Brand Push In Your Face!

Few people who watched the Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini starrer Baghban will have missed seeing one of India’s foremost private sector banks ICICI Bank featured prominently in the film. Or for that matter, being told by Hrithik Roshan in Krrish that it’s good for your physique if you have Cadbury’s Bournvita regularly. If you still missed out recalling the above two brands in the films mentioned, then how about the car Tata Safari in the Ram Gopal Varma film Road that featured Vivek Oberoi and Antara Mali on the run from a psychopathic character Manoj Bajpai whom they had dared to offer a ride in their esteemed Tata Safari.

Well what you have seen in the above movies is not blatant advertisement but more accurately in-film advertisement in which a brand is positioned in the film so that it merges with the story and yet stands out on its own. A form of brand marketing that over the last couple of decades have become popular with the numerous brands wanting to grab the eyeballs of its consumers as well as well create awareness of itself. So you have the case of Amitabh essaying the role of a reliable and trustworthy employee of the bank which in turn stands for that very characteristics that Amitabh portrays. It helps the consumers to have an instant connect with the brand. It’s another matter that in-film advertisements come for a price.

Lately, in-film advertisements have found a lot of takers with the big banners taking home the biggest share of the in-film advertisement revenues. The reason for the high money doled out by the brands is that they get high visibility at a premium price and if the film is a mega hit, then its added icing on the cake. Film placements can provide the producers of the films anywhere between Rs.5 lakhs to Rs.5 crores depending on the project and the brand involved. It helps further if the stars of the said film is already endorsing the brands that feature in the film. This simply gives the brand an additional marketing push in the minds of the consumers/audience.

Further, films cuts across caste, class, religion and demography and geographical barriers giving the brands a helping hand to reach across to a wider consumer base across the length and breath of the country and elsewhere and that too at a fraction of the costs. So while you’re watching a film, there’s no way an audience can avoid an in-film branding exercise without missing out on a part of the story.

With the film placement marketing picking up post 1990s, lot of advertising companies have set up separate divisions to cater to this segment. Before 1990, producers and directors shied away from this concept much for the reason that they found it unethical to push brands in the faces of its audiences. Not so anymore. Ethics have now gone for a toss on the big screen!

The earliest form of in-film placement can be recalled from the super hit Raj Kapoor film Bobby in which the Enfield figured in the movie. However, it’s not clear whether the bike was just one of the numerous props or character in this film or whether Raj Kapoor was paid to use Enfield in the movie. However, lately, agencies and companies have realized that it’s cheaper to have brand placements in films and very effective too as compared to having an actor or a super star to endorse the same product. The result is that nowadays, every third or fourth film has brand placements with brands integrated in the storyline and not confined to merely being a backdrop of a scene.

For the corporates, films have become an integral part of their advertisement budgets with the corporates setting aside considerable budget for film placements of their brands. So you’ve had a countless number of films in 2010 that incorporated in-film placements whether it’s Van Heusen in Ghajini or Mahindra in 3 Idiots or L’Oreal in the recently released Sonam Kapoor starrer Aisha. This collaboration between brands and films is a convenient partnership that helps both the parties. On the one hand, by incorporating a brand placement, the producer recovers a decent amount of his production budget from the brand’s parent company. At the same, the brand gains mileage through highly visible placement in the film and at a fraction of a cost. A good bargain for both the parties in the long run.

It is however note worthy that in-film advertisement cost is going up day by day and specially when a known film maker or a production house is involved. Such had been the case with Subhash Ghai who charged about a crore from Coke Cola to feature it in his mega hit Taal years ago. On the other hand, Stroh’s, the American beer company paid about Rs.15 lakh to the producers of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. And a couple of years ago, Fashion drew quite an enormous amount for six major product placements.

Industry experts believe that the high remuneration for in-film placements is because of films being a great way for the brands to connect with its consumers through a commonly loved medium: films. So we had brands from cycles to confectionaries to cell phones, from beers to liquor majors (through surrogate advertising) jumping the in-film placement bandwagon.

In the 80s and the 90s including a portion of 2000, for the film producers, getting finance on board was either through shady characters or from private financers at a high rate of interests. So the emergence of the corporate in the field of film financing to the in-film brand placements, have been a big boost for them and for the film industry at large. Over the years, certain brands have become associated with certain stars and it further boosts the brands when they feature in the said brand ambassador’s films. Twice the dhamaka at single the costs!

But somewhere along the line, brand managers need to understand the flow of the story and how its association can benefit the brand or cause a huge disconnect with its consumers. One such case had been Yaadein, a film produced and directed by Subhash Ghai. This film was widely criticized for its loud brand placement that just stared at your face without adding much to the brand value or the film story. Today the brand managers expect the brand to justify its presence in the story. And at times, the producer/director of the film modifies the film’s story to fit in the brand and its core message to reach to a wider audience.

There is also a huge disconnect between the brand managers and the producers over the release of the film. A film which features a particular brand, if for some reason, doesn’t get released on time is more then likely to discourage the brand managers from working with that producer again since a lot of money is at stake. With release dates often jumping forward for films at times, the delay in the visibility of the brand on the big screen forces the managers to rethink their strategy in terms of getting value for the money they have paid for brand placements.

There was a time when advertisements were purely advertisements whether it was a print ad or a radio jingle or a ten to sixty second commercials on television. But with new forms of brand marketing emerging, in-film has become one of the most sought after. So what we see is a wonderful cycle of marketing – in-film brand placements in films, these films are promoted among other mediums on televisions as well and in-serial placements being the norm of the day. And to complete the circle, these serials are advertised in print, online, audio-visual mediums, OOH positioning and what not. In one word, these brands get a value for money at a fraction of a cost! In-film brand placement is here to stay!

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