Thursday, October 15, 2009

Film Brand Placement

Shakshi Gupta, IIM Shillong

The concept of placing brand in a movie is not new to marketers for the advertisement of the product. This association is very old and in Bollywood, it started with the presence of a Rajdoot motorcycle in the film Bobby. In English movies it dates back to early ‘50s when Gordon's Gin paid to have Katharine Hepburn's character in "The African Queen" to use toss loads of their product overboard. Though, then it was only a blink and gone appearance, but now it has become one of the important channels for the brand communication.

Brand communication is a key component in branding as it determines how successfully brand is established and turns profits. Advertisements and public relations have been conventional and most popular means of brand communication, but with evolving customer dominated business environment they seem to be losing their effectiveness. Thus comes in new form of brand communication: In film placement that works seamlessly with other form of communication methods to achieve success.

Brand placement is practice of including a brand name, product, sign or trademark merchandise within a movie to increase the brand recall or for instant recognition at the point of purchase. It can be implicit or explicit in movie depending on marketers’ requirements and scene in which it is placed. It can be used to launch a new product (Swift Car in Bunty and Babli), demonstrate a long tradition of a brand (Indian Post) or to reinforce the brand image or its positioning in market (Allen Solly in Corporate). It can also be used to showcase the product’s superiority over the competitor (BMW over Mercedes Benz in Tomorrow Never Dies).

Reasons for Success
Advertisements have been the most popular of all the means of brand communication. With increasingly competitive market, people have been surrounded with an excess of advertisement messages, be it while watching TV, struck in a traffic jam or even while travelling by airlines or metro. This has resulted in reduction in their effectiveness. With increasing number of advertisements day by day it is getting extremely difficult for the companies to create a differentiation in their advertisements, impacting the brand recall in a negative manner.
This can be supported by the facts that there has been a significant increase of 18% in off screen advertisements. With conventional advertisements being intrusive, they lose the attention of the audience against the expectation of the marketers. At some point, the customers get tired with them and even annoyed. Thus, there is a need to have a form of communication that is not obtrusive and has high brand recall.

Second reason that the effectiveness of the advertisements is wearing is the use of technology that allows the customer to skip the advertisements while watching TV. It is a common practice to switch over the channel or mute the television when advertisements crop up during a program or a cricket match. In a study conducted by a Media Planning Group indicate that 90% of people with DVRs skip commercials in recorded programming—and just 16% watch the ads when viewing live TV, rather than doing something else or channel hopping.

The 2007 advertisement spending outlook released by the Centre for Media Research indicates that there will be a slight decrease in advertising spending share for conventional media including TV, newspapers and radio. Also there has been a trend for increase in shares of cinema and internet. The figure below depicts the findings.

Advantages of In Film Brand Placement
As compared to conventional 30 second advertisements, in film placements are less intrusive as they are part of a storyline and integrated with the film. It becomes a realistic stage where the marketers get a chance to show the brand value in the plot of the story itself. This tends to be more acceptable to the customers unless it is highly out of place.
he association of brand and movie celebrities is very old. The effectiveness of communication increases when celebrity endorses a product, as people have tendency to imitate those whom they adore. With help of in film placements, the brand gets to be associated with the movie stars.

This is minus the huge endorsement fee that the company pays to a celebrity to be its ambassador. Example can be of Tata Indicom which willingly gave Rs. 2 Crore to be associated with Rajnikanth blockbuster, Chandramukhi. Had it roped in Rajnikanth to be its ambassador, it definitely would have paid a lot more.

The cost of in film placement is two to three times cheaper than the normal advertisement. It can cost anywhere between Rs 5 Lakh and Rs 50 Lakh, depending upon the level and length of integration of the brand in the movie, production banner and actor endorsement. Thus, marketers are now trying to weave brand personalities more tightly with the brand themes.
The in film placements is a better way for the advertisers to showcase the core value of brand. The usage and the attributes of the product are shown in a more effective way as there are integrated in the storyline itself. Advertisers take advantage of the storyline and the characters in the film to demonstrate what brand stands for. Be it Castrol in Chalte Chalte or Motorola in Delhi 6, Louis Vuitton in Sex and the City or Omega Watches in James Bond movies.

Another advantage is that in theatre audience are glued to their seats and thus, cannot switch over the channel. Also as these are not obtrusive, higher brand recall can be expected. Marketers get a chance to specifically target the market. Each film caters to different audience and if marketers place their brands keeping this in mind, the brand can enjoy a higher ROI.
A movie caters to a far wider audience than the traditional advertisements. A movie is not only played in theatres but is also broadcasted on TV a number of times in future. A movie can be watched in-flight; it can be watched on a VCD or DVD. Before movie is released, the brand gets placed in the promos of movie. The advertisers show the part reels of the movie instead of normal advertising campaigns. Goodyear in Tara Rum Pum Pum can be good example, where it showed the film promos as part of its normal advertisements.

