Television gets into marketing overdrive

When the history of television in India is written, 2005 will be hailed as the YEAR OF MARKETING. The year when shouting was not enough, channel marketers had to scream to be even heard. And the high decibel noise continued through the year, in fact getting deafeningly louder as the year progressed. General entertainment channels (GECs), kids' channels, sports channels, music channels and to some extent even the news channels left no stones unturned and no TG (target group) untapped to hammer their message across. Be it the launch of a new TV programme or even blowing their trumpets on being numero uno or even second on the ratings pedestal... they did not blink, they were there!

"It was indeed a high for marketers during the year," Sony Entertainment Television (SET) executive vice president and business head Tarun Katial told a business channel recently. "Budgets rose, as channels tried to rise above the clutter."

"More so, what prompted the push was not just the new show launches, but the nature of the shows across channels, which required increasing viewer participation. Shows like Fame Gurukul, Indian Idol, KBC and Nach Baliye provided continual excitement even post launch. This is where they differed from regular soaps where we see promotion spurts as and when the storyline demands," adds Starcom South Asia CEO Ravi Kiran.

And channels went the whole hog looking for every point of contact that they could make with the end-consumer and give him a 360 degree experience. Be it with the outdoors, ground events, print, the internet, media partnerships with FM radio stations and other TV channels, or through SMS (which generated a buzz apart from oodles of cash for both telcos and the channels) or word of mouth marketing. The key was to get the consumer to interact with the TV station, get him involved continually and get a unique brand experience with the channel or the programme being marketed.

Says Media Direction and Hansa Consulting Division CEO Praveen Tripathi, "The two primarily reasons for this are: first, the stakes in the game have become very high and until channels attract viewers from outside their network, there is no way that they can grow their audience base. It's a make or break time for channels like Zee and Sony keeping in mind the monopolistic giant in the TV industry that is Star Plus. Secondly, the ability for channels to stay and survive here has increased and that's because of increased revenues and also multiple sources of revenue."

An avid industry watcher opines, "With media, programming and promotion costs going up, broadcasters and programmers were hard-pressed to get maximum bang for their buck. Hence, while their budgets expanded 35-40 per cent, they actually stretched that increment to make it look like a 75 per cent growth by going in for partnerships and co-marketing exercises with clients. And they did this through innovation."

The numbers back up the gut-feel statement from the industry watcher. Indiantelevision.com estimates that the amount of money broadcasters splurged behind advertising and promotions is in the region of Rs 8 billion. A large chunk of this went into on-air promotions: Rs 4 billion (even if we price a promo for a programme on a channel at a measly Rs 1250 for 10 seconds).

In fact, channels are increasingly relying on on-air promos to plug their programmes at the cost of revenue generating commercial time. TV channel promotions time on televison grew 22 per cent in 2005 as compared to 2004. In 2004, TV channel promotions were to the tune of 262,116,830 seconds, which increased to 320,194,130 seconds in 2005, according to AdEx India.

On an average, 63 per cent of non-programming time on TV was dedicated to promotions across channels from April to June 2005 as per AdEx. More so, GECs spent 51 per cent of non-programming time in promoting their own shows. The highest air time share - 68 per cent - on promos was however accounted for by English entertainment channels.

Tam India CEO LV Krishnan says, "We are seeing a dip in commercial breaks during primetime viewing, which is increasing annually. This drop is being taken up by programme promotions by the channels themselves."

Another medium, which witnessed a humungous amount of marketing investment was the great outdoors wherein the industry plonked Rs 1.6 billion behind billboards. Mobile billboards, specially in Mumbai, were all the rage and used extensively by television channels.

was a beneficiary to the tune of Rs 1 billion and the growth was around 9 per cent in 2005 (as compared to Rs 927 million in 2004) as per AdEx. Television channels were among the top five categories spending on advertising in press, which grew by 151 per cent in 2004. Close to 30 - 35 per cent of the space is devoted to program promotions, according to AdEx. Regional language publications saw an increasing amount of money being pumped into display ads by TV channel

2005 also witnessed a trend, which is likely to become even more accentuated in the coming years. With many more publications having special sections covering television and programming, PR professionals schemed and plotted to come up with ideas, which could prove to be juicy stories for the content hungry journalists. Several media tie-ups were struck between channels and newspapers wherein exclusives were sneaked to beat reporters who then gave them grand coverage the next day. Jassi's makeover, Ansh's killing by his mother, the progress of the Idols. and the progress of great Indian laughter challenge participants.

Parties were thrown at the slightest excuse, crew and cast invited along with journalists to get coverage in Page 3 and party scene sections. "2005 was the year when marketers clearly realised how mcuh value media coverage aka PR can bring into building a brand. PR finally became a part of marketing investments this year," says an industry observer.

Estimates available with Indiantelevision.com indicate that broadcasters and production houses spent close to Rs 75 million this year in getting editorial coveage in publications such as The Times of India's Bombay Times. This included interviews, front page photographs and Page 3 writeups.

Investments in ground events as a marketing tool in 2005 were about Rs 200 million. Online spends went up to about Rs 150 million. Trade, consumer and email portals attracted most of the spends, apart from the home pages and sites of the channels and the production houses.

