May 2010
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In -Film Branding goes regional

After Bollywood, it’s the turn of others to integrate brand promotion with the storyline of their movies.

While watching the Bengali film Antaheen, in which Rahul Bose plays a cop cyber-romancing a television journalist, one wonders why the girl keeps oiling her hair. But the piece falls into place when you notice that the opening credits acknowledge the contribution of Nihar, a hair oil brand of Hindustan Unilever (HUL), which sits proudly next to the girl when she is tending to her hair.

In-film product promotion has been a common feature in Bollywood movies for some time now; it’s now spreading to regional films as well. Regional film producers have also started echoing what their Bollywood counterparts have been saying for a while: If there is a movie, there will be products placed in it, mostly those that have paid to be in the frame.

So in the Telugu film, Anukokunda Oka Roju, actor Jagapati Babu is seen carrying a pack of Real juice most of the time. In Bhojpuri film Parivaar, the hero takes up dealership of HUL’s brand Wheel when his financial condition worsens. It was the first time that brand promotion was integrated into the storyline of a Bhojpuri film.

Others aren’t far behind. The seven brothers in the Marathi film Amhi Satpute use Tata’s Ace to transport their farm produce to the town. In the same film, a restaurant owner serves his customers rotis made from Annapurna atta.

Product placement in Hollywood films actually started a long time ago. Among the earliest to tread this path was Wings, a silent film released in 1927. The first to win Best Picture Oscar, it contained a plug for Hershey’s chocolate. However, it is now that brands have begun to speak louder than ever in film scenes.

Brand experts say even though film-branding is not the main medium for marketing of brands (it accounts for just 2-3 per cent of the total advertisement budget of most big brands), it is cost-effective and acts as a bonus value.

In-film branding in fact helps to reduce publicity budgets of films by a minimum of 15 per cent.

Producers say if the low shelf life of movies has cut down theatrical collections, it has opened another window of revenue in the form of brand associations or in-film placements. Brands expect high visibility not only from theatres, but also when the film is shown on TV.

“Though the theatre life of movies has reduced to three or four weeks, it still makes sense for brands to associate with films as they enjoy visibility, when they are aired on TV. They don’t have to pay for advertisement spots separately,” says Harsha Joshi, chief operating officer Madison India.

Rahul Puri, Executive Director – Mukta Arts, says if done well, brands get an enormous reach through in-film promotions. Mukta arts first used this in the Rishi Kapoor starrer Karz almost 30 years ago. “The HMV record in the Om Shanti Om song is still something people associate with,” Puri says.

According to industry estimates, big brands are ready to pay anything between Rs 5 crore and Rs 12 crore to be part of a big film from an established banner.

Brand experts say brand integration or in-film placement is not just plain vanilla advertisement. “In-film helps the brand in getting instant recognition because unlike TV where during advertisements, viewers shuffle the channel, the advantage of in-film placement is that the viewer can’t skip the message,” says Ajay Das, media controller-strategy and planning, R K Swamy.

The process of brand and film integration has also led to a marriage of alliance between the two. “Brands and producers do understand the value that both parties can bring to the table and in delivering a co-owned message through film,” says Shikha Kapur, VP Marketing UTV Motion Pictures.

For example, in recent films like 3Idiots, it’s difficult to miss the ubiquitious two-wheeler – Flyte, a power scooter brand from the Mahindra group.The scooter was central to the film. The Volvo SUV XC90R design was another strategic placement in the film. Volvo specially got two red SUVs air-lifted from its headquarters in Sweden to facilitate the integration.

No one is however clear about the exact return on investment on in-film placement. “A brand comes on board not for the cash component of in-film but for an overall synergy with the film. For example, we associated with Sunsilk for Fashion. The brand was in the film and went on to create a property outside the film, which helped both the film and the brand,” says Kapur.

And it is not just in-film that brands target while tying up with films. Today all big banner movies are marketed heavily so the brands associated with the movie are promoted too.

For example, a fashion show was organised to promote the movie Ghajni and Aamir Khan walked the ramp in Van Heusen customised attire for the film.

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