ground.  Zee Marathi refused to comment on how much it spends on below the line activation. Sources however peg total on-ground expenditure at around Rs 3-5 crore per annum. Again, the expenditure may vary depending on the scale of the show.

Zee Marathi business head Deepak Rajadhyaksha is of the opinion that the impact of on-ground activities is almost always visible. “We get to understand what people like and don’t like as well as the impact of the channel. Viewers give us a clear picture.” All marketing activation of the channel is done under the brand name Utsav Natyancha, involving games, acts and prizes along with discussions. Utsav Natyancha’has travelled to more than 11 towns across the state, claims Rajadhyaksha. He discloses that the channel resorts to close to 15-20 BTL initiatives each year. ETV Marathi says that it selects locations on the basis of viewership contribution as well as market classification.

People participating in the KHMC activity, organized by ETV Marathi

Madison COO Karthik Lakshminarayan says that more than the Marathi channels Hindi TV channels normally go into a greater overdrive on this front and hence get a lot more visibility amongst lay consumers.  “Such activities create a lot of buzz for the TV channel and show,” is Poddar's stated view.

So what happens once an event is done? “We conduct a survey by distributing forms to people asking them about the show,” says Rajadhyaksha. During the course of the event, games are conducted in which contestants are asked questions pertaining to the channel’s shows after which winners get prizes. All contact details of the people is piled into a database and they are informed and invited the next time Zee Marathi does an event.

Same goes for ETV Marathi. Feedback from an event is used in the next event they undertake. Regular mailers, SMS updates, Facebook uploads and Twitter tags are used to build curiosity among the viewers.

“What such kind of marketing does for the channel is that it gives it an opportunity to tailor messages in a personal manner. It also gives marketers valuable insights into their ROIs,” says Poddar.  So while print, TV and radio form the main chunk, channels seem to be waking up to the possibilities offered by on-ground as a critical component of reaching out to consumers. Marathi TV appears to be on the road to getting the fourth ‘P’ of its marketing mix right.

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