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Ent. brands are illusory, elusive and magical - Star COO Sameer Nair

MUMBAI: While speaking at the Advertising Club Bombay's Value Creation seminar on marketing entertainment and their growing inter-dependence, Star India COO Sameer Nair stated that successful entertainment products evolve daily and have a life and personality of their own. Once created, they feed on themselves, constantly reinvent themselves and transcend their basic achievements, he added. Nair also said that entertainment brands need to be illusory, elusive, magical and superior.

UTV Group director Zarina Mehta mentioned that the reasons for the success and failure of TV programmes were linked to marketing and communication plan; ability to offer simple propositions with a new twist and proper testing of concepts and new ideas. Mehta also stated that there were clear gaps in children's programming and comedies.

Star's Nair felt that brands are basic to human existence and the concepts of names and nationality has originated from this need. Entertainment products are inanimate but the marketers breathe life into them. However, a human touch is essential to provide a lifelike experience, Nair added. The objective is to ensure that the entertainment brands outlive the humans associated with the brands - for instance Charlie Chaplin is instantly recognizable but Charles Spencer Chaplin is not! The entertainer aims to keep the magic alive for a long time.

Nair added that human beings become brands, symbols or icons when myth eclipses reality. Entertainment brands are intangibles unlike sports and religion. Whenever human beings become icons, they get trapped and become a victim of their own. The audiences don't like it when the icon changes. Building entertainment brands is like pulling rabbits out of a hat.

UTV's Mehta felt that the key to successful programming is simplicity and concise communication.

The following are excerpts from Mehta's presentation:

If a programming person cannot sell an idea in 15 minutes, then the idea cannot be sold at all. Therefore, there is a need for getting a fix on the single, strong selling point of communication. Every serial has to satisfy an emotional need. The stronger the need - the better the TVR. The USP needs to be part of all communication and marketing endeavours. It is important to know and respect the consumer's need.

For instance, Shanti's USP was the fact that it was the story of a strong-willed middle-class woman with strong family values. Karamchand was a brilliantly conceived and crafted detective serial interspersed with comedy originating from the interaction between well-etched characters. Saaya and Shagun were all about female bonding. Tu Tu Main Main was about the eternal struggles of everyday humdrum. Shaka Laka Boom Boom was about magic and the fact that good triumphs over evil.

A simple proposition that satisfies consumer needs could be taken and developed by adding a new twist. However, there is a need to make sure that the viewer understands the differentiating element of the programmes. The point of differentiation in familiar themes is what draws audiences.

Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai failed because the marketing and communication plan failed to get in viewers for sampling the first show. The viewers had wrong perceptions that the show was about Madhuri's marriage; others believed that it was a soap opera starring Madhuri. The marketing plan failed to prepare the audiences and required more meticulous preparation. The feedback also showed that the actual show was considered to be less extravagant than what was promised through the promos.

Comedy serials on Indian TV need a laughter track as there is an ardent need to inform/tell viewers that they are watching a comedy serial. Khichdi is a serial that doesn't have a laughter track and has not gone well with viewers.

Channels shouldn't sell programming concepts or slots and must focus on selling serials and shows. Viewers don't watch Sundays or night slots or morning slots - they watch shows and programmes. Also, the actual content must deliver what is being promised through the communication. Some programmes have flopped because the actual programming content fell short and couldn't satisfy consumer expectations. The programmes also fail because viewers cannot fathom the differentiating factor.

There is nothing wrong with trying something new even if the programming initiative fails. However, the new concepts have to be tested and tried with a sample size comprising of different sections of society. Successful trial runs don't necessarily guarantee success. There is also a need to revitalize the existing shows at regular intervals by reinventing the story idea.

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