Leveraging films by top guns on MTV

10 Mar,2014


By A Correspondent


In a seemingly volatile broadcast scenario in India, it is a given that only ideas that are fresh and out-of-the-box manage to make a mark while the others face the possibility of being rejected. In a synergy that probably plans to change the way the genre has been approached until now, leading youth channel MTV has joined hands with FMCG major Hindustan Unilever to launch MTV Films.


The idea germinated out of a casual conversation that MTV and HUL’s media buying and planning agency Mindshare had sometime last year. Convincing HUL was easy for Mindshare, and since then it’s getting all parts of the act together.


The initiative would see six young and well-known directors known for their cutting edge film making styles making original movies just for television. Eminent movie directors including Anurag Basu, Abhinay Deo, Shoojit Sircar, Rohan Sippy, Nikhil Advani and Anurag Kashyap have been assigned the task of bringing the idea alive on television.


What would make this initiative unique is that MTV Films would be a mixed bag of six movies based on brand philosophies of different HUL products that will be showcased every month.


An initiative to provide film buffs a unique movie viewing experience in the comfort of their homes, MTV Films offers a mix of all the ingredients that connect with the youth instantly. These 60-minute movies are inspired by HUL’s brands like Sunsilk, Ponds, Tresemme, Close Up, Lakme and depict today’s generation’s perspective on love, friendship, family, responsibilities in a light hearted fashion.


Speaking about this initiative, Aditya Swamy, EVP and Business Head of MTV said, “It’s been a treat to watch six very special people look at youth through such different lenses. This project has redefined the rules of television and branded content in so many ways. Everyone around the table today has dared to take risks and it’s that spirit that has made this an exciting journey for all of us. With a new film being released every month, MTV Films can become a very strong franchise.”


Hemant Bakshi, Executive Director, Home & Personal Care, HUL, said, “HUL firmly believes in pioneering and creating newer ways of engaging consumers by leveraging popular culture. With the launch of MTV Movies, we will re-define the way in which brands tell their stories to consumers. This initiative will focus on communicating brand purpose and we are confident that it will resonate with our audience and build brand love.”


The initiative will see Bollywood, television and the corporate world collaborate to give consumers content they can best relate to. While MTV India is seen as the channel that has its check on the pulse of today’s youth, the film-makers roped in for this initiative have already made waves with their art and have an increasingly large fan base in the younger generation. Their unique approach and cutting edge portrayal of different themes has made a lasting impact on many. It is befitting then, that Hindustan Unilever – known for their innovative touch in every initiative – imbibes these themes in their brand philosophy and make MTV Films the perfect platform to reinforce their connect with the youth of today.


‘For HUL, the films are beyond passive integration… more of active integration’

Aditya Swamy
Ravi Rao

Q&A with Aditya Swamy, EVP and Business Head, MTV and Ravi Rao, Leader, Mindshare South Asia


And we thought MTV was a music channel… has the basic positioning changed by this move of getting into movies?

Aditya Swamy: MTV is about entertainment and if you see there is a strong music element to all of the stuff that we create. So there’s this film that we showcased at the preview where a bunch of girls coming together to run a radio station…similarly there is a strong musical element in all the films.


But the core premise of the channel initially was just around music…

Aditya Swamy: My sense is that the audience is changing. Twenty years ago when we were asked what music you listened there were a few names that came top of mind. But the times have changed today where the youth have a plethora of options to choose from. Right from the brands they wear or endorse they are getting defined by a lot of other factors. So as the audience is moving forward the only way to stay relevant is to move with them. Like I say, music is synonymous with creativity and creativity will always be the sole of MTV. That’s where we take this from; it’s storytelling.


Would you elaborate on the cost aspect of the deal with HUL?

Aditya Swamy: I wouldn’t be able to talk about the costs and budgets but I would say the challenge is going to be for partners to have deals that bring in good ROI for everyone concerned. If you see the films, they are not cheap or made on handheld camera they are films made by some big directors and have the latest technology to its credit. Moreover the audiences want a quality product and the directors are creating films which are mega in approach. I think the objective will be that when a viewer sees this he would not feel that these are films made specifically for television; the content rests seamlessly across different platforms and this platform happens to be the TV platform.


Was it tough to get the creative folk to weave in brands in the stories?

Aditya Swamy: For me the real cool thing has been getting these six directors together but the common thing that ties all of them together is that they are going to jump into a space that they haven’t done before. According to me, what excites creative people is taking up new challenges. Earlier they used to tell stories in two-and-half hours now they have to say it in 60 minutes. So it’s challenges such as these that excite these people. They’ve always been leading the charge that let’s do something beyond advertising. This idea was something that everybody quickly latched onto immediately.


How involved or over-involved were brands with the project?

Aditya Swamy: If you see the film it’s a new era in branded content. We’ve not needlessly pushed brands; it’s about the brand philosophy coming to life. Once they were onboard the philosophy then they would like to run.


Ravi Rao: I’d like to add here by saying that when you do a product integration exercise, the emphasis is how do I ensure that it is not just passive integration but more of an active integration. In these films what we did was give a positioning line for a brand and told them to interpret the way they want. If you see the banners that we have got it has been completely imagined by the directors themselves.


At Mindshare, you’ve handled spends across various platforms. How different was this exercise for you?

Ravi Rao: Whether we like it or not, content has been an important storyline for a long time. It’s just that the canvas is the same but we have made it bigger with high production values and great directors onboard. Also, for example when you say a shampoo can clean your hair, there are a whole lot of other attributes that can come aboard because it’s to do with the person and his/her choice of using the shampoo. It was a good opportunity to go beyond the 30- or 50-seconder where you can tell a story in a much more fluent way. To that extent it is going away from mainstream and making it even more interesting.


Would you be engaging in a high decibel cross-platform promotion for this initiative?

Ravi Rao: I think you should wait and see because some of the promotional ideas that we have got on this is very unique. It won’t be like what you see the other movies doing. It will be different. Also, while television as a medium will be huge, we would be exploiting the digital platform too. If the word-of-mouth happens you will see audiences coming back towards it. The first movie is just the trigger; you will have to wait to see how fine the others shape up as well.


For the last six years, Mindshare has been trying to do the content space differently. The team has done a fantastic job this time too. Here it is about how you generate impact; what is the right story that we need to do and what is the media that will be apt for the initiative. It is also about being flexible and doing things in a unique way.


An FMCG company like HUL is known to be very tough on deliverables…

Ravi Rao: They still are but they have been fair. It is also about their philosophies; on the one end, they are talking about getting great effectiveness but they also lay great emphasis on innovation. We have pushed our idea limits to see what more can we do. If the idea is strong enough for a brand to capitalise it works brilliantly and HUL gives a canvas to do it our way.



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