Movie Marketing In India Enters Adolescence
Mirroring the evolution that movie industry itself is going through, where the content and the storyline is becoming the hero and the hero is becoming an instrument of storytelling, movie marketing is moving beyond just the teaser release, trailer release, and song release…
by Pragati Rana
There is an unusual temple in Kolkata. It has a deity and a priest, butit is not devoted to Krishna or Shiva but Amitabh Bachchan. The shoes Amitabh Bachchan wore in Agneepath sit on the chair that he used in Aks. Such is the movie obsession in a country like India.
In 2018, India had 1776 movie releases- a formidable number by all accounts. That’s expected.
What’s not expected is the kind of marketing that movie marketer and production houses are experimenting with.
Mirroring the evolution that movie industry itself is going through, where the content and the storyline is becoming the hero and the hero is becoming an instrument of storytelling, movie marketing is moving beyond just the teaser release, trailer release, and song release. It’s becoming smarter and ingenious in both its content and its targeting. It is trying to find its identity. Just like a young adolescent.
Three interesting observations:
The Prism Approach
We all read this in school. White light is made up of different colours that have different wavelengths. When this white light enters a prism, the colours within it get reflected at different angles and the white-light separates into its rainbow colours.
What this means in the marketing context is that brands and movies can’t be approached in the same way. Brands are all about purpose, pointed, singular messaging, and RTBs. A movie is not. A movie can have many interesting hooks which can translate into multiple interesting ideas. Much like a prism.
Take the case of Uri: The Surgical Strike, a movie about India’s first surgical strike. It played on different aspects of a military surgical strike. Just like the Indian military secretly attacked illegal operations and terrorist camps, the marketing campaign attacked the illegal industry of piracy. In the Code Name: Uri idea, when people downloaded a video that looked like the full-length Uri film on torrents, they were caught off-guard because it wasn’t the film but a campaign video that urged them to stop piracy and go watch the movie in the theatres. So much was the noise that got created that Anupama Chopra organically spoke about it on her show. In the Uri: Probe Bot idea, a bot played the role of a captured terrorist and people were free to interrogate it and ask it questions. The Uri: Deceptive Strike idea showcased how the military stealthily conducted its operations right under the nose of the common public without them noticing a blink of a difference.
It is really the white-light of the movie idea dispersing into several interesting campaign thoughts.The focus is not on the power of one purpose but the power of many potent ideas.
The Snake Blood Wine Syndrome
If you have ever visited Hanoi or a few other South East Asian countries, you must have encountered the strange drink that is a key tourist attraction in the restaurants and local marketplaces. Called ‘Ruouthuoc’ by the locals, it is made by draining fresh snake blood into rice wine or grain alcohol.
While it is believed to improve virility, most tourists obsess over it because it is an experience that they have never had. A similar one is the experience of eating a beating snake heart that got especially noticed when Gordon Ramsay gulped it down on his show.
This points to a fundamental human truth of today.That people have become novelty addicts. They are looking for uniqueness. They are looking for experiences that are a first for them. This behavior shapes their expectations on digital too.
In the constant search of ‘something interesting’, the predictable and the familiar get branded as ‘boring’. A music video, a rap song, a clever pre-roll idea on YT, playing with Facebook live, Instagram stories are real estates that have been used and seen. What interests people today are digital anomalies.
A case in point is Angry Birds Movie 2 promotion. While they used YouTube, Facebook and Instagram for promoting the awareness creating posts, for spiking people’s interest they discovered an anomaly- a lesser known and an even lesser explored property of google maps.
Google maps has a feature (open for all and free!) where you can label an unnamed place and add pictures to give other people a perspective of the place. Angry Birds Movie 2 storyline’s key point was the invasion of Bird island and Piggy island by the Eagles of the Eagle island. The team recreated the islands from the movie by finding similar looking islands on google maps (after a painstaking hunt, of course) amongst lakhs of islands and then owning them as the Bird, Piggy and Eagle islands. Once clicked, people could read the story and the perspective of the three warring parties through a comic strip, find coupons for the movie and journey along the story.
A rare, immersive experience that other marketers were completely unaware of.
Another example here could be the Spider-Man’s programmatic billboard. It behaved the way Spiderman did in Spider-Man: Far From Home. In this particular part, Spider-Man took on the Elementals. So did this billboard. When it was hot and sunny outside, Spider-Man fought the Fire Elemental, when it was rainy outside, he fought the Water Elemental and when it was windy, he fought the Air Elemental.
An experience that is unseen before becomes unforgettable in the world that is increasingly turning into a sea of sameness.
The Karaoke Principle
Invented by Daisuke Inoue, Karaoke stands for ‘empty orchestra’ in Japanese. It came to be to support businessmen of a club to sing songs when they didn’t have a live music back-up.Just being listeners wasn’t enough for them- they wanted to sing along, even if it was in an amateurish way.
Like them, the movie audience is seeking a different role when it comes to campaigns. They want to participate, play and be more involved.
Gamification of campaigns is a testimony to this shift. Some months back, when Men In Black: International was close to release in India, the marketing team didn’t just create another video, but decided to give a chance to the people to sing along, interact and have fun. Men in Black, the world’s most secret organization started a recruitment drive where people had to go and register on a microsite. This seemingly simple call to action had a secret catch.
People had to find the right microsite first. Clicking on the promotional link would lead the unsuspecting audience to an innocent looking page of an MBA college education program. When the confused but intrigued audience clicked on this page, an unsavory message of ‘Your IQ is below average. Try again’ popped up. Only when they opened it in the incognito mode would the actual microsite reveal itself.
The trick for marketers is not to see the audience as passive but to see them for who they are- intelligent, willing to interact and wishing to do things than just being told things.
There may be a zillion smaller things, but these are some of the most noticed ones of today’s movie marketing. It’s not about one big idea but many powerful ideas that bring alive different aspects of a movie. It’s not about just doing what has worked in the past but delighting the audience with something unthought of. And it’s not about telling them things but about involving them into things.
This is the start. Movie marketing in India is coming out of its cocoon and will evolve and fuse seamlessly with digital and social behaviours as the audiences evolve, mediums grow and content starts reigning supreme.
What Charles Darwin said many decades back holds true for movie marketing for the decades to come, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”