Movies

Cinema activation gets active, brands cash-in

A giggling gang of girls queues up at the popcorn counter at a plush multiplex, discussing a high-profile celebrity split.Cash in hand, they also have their eyes glued to the LCD screen above the counter which is looping a TVC of the show ‘Popcorn News‘ on Zoom. While the girls decide on caramel, salted and spicy flavours for popcorn, the TVC announces a new flavour of popcorn - ‘Bollywood Masala,‘ a show which gives the latest gossip on the glamour circuit.

Call it smart positioning or an imaginative touchpoint with the target audiences, brands today are using the multiplex foyer for a array of activities. From kiosks to LCD displays, promotional leaflets to opinion polls, cine advertisers are slowly creating communication points in line with a film‘s release.

The Trend

The growth in the number of multiplexes across the urban landscape, coupled with hoards of consumers flocking to these destinations for their weekend dose of entertainment gives brands the advantage of interacting with their target audiences. This trend is gradually taking shape across the country and media experts are bullish about its prospects.

"Brands are trying to coincide their promotional activities with the release of films just to cash in on the footfalls. It is typically centred around the weekend, when the occupancy levels are higher at the multiplexes," says P9 Integrated CEO Navin Shah.

Says DGM cinema activation Abhijeet Thakar, who created multiplex activation during the recent Yashraj Films release Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, "People spend an entire day at malls and cineplexes on weekends, since it‘s a great place to hang-out. Under cinema activation, direct interaction is possible between the brand and the consumer through a touch-and-feel experience. A lot of merchandise can also be given away in the process to our consumers."

ICI Paints had promoted its Velvet touch range of paints during the release of big-budget releases like Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and Salaam-e-Ishq wherein along with distributing promotional merchandise, a contest was also run. Winners had the opportunity to get their homes painted in ICI Deluxe Velvet touch paints.

"The on ground activities at multiplexes have helped us in getting additional branding for products through sampling and converting customers into using our product. Post the activity, we‘ve experienced about 30 per cent growth in Gujarat and 55 per cent growth in Delhi both of which are our cream markets," says ICI Paints marketing manager Rajat Johri.

Adds Zoom Television head marketing Shiv Kumar, "Multiplex activation is part of the media today, which is allowing us to create an engagement model with the consumer. Compared to the traditional medium, here we are tailormaking the brand communication message in tune with our target audience."

Non-traditional media on the rise

A natural spin-off in the increase of cinema activation has been due to the clutter for advertising on television. Lintertainment communications director Harshad Bhagwat states, "On television, ad avoidance levels have gone up as high as 70 per cent since audiences generally tend to switch channels during an ad. Brands are therefore looking at alternate mediums for gaining more visibility."

The platform for associating with films at multiplexes comes hardly as a surprise considering the popularity of cinema in the country. Multiplex activation is on the rise with the mushrooming of malls and multiplexes all over the country. "We have slowly reduced our dependency on other mediums like television and radio in our marketing plan. We‘re currently devoting about 7.5 per cent of our marketing budget on cinema activation," says Johri.

Kumar says that Zoom is currently devoting about 15 per cent of its marketing budget for cinema activation and the numbers are expected to rise.

Why cinema?

Part of this trend can be attributed to the growth of cinema into a more organized sector than it was before. "Producers are now seeing results. It‘s becoming a more legitimate business with more accountability coming in through multiplexes on aspects like occupancy and footfalls amongst others," offers Shah.



Agrees Johri, "Earlier, monitoring the degree of visibility that the brand garnered through cinema activation was difficult. But now we have a count of the number of footfalls and we receive reports of auditorium occupancy. Things have become more professional."

It also offers certain ‘spikes‘ during the year, wherein brands can plan in advance. "The Diwali season is a peak period when we see big-budget releases and occupancy levels are higher. We are looking to invest in such big releases of the year," says Johri, whose range of paints will cash in on Karan Johar‘s and Kareena Kapoor‘s releases this year. Both the stars incidentally are their brand ambassadors.

Largely though, brands building up activation models around a film‘s release are often treated as an event. "Cinema is a religion in India and the footfalls during big releases are extremely high during the weekends. We‘re trying to use their presence in the multiplex foyer to take the brand communication forward," says Thakar.

CalvinKare‘s Spinz range of deodarants are positioned around the theme of dance and youth. In their recent activation, patrons for Jhoom Barabar Jhoom were asked to match steps with two dancers dancing to the title of songs from the film. P9 Integrated, which executed the campaign, says the response was excellent. CalvinKare product manager Sanghamitra Rath agrees, "We‘ve used cinema activation for the first time and the response has been very good. We‘re using this campaign in different metros across the country."

