Television

KBC8: Strumming the heart strings of viewers

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MUMBAI: It’s Big B time on Sony Entertainment Television.  Almost 14 years after he mesmerized the nation with his baritone voice as the host of the first season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), Amitabh Bachchan  made his fictional debut in  a drama series Yudh on the Hindi GEC earlier this month. Come mid-August, and viewers of Sony will get to see more of the thespian as the first episode of the eight season  of the quiz game show hits TV screens.

KBC8 – as it is being called – promises a lot and the channel is banking heavily on it to boost its viewership and pull it out of its fifth placed spot amongst GECs.  Like previous years, Sony Entertainment’s marketing mavens are putting their best foot forward to help it build a better connect with audiences.

“We sat and thought about what we have said and done in the past so that we can come up with a new concept this time,” says SET senior VP and marketing head Gaurav Seth. “The conclusion we came up was that whatever be the case, Big B and a few contestants over these past years have been able to win million of hearts. Hence, came the new communication, which is - Yahan Sirf Paise Nahi, Dil Bhi Jeete Jate Hain. ”

Conceptualised by Leo Burnett and executed by Opticus,  the underpinning thread of KBC’s promotional campaign this year will center around social issues gripping the nation.  Three films, each with a different story, character, set-up and theme, will be aired over the coming few days on TV and released in social media.

The first of these titled ‘Kohima’ touches upon the sensitive issue of racialism or discrimination that people from the northeast face.

Just over a minute long, the TVC  opens with Amitabh Bachchan asking Poornima, a young contestant hailing from the northeast, "Which country is Kohima in? (A) China (B) Nepal (C) India or (D) Bhutan."

The contestant opts for an audience poll (a lifeline in the game show) and 100 per cent of the respondents say India. Bachchan tells her, "it’s India, everyone knows this answer" to which the young contestant replies, "Everyone knows the answer, but how many people actually acknowledge it?"

The film ends with the message 'Yeh khel kuch aisa hi hai, yahan sirf paise hi nahi dil bhi jeete jaate hain.'

It took three-four months of brainstorming, a lot of hard work by all the concerned entities (Sony Entertainment, Big Synergy, Leo Burnett) to weigh the pros and cons, before the theme was finalised.

Leo Burnett executive creative director Nitesh Tiwari says the first challenge for him was to be innovative and avoid repetition. Says he: “This is the fourth year I am being associated with the channel. In the last three years, we had done it all, so the biggest challenge for us was how to make it different this season.”

The creative agency’s CEO Saurabh Varma believes Tiwari and his team have come out with a winner as the KBC8 ads effectively use the power of communication to raise the collective conscience of the nation.

He asserts: “Over the years we have noticed that people wait for the KBC promos as much as they wait for the next season of KBC. And the participants who reach the hot seat take more than just money from the KBC stage. Our latest promos take this insight to a larger, national and social canvas. The ads effectively use the power of communication to raise the collective consciousness of the nation.”

Pantvaidya too is pleased with the way the three TVCs have been filmed (for the first time in Gujarat), adding that stereotypes have indeed been broken.  What must be making him happy is the number of views that the Kohima film has garnered on Youtube since its release on 8 July:  584,251 views, at the time of penning the article.

Promos aside, Pantvaidya is pushing below the line activation in a big way in the coming weeks to build a face-to-face connect between KBC8 and Indians on the streets.  Marketing spends according to sources have been upped by 30 per cent or so.

“We believe that we need to address these consumers by reaching out to them and that is the real thought behind all our campaigns,” adds Pantvaidya.

The direct-to-consumer push includes Amitabh Bachchan  hosting four events across four cities; Surat being the first one. Another100 ground events are slated to be held in smaller towns which will give small-town-ers an opportunity to play along and get a chance to sit on the hot seat and try his/her luck to win the cash price of Rs 5 crore. This aside, viewers will also be encouraged to play the game real time through the KBC8 application on their hand held devices like mobile phones and tablets.

As far as each episode of KBC is concerned, its length has been cut to an hour as against an hour and a half last year. Then, a new lifeline has been added called the community lifeline, which allows contestants to call any one in the community for help if they find a question tricky.

Production for KBC8 is in the able hands of Siddhartha Basu’s Big Synergy Productions with filming slated to start in end July.

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