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Film marketing: Ensuring a solid opening

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MUMBAI: Today, the first day first show is the mantra for any producer, as BR Films' Ravi Chopra puts it. That decides whether the movie is a hit or a miss at the box office (BO). Earlier, only press ads and outdoor hoardings were used to push the films. But the times they are a-changin'. Strategic marketing can rescript a movie's fate at the BO.

The changing face of film marketing and marketing innovations was discussed in a 2005 Ficci Frames session "Marketing of films: Make Money - First Day First Show". Moderated by P9 Integrated CEO Sanjay Bhutiani, the session had speakers like Reliance Infocomm Marketing head Kaushik Roy, PVR Cinemas Marketing & Communications VP Tushar Dhingra, McDonald's & Rutter publicist Jonathan Rutter, Yashraj Films senior marketing executive Tarun Tripathi and BR Films' Ravi Chopra.

Opening the session, Bhutiani said films deserve great marketing as the consumer has multiple choices for entertainment. "Other channels of entertainment are also competing with films. Today's audiences are smarter, better informed and more knowledgeable. And we have a very fragmented consumer profile who have different media habits," he pointed out.

Bhutiani criticised Indian film producers' habit of spending almost 80 per cent of their marketing budget on TV. He stressed the need to tap other media to target different audiences. "Understanding the consumer and media habit is very important. For Bollywood, where the rate of failure is high, a multifaceted approach is the need of the hour," he said.

Speaking about the need for a multi-media approach, Bhutiani explained the importance of unconventional media tools like internet and theatres. Internet, with its power of instant communication, has decided the fate of many movies, he said. "Hulk's box office collections dropped by 70 per cent just because of the negative reviews it generated on the web." Bhutiani also spoke about the importance of PR activities. Sighting the example of the successful PR campaign Mel Gibson had for his controversial movie The Passion of the Christ, Bhutiani said if properly used, even negative PR can save a movie.

Reliance's Roy spoke about the role played by mobile phones in film marketing. Narrating the Reliance experience, he said non-intrusive marketing holds the key. "We have created R World where messages are non-intrusive, active and engage consumers in a relationship through conversation," he said.

Roy said contests and dynamic updates of the R World have been generating repeat look ups. "This way, a buzz about the theme of the movie marketed is ensured. Also, the extensive database we have helps us in consumer-oriented marketing," he said. Roy, explained the tactics used in promoting movies like Veer Zaara and Swades through R World. "Automated calls from Veer Zaara stars Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta to consumers' mobile phones really set the ground for SMS contests that followed," he said. On a futuristic note, Roy said innovations like M Ticket (mobile ticket), M Auction (mobile auction) and M Coupons (mobile coupons) could be used to exploit the potential of mobile movie marketing.

McDonald's & Rutter's Rutter narrated the various publicity strategies his firm employs in marketing movies. He also spoke about the choice of medium and the difficulties involved in it.

Tripathi presented the Hum Tum case study and explained how the 360-degree campaign was planned phase-wise. He identified the key elements that worked well for the campaign as: decent product, planning, uncluttered communication, 360-degree marketing, innovations, win-win situation and pan-India marketing. Speaking about the evolving trends in film marketing, Tripathi listed the important steps as identifying the consumer, filling niches, bombarding the marketplace and single channel to multi-channel distribution.

PVR's Dhingra spoke about the significance of exhibition marketing. Narrating the various innovations used by PVR to promote the release of Spiderman and Gaayab, he explained how even exhibitors can play a crucial role in movie-marketing and thereby promote himself along with the film. He also stressed the scope of cross promotion with other brands while marketing movies.

Concluding the session, Chopra said advanced planning was really crucial in movie marketing. To drive home the point, he pointed out that the marketing strategies for his 2006 January release Babul was already in the planning stage.

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