'80% of activity where brands are engaging themselves with films is in associative marketing' : CEO Navin Shah

This year the Indian film industry has entered the spotlight with release after release that has caused a stir in the media. Amidst all this, there have also been several others contributing to the noise and much like 'parasites' seem to be clinging on to the fame! In short, brands are increasingly riding the tide of Bollywood, transforming this activity into a more organised format by investing 'big monies' towards it. This trend seems to be gaining ground in the Indian sub-continent with a whole host of advertisers jumping in the 'brand-wagon' of blockbusters including Krrish, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Don and the latest addition Dhoom 2.

Highlighting the potential of this relatively new yet burgeoning industry, P9 Integrated CEO Navin Shah took some time out to speak with's Renelle Snelleksz.


What are the various options available to advertisers when associating with a film?

A product placement is only one aspect of what a brand can do with a film. In fact, product placement only forms 10 per cent of all the activity. Actually a lot happens outside the film, in what is popularly called associative marketing or co-promotion, where the film rides on the brand to get promoted and in turn the brand rides on the euphoria of the film.

Firstly, there is no lag in the time period, like for Salaam-e-Ishq, which is releasing on 24 January, the planning can be done now. Secondly, even if there is a high integration of the creative of the brand footage and the film, it is only outside and is short lived. It is irrespective of the fate of the film, because you are doing an outside association you are assured of your ROI as it is media linked. The association can be amplified via other mediums like television, print, cinema hoardings.

Therefore, 80 to 90 per cent of activity in which brands are engaging themselves with films is in associative marketing.

Is it not a big risk that brands are taking with in film associations, especially if the movie doesn't do well?

If you look at it from purely a visibility perspective, while it is a risk, when you have product placement x amount of viewership is guaranteed. However, today there are a couple of more avenues where the brand is going to be seen, most importantly is satellite television because sooner or later the movie will be released on TV, not just once but at multiple times so in that case visibility is assured. In addition, in the Indian context, the home video segment is really growing so even the shelf life of the film is largely increased with the sale of DVDs. To that extent, the risk gets slightly amortized but in-film per se is a 'high risk high return model' because if it works then the returns can go as high as Rs 20 to 30 crores. Therefore, the marketer is always aware of the fact that he is pumping in on something that can give him a disproportionate return.

Brand associations are then a viable option and filmmakers stand to gain as it not only provides additional revenue but also helps to market his film?

In fact this is what most of the advertisers think. But if you look at it from a filmmaker's perspective he makes a mutli-million rupee film, the brand monies are inconsequential in terms of its overall PNI. In this scheme of things. the brand actually rides on a Rs 15-40 crore project. It's not only the producer that benefits from this activity. If done right it's a win-win situation. In fact, for a client it's a huge opportunity because in India films are such a big passion that if something works, the magic can help reap benefits for years to come.

A classic example is ICICI and Baghban, that's a four year old story while the shelf life of that can grow to be about 20 years as satellite TV keeps replaying it over and over again. Thus, it is a disproportionately skewed equation for the brand and if brands realise this they can use it to their advantage.

How much are brands willing to spend on the medium?

Worldwide there are brands, including automobile companies, glass manufactures, mobile phone companies that spend almost 20-30 per cent of their marketing budget on product placement, like for instance new versions of the Audi have been launched via films. In India, there are at least 40 brands that spend more than Rs 100 crores in a year.

This year's blockbuster Krrish is often sighted as a popular case study, but what happens when there are more than 10 brands incorporated in a film, in that case how does it prove to be a 'clutter breaking' approach?

It's not about whether there are four brands or 500 brands in a film. If the brand is shown in the right context, then I think there is place for even 100 brands where every brand will stand out in three hours. If you take the example of a Bond film, there are about 20 brands placements and each one gets its own glory so there is no question of 'clutter', it's the context and the way you portray the brand.

Among several brands in film, will a particular brand have to pay a greater premium for more visibility?

It's more about the idea and not about the show time measured in seconds that a brand came in. An example is a product placement I had done for Kodak in Hum Tum where it was as small as 10 seconds in which Saif remembers Rani getting married to Abhishek and the thought freezes as a photograph on which he scribbles "Maybe a perfect Kodak moment?" That in my mind is more than a brand trying to tout his product for 10 minutes in a film. So it's not about one trying to outdo the other, everybody can be equally good as long as the idea behind the placement is imaginative.

'The biggest role to my mind is that of expectation management'

Who implements the placement in this set up? How does it work?

It is the director's prerogative, he is the final decision maker. One can however give inputs and suggestions.

For an organization like P9 Integrated, what is their hand in the whole process?

Firstly, we are match makers and secondly the biggest role to my mind is that of 'expectation management'. The client may often think that by putting a certain amount of money he owns the film, while the filmmaker is any which way making a film on his terms, so P9 would ideally bring the two parties to a common platform and manage their expectations to start with, help the brand in ideating and help the producer in execution as expectation managers.

Do several media agencies come to the table with different brands to be integrated in a film, or does one agency handle all the placements for a film?

There have been instances where we have taken up the exclusive rights for the film and so we become a 'toll gate' so anybody in the market ranging from a media agency to a client will have to come to us. A case in point is the recently acquired exclusive rights for Salaam-e-Ishq for any co-promotional activity.

Internationally, what is the scope of the market? What is being done in that space?

Globally the industry is a three decade old business making it a mature market, today it is growing at a pace of 6-8 per cent, which would be almost 5 per cent of the overall advertising pie used on this medium. Growth will continue until it reaches a critical mass which it has not yet achieved.

We have done several co-promotional marketing tie-ups in India for Hollywood movies including the work on Superman and Mother Dairy cheese, we had also done MI3 and Gabanna and likewise we are in talks with many films, one of the big films which is slated for December is Happy Feet on which we will be doing something interesting.

What can we expect in the coming months?

We have just finished working on an association for Kinetic for Apna Sapna Money Money. We also did Mentos and Jaaneman.

There are three key films in the pipeline with a huge amount of stuff being done - for Guru, some mind blowing activity on our home production Traffic Signal which Madhur Bhandarkar is directing and of course Salaam-e-Ishq. In addition, we are also working in the regional market with Telegu films.

What do you identify as being the way head for the industry in India?

The future for this industry is that brands for a particular target audience and particular style and stature will require experts like us to be their entertainment AOR experts, not only for implementation but to play a complete advisory and consultancy role and give them a blue print of the strategy for the whole year of how entertainment will play a role in their brand.

Secondly, there is some amount of measurement emerging in terms of effectiveness and impact. Companies like Media e2e are attempting to put in those measures into place.

Measurement should become an integral part of the any project exercise so we should actually have a directional tool of getting a report card at the end of every activity to determine what worked and what didn't work.

Thirdly, we need to bring a lot more discipline into the whole business of branded entertainment. The biggest drawback is the lack of trained talent in this business. Additionally, there is a need to train even the professionals and the practitioners of marketing to talk of a common currency in terms of best practices, category knowledge, trends, ROI, economics and legal aspects of branded entertainment as it is an option that probably allows one to marry their passion with their career.

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