Leo Burnett Entertainment head Sanjay Bhutiani explains how in-film placement works and how brands and films connect
Mumbai: Brands and popular Indian cinema have aligned quite famously, and the trend of in-film advertising is gaining ground as both producers and advertisers see long-term benefits . Now, advertising agencies also see film advertising as a big revenue-earner and a way to build big brands.
Since February 2001, Leo Entertainment, a division of Leo Burnett India, has been providing an entire gamut of services such as marketing strategies, in-film placements, creative campaign, outdoor, print and online advertising, ground promotions and contests to film producers.
Sanjay Bhutiani, who heads Leo Burnett Entertainment, says in-film placements is a hugely lucrative business and is raking in anything between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 5 crore for film producers.
The first film for which Leo Burnett Entertainment managed the promotions was Ajay Devgan's home production Raju Chacha, after which the company bagged films such as Pooja Bhatt's Jism, B R Chopra's Baghban and Sanjay Gupta's Kaante.
Leo Burnett Entertainment is already an independent profit-centre due to billings received from films such as Kaante, Raju Chacha and Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai in which it leveraged brands such as Coke, Thums Up, Maaza, Provogue, Castrol, Tata Tea and Blowplast.
Bhutiani outlined his views on in-film advertising in an interview with domain-b. Excerpts:
What kind of finances can film producers expect by associating with brands?
Right now, companies are willing to pay amounts ranging between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 5 crore for placing their brands in films, but it depends on the budget of the film. Big-budget films with big stars can expect more. The size of this advertising is expected to grow nearly 100 per cent in the next two to five years as more and more companies get attracted to this kind of advertising.
What are the advantages of in-film advertising to producers and advertisers?
Advertisers are able to get big stars at a fraction of the costs they would normally shell out for an exclusive tie-up. Films are not subject to surfing, zipping or muting (unlike in TV and other media). Films appeal to emotions and scenes in films catch people off-guard unlike an advertisement, which catches the audience in a cold-evaluating mood. Films transcend geography, class and cultural barriers and catch people in a receptive mood. And films are target-specific.
How can films and brands connect?
A film-viewer has a short attention span. The best way to deliver the message is to catch the viewer off-guard when his rational defence is down. Appealing to viewers' emotions is better than appealing to their rational thought. The rational gate examines the advantages, benefits and features, and seeks value for money; the emotional gate is all about trust, love, identification and belief. Films operate at the emotional level. Placing a product in a film is catching the viewer at an emotional level when he can connect with the brand.
There can be synergies between brands and films. The successful integration of product placement within the film's storyline has a long history - the first example being the yellow Rajdhoot bike used in Raj Kapoor's Bobby. Hollywood also leveraged brands such as BMW (Bond movies), Jaguar, Ford, Ray Ban (Tom Cruise in Risky Business and Mission Impossible), Starbucks coffee, AOL and AT &T.
Song-and-dance sequences invariably feature an ad in the background but most people don't recall such scenes in detail. What is the advantage of the advertisement then?
It is true that ads have to be carefully placed in a film and one bad placement can do more damage than 10 good placements. Artistic integrity is crucial for successful brand placements and the operation has to be woven into the script. Sometimes, unreasonable clients demand more footage although research has shown that a two-minute clip can effectively deliver a message in a credible manner. The placement should be woven into the fabric of the film and shouldn't be contrived and unnatural.
Do such placements result in tangible benefits to the products advertised?
In the recently placed ad for Castrol engine oil in film Chalte Chalte, the makers of the engine have reported tangibly increased sales of the oil after the film's release. The product seems to have connected on an emotional level with truck fleet drivers and owners. Ray Ban also benefited by its association with film Men in Black.
What are the factors taken into consideration when placing an ad in a film by producers and advertisers?
The factors taken into consideration during the negotiation stage include cast and credits, size of the projects and the producers, timing of the release, brand impact, number of screens during release and post-release phase; and possibilities of brand associations through contests and promotions. Depending on the content of the film and its storyline, the agency can sketch a profile of viewers who would see the movie. Then the agency approaches all those brands that could appeal to the targeted viewers. This is followed by a 360-degree marketing plan for cross-promotions during the various stages of a film's release.
Do film stars have objections to this kind of placement?
Objections if at all could come up due to conflicts regarding a certain star's status as a brand ambassador. For instance Shah Rukh Khan could technically object to being associated with CocaCola as he is Pepsi's brand ambassador. But Kaante was associated with Thums Up and Amitabh Bachchan is the brand ambassador of Pepsi but there was no conflict as Thums up was associated with the entire film and not one actor. I personally don't see many problems arising on that front.