Shailesh Kapoor: Time To Reinvent The Movie Marketing Template

19 Dec,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


It’s been a shockingly poor year for Bollywood. The domestic nett box office stood at about Rs. 17 billion in 2011. It grew a staggering 35% to Rs. 23 billion in 2012, and then a healthy 17% to Rs. 27 billion in 2013. Even if today’s release PK becomes the highest all-time grosser in the history of Hindi cinema, we are looking at the year ending at Rs. 25-26 billion at best.


There are three problems that have contributed to this saturation, which became starker as 2014 progressed. Lack of content innovation leads the pack. In 2011, we are dishing out content that worked in 2011. The audience has moved on, even as the industry tries to recreate what has worked. The second problem is the ever-escalating ticket prices. Year-on-year, they have grown at about 15-20%. Effectively, that would mean a doubling of ticket prices in five years. Audiences now have virtually no incentive to watch mid-range films, which anyway look like me-too versions of past hits, at these escalated prices.


But I want to focus here on the third factor – the marketing problem.


For long, television has been the lead medium for promoting films, and it shall remain so for at least the next five years. While the internet and the social media have become more effective by the year, the reach television gives to a movie campaign is unmatched. While everyone understands the importance of television, how to use the medium well has been an area of poor understanding.


The starting problem is measurement itself. The viewership currency (TAM currently) addresses a broad demographic. Only about 2% of Indians are regular theatre-goers. Conventional media plans, that relies on reach and frequency targets, has to be created for a wider TG, such as 15-34 SEC AB in 1million+ towns. The media wastage could be as high as 85% here. But instead of solving this problem of commercial efficiencies, producers have shown a tendency to over-spend and out-shout to compensate. At the end of it all, several films do not even recover their marketing costs at the box office.


There are some dodgy media buying ‘rules’ that were set about 15-20 years ago, and still continue to exist. Buying on the so-called ‘trade channels’ (ETC, Music India and the likes) is the dodgiest of them all. The ‘trade’ community, which is by now highly amorphous to be treated as a unit anyway, supposedly watches only these channels, and if a film is not promoted on them, it is not ‘garam’ enough. There has been a change in the mindset in the more progressive studios on this count, but a large section of the industry continues to be trapped in age-old conventions that were never sound to begin with.


At a more strategic level, there is a problem of exhaustion. Have you gone to watch a Hindi film in recent times and felt that you had already seen the best dialogues, jokes, songs, moments or action sequences in the promos? Watching most average films can create this sense of exhaustion, leading to audience attrition from theatres over time.


Last year, the film industry got a boon in the form of Comedy Nights With Kapil. It has the right audience profile for a film, both in quantity and quality. It also allows for thematic integrations of the film’s marketing message. But within months, the show became a tick-off on the list of movie marketing activities that a film should undertake. The audience is, of course, smart enough to sniff the marketing peg. Another opportunity lost then!


There is no reason why film marketing should not follow proven conventions of classical marketing, such as segmentation, targeting, positioning and media mix. Till a decade ago, we didn’t have professionals in the business. But that’s not the excuse anymore. Over the last decade, because the business was growing, no one questioned too many things anyway. But even that’s not the excuse anymore at the end of 2014.


So, it’s time to reinvent the movie marketing template. Or we may see further decline in 2015.


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