And SMS numbers simply exploded. Channels and programmers rallied viewers to interact with programmes, either to vote their choice of a winner of a talent show or to try and get on as participants. And the audiences responded, like how! More than 350 million messages and phone calls were zapped through the year on account of television, a new record of sorts. Of this nearly 50 million SMS and calls were sent in to Fame Gurukul while the figure for KBC 2 for the same was more than 100 million, apart from other shows such as Indian Idol and Nach Baliye.

"The advantage of an SMS marketing exercise is that it not only generates hyperbuzz, it also generates revenue. So it serves a dual purpose," says an industry expert. Sony AVP licensing and telephony Kaushal Modi says, "SMS was a big driver and the best thing about SMS is that a person cannot ignore it. It has the advantage of one-to-one interaction and therefore there is a chance of customising the messages that you want to send out to them."

Contests and voting aside, some TV channels and producers also used SMS to viral market programming initiatives and exclusives. Sample this: "Watch exclusive videos of Dawood Ibrahim for the first time ever on television. Only on India TV. Tune in tonight at 8 pm."

However, the dramatic shift was seen on radio - a jump of 76 per cent - wherein channels pumped in a lot of moolah to promote their properties. In 2005, the share of TV channels promotions on radio stood at Rs 425 million as compared to Rs 242 million in 2004. FM stations were also roped in as media partners to promote TV shows and events. Red FM 93.5 led the list this year, followed by Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM and Go 92.5 FM and Radio City 91 FM. Contests were created around TV shows, with radio listeners winning freebies such as movie tickets and what have you.

Content syndication between TV channels and radio stations also saw a rise in 2005. This helped pull radio listeners to the shows on TV, at least to some extent. Remember Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhie Bahu Thi episodes on Radio City? Content syndication this time round touched the reality genre, wherein made-for-radio episodes of Indian Idol and Deal Ya No Deal were aired on FM radio and Vividh Bharati. Special contests around the show, tune-in information and interviews with the television stars also took center stage on radio.

Channels shared their couches with strange bedfellows in order to stand out. Sony for instance, partnered with cable TV MSO Bhaskar Cable TV to create more buzz and increase reach of its promotion with the gala episodes of Fame Gurukul being shown on local cable in MP and Rajasthan. The channel also roped in Aaj Tak, Hindustan Times, Bhaskar Group of Publications, Red FM and MTV as allies to ensure that the buzz for the show cut across all demographics.

"Our aim was to tap maximum consumer touch points to draw audiences from all demographics and SECs and this was done via co-promotion with media partners and sponsors," says Sony senior vice president marketing Nina Jaipuria.

Shahid Kapur and Ila Arun team up for 'Fame Gurukul'

In other co-marketing exercises AirTel hoardings were sprawled with information on how to participate in Indian Idol and KBC 2 using the network's services. On the other hand, Sony also did a Fame Gurukul campaign using its sponsor Clinic All Clear, which ran in mass media and added to the 'surround effect' of the show communication. The campaign with the theme of 'Jo All Clear Woh Fame Ke Near' had Clinic All Clear brand ambassador Shahid Kapoor and Ila Arun. Star had a Fast Lane to KBC 2 campaign wherein AirTel users had a special entry mechanism to the show.


'Indian Idol' Abhijeet Sawant performs at the Ad Club Mumbai's Emvies 2005

Speaking of ground level, TV icons literally hit the roads this year by making appearances at events to give viewers an actual touch and feel of the 'idols.' Sony took singing idols Abhijeet Sawant, Qazi and Rooprekha on roads shows and concerts across the country. They also had the spotlight on them at various other concerts and events that took place throughout the year -- The Effies, The Emvies, MTV Immies, MTV AIDS Summit, The Garnier Light Indian Telly Awards -- to name a few.

"We did experiential marketing through ground events that allowed the masses to come in contact with their icons and favourite contestants. This helped in building affinity for the show," says Jaipuria.

The ZeeBra girl flocks on Zee Sports to strut their stuff

Zee Sports earmarked a budget of Rs 70 million for the first year on marketing. Each year the channel is looking to spend Rs 70 - 100 million marketing its different properties.

Zee Sports vice president marketing Gaurav Seth points out that the aim of marketing is to get viewers closer to the channel in an interactive manner and not just view it passively. "Marketing, like programming, is also aimed at entertaining. In a unique move we created a cheer leading team called the ZeeBras. The whole point is to associate football with glamour. This ZeeBras eight girl squad featured in an extensive outdoor campaign and also in print ads. They were also featured during the half time breaks in the football matches," he says.

If one had to talk about innovative out of the box thinking in order to attract as many viewers as possible, Sahara One sent out one million branded laundry bags with contest fliers through 'dhobis' (washermen) for the launch of Woh Rehne Waali Mehlon Ki. A housewives contact programme through an interactive road show that ran through 10 cities, where housewives could win diamonds worth Rs 1 million, was also carried out.

Clearly, the glitter is getting into TV channel marketing. And it looks likely get even more so. Kotler would surely approve.

To know what the industry did as a whole, click here

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