Such show reels fall under the entertainment ad category as opposed to the 'commercial' category that traditional ads fall into. Thus, marketers eventually end up paying four to five times less to promote their brand. They are beginning to leverage on films through marketing tie-ups. Thus, it provides multiple windows and becomes a good medium to place a brand on.
Apart from giving advantages to advertisers, it reaps benefits for producers as well. It helps them recover their film budget to a certain extent. For example Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion recovered approximately 40% of its budget within film advertising. It had likes of Kimaya, Cellucom, Sunsilk, Lenovo, Reebok and LG among others. Thus the producers are also roping in multiple brands to advertise in their films. Sex and the City had more than 90 placements integrated in the movie (Louis Vuitton, Manolo Blahnik, Guess etc).

Considerations to Successful In Film Brand Placement
Though in film placements are gathering interest from both advertisers and producers alike, it is also important that the product meshes well with script and plot of the film. If this aspect is not taken care of and the product does not have any connection with the narrative, the result can be catastrophic, that cannot be reversed. The placement should seem to be natural to plot and not contrived or forced. Example of wrong placement can be of Coke in Yaadein; where Jackie Shroff would start singing a song with Coke in his hand.

Brand should get its due diligence and should not be used in a movie as a prop. The customers should be able to identify with the brand. Omega watches in middle class family would not have much impact and would lead to dilution of brand. A good synergy is necessary between brand and the movie. For example BMW in the movie Tomorrow Never Dies acts as one of the James Bond’s intelligent weapons to fight against the enemies. The BMW brand's spirit, of appearing as driving-oriented, powerful, and sophisticatedly equipped, is thoroughly conveyed by the charm of James Bond and the plot showing Bond defeating his enemy in an ingenious way. It also portrayed the superiority of BMW over its rival Mercedes Benz. Thus, a right balance needs to be struck to be glamorous and yet get a value for money proposition.

The success of an in film placement lies heavily on the success of the film which is highly unpredictable itself. Marketers need to pay attention to the high risk high return factor in terms of cost and the impact. Attention needs to be given to production house, star cast of the movie and right fit for their brand personality. The release date, approximate budget of the movie, the professionalism involved in the film (to prevent change of script at eleventh hour, delay in release etc) and the possibilities of brand association through promotions are some basic factors that need to be considered.

The time taken to complete a film, from the time to brand getting incorporated in the script, to it being featured in the film and the film being released gets stretched to more than a year. With brands competing in such a competitive environment, it is a possibility that brands have changed their entire positioning. Thus, this constraint is one that needs to be looked into.
Agencies need to do their part well when placing a product in the film. It is the agency, responsible for the placement to analyze the content of the film and its brief storyline and then to decide upon its potential viewer group or target audience, shortlist the brands that would appeal to their target audience, and make a comprehensive marketing plan for promotions during the various stages of a film's release.

Hindi films are made on a few stereotyped storylines. Therefore, associating brands in the right context into the film becomes difficult. So till Hindi movies evolve, there will be limited number of genres and the brands will have to be centred around these genres only. The producers still have not taken this form as advertising as a revenue stream. As a result, embedded advertising still has lot of growth prospects.

The Way forward
This association of films and brands are here to stay and grow even stronger. This relationship can be a win-win solution to both advertisers and film makers. The brands across various categories from garments to cars to jewellery to banks to news channels (Aaj Tak), are approaching agencies specialized in doing this job of in film placements, as it is a great way to connect with the consumer and its environment.

Advertising agencies are culling out separate arms to offer marketing solutions for the flicks. Leo Entertainment, the entertainment marketing arm of Leo Burnett, was the first to go that way. But its first-mover advantage was short-lived as a rash of ad agencies moved in shortly for the same killing. Lintas and Rediffusion Y&R followed with Lintertainment and Showdiff Worldwide respectively, Madison Communications conjured up MATES, O&M launched Ogilvy Live and Percept Group drew out P9 from its filmy hat.

This shows the in-film placement craze among both producers and advertising pros reaching a new crescendo. But marketers need to give careful consideration before fitting their prized brand into just any movie. There's a thin line between 'classy blending in' and 'unacceptable in-your face' kind of placements. Getting the balance right is critical and seamless integration is a very tight challenge. Though Hollywood has perfected art of it, Bollywood still has a long way to go.
Films are now becoming brands by themselves. When big films are thought of as a brand, co-marketing, merchandising, special edition products, whole new opportunities come up. Marketers are seizing many of these and are looking for more. It is after all about great ideas and brilliant execution and they have new partners in today's film-makers.

In summary, in film placement is playing an important role in the current business of marketing communication and is predicted to become even more valuable to marketers. In today's customer-centric market place, the basic rule of brand placement is to be plot-oriented and integrated seamlessly into the content of the program. Only then will brand placement be widely accepted and distinguish itself from traditional marketing communication approaches.

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