“Martini –Shaken not stirred”

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The mantra is quite clear; brands today are using in-film advertising of their brands to create sustainable competitive advantages...


It was very much a ladies’ drink all though the 60s, but when James Bond took a sip – things changed for the Martini. Reese’s Pieces was just a candy brand till E.T. dug his alien hand into a packet of the candy and gobbled it up. Enfield’s black-and-yellow Rajdoot GTS Bike would have been just a bike had not Raj Kapoor picked it and put it in his film Bobby. The bike catapulted into becoming a legend. People started entering the shops and asking for the “Bobby Bike”.

If these were not enough, consider this: The car company Audi especially created the Audi RSQ concept car for the movie I, ROBOT. The car was customised so that it could seamlessly fit into the movie. The car makers worked with the director of the movie and with the designers, till both sides were satisfied with the final outcome. Today, no sports film is complete without “Gatorade”. You may not be able to afford real players or real coaches, but a bottle of Gatorade can turn on the magic. So be it Coach Carter or Jerry Maguire, Gatorade is always there.

Now that’s how in-film advertising is changing the way we market our products and brands. It’s the new buzz word, and everybody is clamouring on to this bandwagon. Scripts are being made to fit in brands, and marketers are doling out lots of moolah to be able to star in these films. Coke gave Subhash Ghai Rs.1 crore so that Aishwarya and Akshay could share a bottle, in the movie Taal! In fact, if rumours are to be believed, then that particular scene was shot with both a Coke bottle and the Pepsi bottle. The highest bidder got to feature in the movie! Stroh’s Beer paid Rs.15 lakhs for a 15 second appearance in the film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. All Shah Rukh did was mention the brand name in one of the dialogues. Not bad. Tata Safari was ready to shell out Rs.10 million for the film Road. It was probably more than the budget of the film!

This amount is peanuts, compared to what Hollywood blockbusters earn through corporate sponsorship deals. Jurassic Park grossed around $250 million only through such sponsorship deals. In fact, in-film placement and brand association with movies is big business in Hollywood. It’s a $450 billion industry. Though a fledgling industry in Bollywood, yet in-film branding is slowly but surely growing. So if the movie You Have Got Mail made a cool $6 million from its corporate sponsor AOL, Taal and Yaadein of Subhash Ghai raked in Rs.2 crore and Rs.3.35 crore worth of corporate deals respectively. The revenues through corporate deals are so lucrative that even conservative film makers like Barjatiyas of Rajashri films, who made blockbusters like Maine Pyar Kiya, are looking around for such deals. Moreover, advertising agencies like Percept, Leo Burnett et al, have now organised separate divisions to look after in-film product placements.

If those were Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia who eloped on the Rajdoot bike and made it a craze in India in the 70s (and introduced us to in-film branding), then it was Katharine Hepburn in “The African Queen” who tossed loads of the product “Gordon’s Gin” overboard, back in the 50s and started this trend of in-film product placements in Hollywood!

But then, what is it really that is making marketers and producers alike to come together and strike deals.

1. In-film advertising breaks the clutter:

Today the consumer is inundated with advertising. Be it television, radio, billboards, magazines, everywhere there are ads. People are so fed-up of watching countless number of ads on television that some television networks like ABC and FOX have started presenting shows without ads! In-film product placement helps in breaking this clutter and ensures that the viewer watches the product while watching the movie. The marketer is sure that unlike TV – where chances of the viewer taking a loo-break during the commercial break are high – a movie hall experience ensures the viewer appreciates the product fully engrossed.

In generic speak, TV commercials are today considered annoying, but not in-movie commercials. No wonder, in the movie What Woman Want, which had Mel Gibson starring as the lead, you had a Nike commercial woven into the script and shown in the movie. No one realized they were actually watching a commercial, camouflaged in the screenplay. The movie Evolution featured a brand of shampoo, which had a chemical that could destroy both dandruff and dinosaurs (yes, these things happen in movies still). It saved your hair, your planet and the company from losses. Talk of brand recall – what could be more effective than this!

2. It increases market share :

When Melissa Mathison was writing the script for the movie E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, with respect to a scene where the alien is supposed to eat candy, Melissa proposed M&M’s candy bar. The company refused the movie director’s offer, not realizing that it would eventually lose out on market share. One week after the movie premiered, the sale of Reese’s Pieces candies shown in the film increased by 40%. Every kid who saw the movie now wanted that candy!

It is of no surprise that every time a new James Bond movie is launched, BMW launches a new model. Just a month after one particular Bond movie (Goldeneye) was released, BMW received 9,000 orders for its two-seater car. No wonder, the company was ready to pay a premium to oust 007’s signature Aston Martin & use the BMW Z3 Roadster instead. FedEx saw an increase in its brand awareness in the international markets (Asia & Europe) after Cast Away was released. The movie, The Firm, featured a Jamaican, brewing a brand of beer known as Red Stripe. According to Business Week Online, the beer’s sales increased by more than 50% in the first month after the movie was released.

Dallas World Aquarium suddenly noticed an increase in the number of visitors to its penguin exhibit. They had never seen such excitement earlier. That’s when an intelligent presenter figured out the reason. He asked before the show, “Who saw the movie March of the Penguins?” As expected, a large number of hands went up. It was this Oscar nominated film, which had fuelled the demand for penguins! Films have tremendous power that can be exploited by marketers.

