“Running behind 100-crore revenue for every film is not very healthy”

MUMBAI: “Every film is not meant for everyone. There is a specific audience for each film and as marketers, our job is to identify and make the film reach its target audience. That is the process we follow for every film of ours,” says Viacom18 Motion Pictures VP marketing Rudrarup Dutta. Going by the success of Viacom18 Motion Pictures’ last venture, Queen, the production house certainly seems to have hit the right note as far as marketing strategy goes. And, it is readying to promote its next film, Manjunath, along similar lines.

Dutta agrees that even good content does not work if it isn’t marketed effectively. “I would agree that competition has grown since previous years. Also, the importance of marketing has grown phenomenally in the past three to four years, where, good content, does not really stand a chance if it is not marketed effectively,” he says. 

So what’s Viacom18 Motion Pictures’ formula? “Firstly, we understand the essence of the content and secondly, we identify the right audience for that content and then target this audience with correct positioning and communication,” answers Dutta. That’s what was done for Queen where the digital audience was targeted first with a video communication of Kangana Ranaut as Rani in ‘Rani ka Pehla Honeymoon’. “It was an interactive element we started off which immediately established the concept of the film with the audience. And, we got a good response and then went on to launch the trailer and subsequently, the rest of the campaign.”

The Queen campaign had a distinct pre- and post- phase, so, even after the film’s release, Queen’s Day was celebrated to coincide with Women’s Day, where chocolates and flowers were distributed to women who went to theatres to see the film. There was also a pub crawl where Kangana aka Rani paid a surprise visit to various pubs and danced to the wacky remix, ‘Hungama ho gaya’. According to Dutta, smaller elements focused on building connect with the character and the concept of the film drove communication around Queen.  

Coming to Manjunath - a biopic of IIM grad Manjunath Shanmugham who took on the fuel mafia in 2005 - Viacom18 has launched the microsite in a bid to garner support for whistleblowers like Manjunath. The site  encourages the youth to stand up for what is right and “speak up” while their identities are kept a secret to protect them from persecution.

Viacom decided to take a minimalistic approach but with high impact as Manjunath is a non-profit venture for the production house. “It is a non-profit venture for us. We are not putting it across as a film. For us, it is about taking the message of Manjunath to as many people as possible. If at all we do make profits, the same will be shared with the Manjunath trust and his family. After all, Manjunath was one of us, who, instead of linking stuff on facebook or discussing things at coffee shops, went ahead and actually did something against corruption. This is what actually inspired us,” says Dutta. Of course, getting Parikrama on-board was one of the ways to connect with the youth. “We are doing multiple city concerts in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Bengaluru, among others. We are getting them on a platform to promote the whole concept and create awareness with a huge digital push,” he adds.  

A frugal approach however did not rule out buying TV spots and putting up hoardings. “This is something we want people to assimilate and put it up, because they feel for the cause and understand the reason behind it rather than just take it as a pure source of entertainment,” Dutta reasons.

Is there such a thing as a good time to market a film? “It all depends from film to film. There is no one-glove-fits-all formula. For films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, we started marketing it eight to nine months before its release because there was a purpose to this build-up. We wanted to create awareness among Gen Now about the legend. Also, we wanted to project it as a larger-than-life film,” explains Dutta. Depending on the film, the period of promotion varies from four to 10 weeks and in some cases, as many as nine months. “There are other films which can be promoted in a five-week window. So, it all depends on the film, the audience that you want to reach, and the communication plan around it.”

So, what kind of budgets are allocated to these films? “It differs from film to film. It can be as low as Rs 2.5 crore in some movies that have a limited target audience, while it can be as high as Rs 16 crore for films that want to reach a wider audience and need an extensive promotional campaign. We have operated on every budget. As I said, there is no formula in this. Every film has its own concept, own audience, and own positioning. It is about deploying available resources extensively to reach out to the target audience,” says Dutta. “It is not about the amount of money which you spend but how you use the money that determines the success of the marketing plan.”

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag entered the elite Rs 100 crore club and so did Queen, almost. “The more money that good movies make, the more it encourages other people to make those movies. Even for us, let’s be real, it is a commercial venture and we are in the movie business so that we can make more movies and make profitable movies for everybody in the line,” says Dutta. It’s like walking the tightrope between the film cost and its potential revenue. “Running behind Rs 100-crore revenue for every film is not very healthy. If there is a film which is of a size that can deliver Rs 100 crore, then it is worth putting additional money and making and building it on that scale,” he signs off.

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