Zee campaign around 'Khelo', 'Jeena' draws Star ire

Zee Telefilms' aggressive no holds barred campaign to convince advertisers and media planners that its shows Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai (JIKNH) and Khelo Number Khelo are worth putting their money on, ratings be damned has raised rival Star India's hackles. 

In a campaign that kicked off on 29 May, Zee Telefilms took aim at rival Star India through an advertising campaign in the pink press - in an extremely aggressive play. The ad campaign builds a case for the two shows as big ticket items which the media fraternity should should ride, forgetting about the KBCs and the "Saas Bahu" sagas.

Zee of course is gung ho about the campaign. Today's edition of Hindu Businessline quoted Partha Sinha, vice-president (marketing), Zee Network, as saying: "We find it difficult to believe that anyone would want to watch something else like a chat show or an interview rather than watching the life of a celebrity. We want this programme to be part of one's daily conversation and are trying to convey the same to the advertising and marketing community."

And this despite the fact that Khelo and Jeena have continued to have swinging ratings (both have flitted in and out of the top 100 rated shows in the last five weeks). Zee TV says in the ads that "saas bahu" soaps cannot sustain viewer interest for long now. Quoting in house statistics, it claims that approximately 7.6 million C & S households that own a Playwin Super Lotto ticket are a captive audience for Khelo, its game show produced by Miditech, that announces the online results midway through the show. With jackpots of over Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) and Rs 8.61 (Rs 86.1 million) crore being won in the last one month, the channel claims interest in the lottery as well as in the show has shot up.

In fact, the entire campaign has got Star India COO's Sameer Nair's goose. Says Nair: "What data are they referring to when they are making the claims? You can't speak to 650 people and build up a popular barometer. Jeena or Khelo don't even figure in the Top 50 ratings. When a programme does well like our shows Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Kyunki Saas and Kahin Kissi are doing, its characters become a part of the common culture, the language of the people...there is a buzz about them. I think the entire campaign is very silly. One can't forget that it was hardly two years ago that Zee TV was decrying game shows like KBC when it was doing well, saying that people want to watch soaps and series. Today, the wheel has turned full circle. They are saying that people don't want to watch saas bahu soaps and want to watch game shows like Khelo. Who are they kidding? It's not as if Zee TV's shows have set India on fire... To top it all, Zee TV is telling media planners not to put their client's money on soap sagas which have always worked? Which media planner would divert money from soaps to other shows based on doubtful data and research? "

Jeena too, the ads claim, commands a 45 per cent viewership (the episode featuring Laloo Prasad Yadav), with rival channels commanding corresponding figures of 27, 21 and eight per cent. Friday night viewing, claims the network is not for digesting celluloid domestic squabbles but for celeb talk that tugs at heartstrings.

It is still unclear whether advertisers will bite the bait, though. Media planners, while admitting that Playwin has caught the fancy of the populace, are reluctant to say whether the success will translate into better ratings for the show.

Initiative Media vice president Partha Ghosh says that viewers need not necessarily log on to a show, as the results would be available offline later. "You cannot necessarily convert the success of a product in the marketplace into a successful show", he opines. Whereas if you miss an episode of a soap like Kyunkii, you miss a vital link in the series, you do not miss much if you skip an episode of Khelo or Jeena, he adds. The ads, a product of Zee's creative agency Rediffusion DY & R, hit out straight at "saas bahu" serials that have cornered a vital share of viewers' imagination. Hinting that the ratings do not reflect the true picture, the ads say advertisers are still led to believe that people would much rather watch a creaky sob story than find out if they have won the kind of money that will have them laughing all the way to the bank."

StarCom's Pradipto Nandy disagrees. "The campaign (to wean away advertisers from soaps to game shows) will not work as a long term strategy," he says. Besides, he points out, viewers need not stick to the channel for the entire duration of the show if they are merely interested in following the results of the online lottery, he points out. 

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