Remember Manisha Koirala's Paisa Vasool? The Koirala-Sushmita Sen starrer may not have succeeded at the box office but it did manage to get substantial publicity in the print and outdoor media in association with Hindustan Lever's value-for-money detergent brand Wheel.
The Lever brand was roped in to sponsor the film as Wheel's value-proposition matched with the film title. Another Hindi film, Dum, positioned as a youth film, tied up with the Cafe Coffee Day chain which is considered to be a youth hang-out.
Nearly 80 Cafe Coffee Day outlets were flooded with Dum posters and publicity material, including merchandise (Dum T-shirts and mugs) produced by the coffee chain.
Similarly, about six months back, Ram Gopal Varma's Ek Hasina Thi entered into a tied up with the Barista outlets where the film was promoted through a contest.
Clearly, Bollywood's film promotion, marketing and branding activity seems to be acquiring a different hue. A film release is not just about print media ads, posters and hoardings any longer.
It is about co-branding, online and offline retail promotions, contests, TV and radio publicity, mobile phone marketing and film merchandise. Today these services are being offered by a handful of advertising agencies, which have set up special cells to tap the film marketing business.
In the last eight months advertising and media agencies such as Starcom, Group M and Lintas have set up their film and entertainment divisions. Several others are in the pipeline.
"I'd like to believe that the top 10 agencies have either set up or are in the process of setting up divisions to tap the entertainment business," says Starcom director, Pranay Anthwal.
Anthwal's Starcom Entertainment opened its account with Ram Gopal Varma's Ek Hasina Thi and is currently promoting his new film Gayab.
The company is also handling marketing for Nagesh Kukunoor's Hyderabad Blues 2. After having promoted Paisa Vasool, Lintas-owned Lintertainment is working on two major film projects. The IMAG (Integrated Marketing Action Group) director Ashish Bhasin, however, refuses to share the project details.
To be sure, currently, the size of the film marketing business is not too large. It is estimated that the film and music industry spends nearly Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) on promotions. Till recently, most of this business was traditionally handled by freelancers and small film promotion companies.
Says Anthwal: "Marketing was done by the producers and directors with the help of people they trusted. Some have spent long enough in the industry to carry out linear marketing functions."
Mumbai's Ad Vista Pvt Ltd, for one, has been in the film promotion business for the last 24 years. Last year, it entered into a joint venture with WPP's Group M to launch CUBE M.
"The M in the name refers to Movies, Music and Media," explains Ad. Vista director Rupali Mehra.
She says that the JV made sense for the two companies as though the advertising agency brings the science of branding and marketing to the table, it has no contacts in the film industry. Ad. Vista enjoys that strength, having promoted films like Chandni, Ram Lakhan, Ashiqui and others in the past.
CUBE M marketed Baghbaan recently and is working on films like Dil Maange More, HumKo Tumse Pyaar Hai and The Perfect Husband. Film is not an easy industry to deal with in any case as it is "personality and beliefs driven. Here superstitions and auspicious signs and days determine the start of a project as well as the release dates," says Mehra.
Besides, producers are not used to thinking in terms of "target audience" and "branding". "Their film promotion plan is based on what the other guy is going to do. As a result a hip, young film has a promotional plan similar to that of a patriotic film," she says.
But things are gradually changing. Today, phrases like TGs, Channel Mix, TRPs, Frequency and Out-of-clutter are being heard at a film producer's desk. As a result, the film marketing business is also expected to grow as more and more production houses discover the benefits of hiring an agency.
Ad agencies too are keen to tap this business as they feel that the film industry is becoming more accountable and professional. "The agencies see a need-gap between 'what is happening now' and 'what can happen' with regards to marketing of a film," says Anthwal.
Also, gradually filmmakers are investing larger sums in marketing. Though typically a film invests about 10-15 per cent of its production budget on marketing, some are stretching it up to 25 per cent."Eventually, it is impossible to resist the magic of cinema," says Anthwal, explaining why ad agencies tapping the film business.