Range of brands investing

The genre of brands using cinema activation has seen a sea change over the last few years. "Earlier you had the liquor, colas and two-wheelers using the activation very effectively - both on-screen and off-screen. Now we have a range of products right from FMCG goods and consumer durables that undertake sampling and merchandising exercises at multiplexes," says Shah. Lately, however, a lot of media brands are entering the foray as well. "Radio stations, TV channels, news channels and even satellite radio like Worldspace are increasingly making use of the medium," he adds.

Furniture line Godrej Interio recently involved themselves in multiplex activation, wherein the complete range of Godrej Interio office and kitchen furniture was put up on display. An official from Godrej Interio stated, "We‘ve tried to make the best out of a big film‘s release. Our target audiences are present here in the multiplex and they would be interested in checking out our new range of furnitures."

Measuring results

But how do agencies really measure the effectiveness of cinema activation? Is there a recording medium which is reliable to ensure the number of people that have seen the communication message of the brand ?

Thakar says, "There is no defined measuring medium as with television. Statistics are measured by the reports of the occupancy of the auditorium. Multiplex owners are a main source of information on strategic placements in the multiplex. We also send our independent teams who conduct a research on high-traffic areas in the multiplex."

Bhagwat, however, states, "Advertisers are still hesitant to use this medium because unlike television, there is no reliable measuring medium. Therefore we‘ve set up our own team at Lintas, called Intellect, which will study how strategically we can place brands under cinema activation."

Shah has a different point of view. He says, "Cinema activation is more of experiental medium, hence conventional forms like eyeballs, reach frequency and cost per thousands would not be the correct yardstick to measure the medium. However, I believe tangible results are still available and efficacy of the medium is high."

Engagement and experience with target audiences

Brands however agree on getting a direct interactive platform with their target audiences, thanks to cinema activation. Rath says, "We‘re doing a lot of sampling activities wherein our main Sec A 15+ audiences are regular patrons at the movies."

Multiplexes are also high catchment areas for the product sampling. "Audience profiles are such who are more open to trying out new products, giving feedback and information on user preferences and telling us about their consumption habits. Moreover they have the purchasing power," says Thakar. "Therefore extensive database collection is done due to our interaction, which further adds on the measurability of the medium," he adds.

The marketability factor

But what determines a marketer‘s inclination towards a particular film? "It‘s the marketability," says Shah. Elaborating, he adds, "Star cast is another crucial factor but the legacy of the producers to use brand activations is also important. Cinema activation offers an alternate revenue stream for them as well, apart from the box office collections and a host of movie rights."

Bhagwat says that multiplex owners have also benefited from cinema activation since, it offers them a revenue source just in case the film‘s collections are not impressive. "At the multiplex, fortunes change every Friday. Through cinema activation, exhibitors have a back-up just in case the film‘s collections are not up-to-the mark," he says.

A recent example of smart activation was for the film Cheeni Kum wherein samples and an information booklet of Sugar Free was distributed along with the movie tickets. "It was a smart move, considering that during the interval patrons in the auditorium can look into the booklet and read about the product," says an analyst. "Due to the sampling, people looked forward to seeing the product placement in the film as well," he says.

The future

Cinema activation is among the several marketing opportunities that that producers are willing to engage in. "Producers are keen to pocket the table profit before a film‘s release. This includes marketing, theatrical, overseas and music rights. This helps marketers bring in a number of brands like it happened for Krissh, wherein over 10 brands were brought on-board for the film," says an industry observer.

Marketers, therefore, are expected to bank on the marketability of the film to help brands benefit out of it. The reason why brands are likely to invest more in the medium is the cost-efficiency of the medium. Group M general manager content and entertainment Rajeev Berry says, "Brands are looking at reaching the consumer in a cost-efficient and impactful manner. With big budgets and big stars, cinema is getting bigger in this country and brands would want to establish a synergy with these films."

Even cine advertisers who are involved in on-screen activation are looking to involve themselves in off-screen activation in the coming days. QMedia business group manager Ashish Mathur for QCine advertising which worked on blockbuster Sivaji says, "I feel that a combination of activation and on-screen activity can work wonders for a brand. A great example is the award winning HSBC activation clubbed with the on-screen advertising done by Ogilvy Action."

By the scheme of things, multiplex activation seems to be a new entry into the media plan for marketers. With the growth in retail and burgeoning size of the movie business, footfalls are likely to increase in multiplexes. However, what remains to be seen is whether brands and advertisers can make cinema activation more engaging and experiential through innovative activities rather than mere kiosks or displays in showcasing promotional material.

Moreover, with stringent measuring techniques more inroads are expected into analysing whether cinema activation helps translate into sales and branding growth, rather than mere sampling. The customer‘s activity will determine the success of cinema activation.

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