3. The advantage of Star Power:

You can get celebrities from the film world to endorse your product at relatively very less cost. So while Minority Report showed Tom Cruise entering a GAP store, one could also see that he was wearing a Bulgari Watch. Just for a few lakhs, BSA SLR had Aamir Khan riding their cycle in the movie Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. It didn’t cost marketers too much to make Amitabh Bachchan insist that his wife consume calcium Sandoz in the movie Viruddh.

When the film star also happens to be the brand ambassador of the product, it makes better sense to place your product in that film. So Hyundai Santro was a prominent feature in Shah Rukh’s home production Chalte Chalte. Pepsi was eager to feature in the movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum. Not only did the film have a line up of every marketable Bollywood star, but also had the credit of most of them having been Pepsi models. If Tom Hanks played a FedEx employee in Cast Away, then our Amitabh played an ICICI Bank employee in Baghban. ICICI was visible for 10 minutes in the film [No T.V. commercial could give it so much visibility!].

When the brand endorsers are seen using the endorsed product in the film, it makes the brand more convincing, apart from the added bonus of star power. To establish a foothold in the south, Tata Indicom willingly spent Rs.2 crore just to be associated with the recent Rajnikanth blockbuster, Chandramukhi.

4. Builds relationships:

Well known brands don’t need to build awareness. They need to build a relationship with them. Cadbury Five Star (a very popular chocolate brand) decided to associate itself with the Tamil movie Choklet. It was a movie of the youth showing fun and masti and Five Star wanted to associated with that feeling. They even went to the extent of having a song in the movie titled, “Five Star, Five Star.”

The well established brand Strepsils, known for its innovative marketing strategies, did not waste the opportunity of associating itself with, Preity Zinta who plays a radio jockey with a lovely voice in Salaam Namaste. This association helped make the brand look younger & trendier.

5. It’s the multiplex culture:

Retail marketing is at its peak today. With 250 malls coming up, it’s estimated that some 1800 screens would soon be put up in these multiplexes. Undoubtedly, this would drive the consumer, especially the SEC A viewer, away from the television to these malls & halls. With this kind of a promise, it is no surprise that brands too are flocking in with their goodies into these cinema halls.

6. A good launch platform:

Bollywood is the new ground for product launches today. Swift was launched in the movie Bunty Aur Babli. Titan launched its new range of jewellery in the movie Paheli. Not to be left behind, Rakesh Roshan has tied up with the jewellery brand D’damas. They will launch their jewellery (inspired by the film) in the film Krrish – a sequel of Koi Mil Gaya. The international brands like IKEA & Home Depot used the movie Humko Deewana Kar Gaye to launch their international range of furniture in India. This increase in curiosity level clearly helps brands to cash in on publicity generated quite regularly by such activities.

7. When you have no where to go:

Some companies don’t have many avenues left to advertise. For example, liquor companies are not allowed to advertise on TV. In-film product placement becomes a big opportunity for them. So Bagpiper was seen in the movie Dum, Zingaro Beer associated itself with Jism, while McDowell presented Stumped, Raveena Tandon’s home production. In fact, movies are great avenues for even cigarette companies to display their aura and brand personality. Philip Morris paid $350,000 to place Lark cigarettes in the James Bond film License to Kill, while Marlboro paid $42,500 to appear in Superman II. Such hidden advertising has great potential; though whether good or bad, is debatable.

8. Promos help the brand:

Today, promos of many movies also carry the logos of popular brand names. So Rang de Basanti had the Provogue logo in its promos. Zinda had D’Damas in its promos & trailers. Paheli saw Shah Rukh and Rani wearing Tanishq jewellery in their promos. Mangal Pandey – The Rising had the logos of Titan watches in its promos.

A word of caution. Subtlety is the key here. The message should be well-woven into the script. The product should blend with the theme of the movie. FedEx blended well with the script and storyline of Cast Away. Thums Up gelled well with the macho image of the Kaante men. In fact, it was so well placed that it was recognized as the top 10 brand associations of 2003 by Advertising Age Magazine. Being outlandish and loud will not work. The ad should say less, to be non-obtrusive. If it looks like an ad, the audience will switch-off.

The medium is powerful, there is no doubt about that. In fact movies are such a craze that not just the originals, but even the spoofs work well. Gold Member, which is a spoof on the James Bond film, showed a car called Shaguar (a spoof on Jaguar). They raised $120 million more than the original Bond film. That’s how big this film industry is. Today, brands are popping up everywhere, much more than previously. Be it TV shows or movies, one would find them everywhere. The hugely popular American Idol show has judges sitting with big red cups of Coca-Cola. The host of the show mentions AT&T wireless each time the contestants finish a song. Ford too has its logo prominently displayed here. They all paid a few million dollars for that. Just to satisfy your curiosity, each of the three paid $26 million for one deal. It sure must be worth it.

Back home, when Jassi was turning over from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, companies made a beeline to be a part of the transformation. They knew a lot of girls across the country related to Jassi & they all wanted to grab the attention of this market. Be it TV or movies, the stakes are high, and so are the payoffs. It’s a thrilling ride. The canvas is large, the possibilities unlimited. Today, even movie names are getting branded. Consider these movies, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, or The Demise of Swissair, or The Devil Wears Prada. If grapewine is to be believed, there is a new Tamil movie coming up named Three Roses. This name of Three Roses happens to be a brand of soap from the HLL stable.

The day is not far when brands of such corporations would become producers (of movies, that is). But till then, in-film branding seems to suit both the producer and the marketers. One gets decreased costs, while the other gets increased visibility. So put on your impressive thinking caps. Innovators will be the most successful here. Get ready to Bond with the best. Let’s drink to that – a martini... shaken, yet not stirred!