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Maruti takes in-film branding to next level

Gaurav Laghate/Mumbai 28 Mar 13 | 10:38 PM
 Maruti Suzuki India Ltd
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In Y Films' latest movie, a salesman explains the features of Maruti Suzuki's Ertiga at a swanky showroom to one of the principal characters who is convinced by the hardsell and buys the car.

In-film promotions and brand placement is passé. What the youth films division of Yash Raj Films (YRF) has done with its latest feature film, Mere Dad Ki Maruti, is taking advertiser funded programming, a common practice in TV programming, to a new level. The feature film has Ertiga as its central character.

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How the economics work

Ashish Patil, business and creative head, Y Films, explains that the total cost of the film, including cost of production and marketing and promotion, was Rs 10 crore, and 80 per cent of it is already recovered by in-film advertising and selling of satellite rights. "It is for the first time that in-film branding has been taken to this extent where the name of the advertiser is in the title. Even before the release of this film, Rs 8 crore was in. Another couple of crores is expected from music licensing and digital rights. The box-office business is pure profit," Patil says. In its first week itself, the film has collected net revenue of Rs 8.12 crore from the domestic box-office and Rs 66 lakh from international distribution.

Maruti's angle

For Maruti, in-film promotion is not a new concept. In fact, it had launched its top-selling car, Swift, in India with YRF's Bunty aur Babli in May 2005. With the launch of Ertiga, the company created a new category of compact SUVs. Positioning it as LUV - Life Utility Vehicle, loaded with features - Maruti chose cinema as a medium to reach out to its customers.

Sunila Dhar, Deputy General Manager (Marketing) Maruti Suzuki, says it was a perfect brand integration for the film. "We do believe in the era of branded content. We do a lot of shows but this film was a step forward. It was reaching out to many more consumers, specially youth."

Maruti wasn't miser in promoting the film. It put posters of the film across its showrooms in India and also bought over 50,000 music CDs of the film to distribute to all its customers, making the film's music album a platinum success. YRF backed it up with a six-week marketing campaign, which included 24,000 TV spots, delivering 1200 GRPs (gross rating points), five music videos featuring the car across 20 music channels and delivering one million seconds of airtime. It was also advertised heavily through press ads and billboards and the PR mileage itself was worth Rs 10 crore, Y Films says.

On digital platforms, 125 videos were uploaded on YouTube, which got over 5.5 million hits. There was a heavy telecom push for all digital content, a road safety campaign on radio, editorial integrations on prime time TV and award shows. The film will be premiered on Sony Entertainment Television with multiple repeats and will also release across home video, DTH, in-flight, VOD, digital platforms. Y Films and Maruti are expecting the film will cumulatively reach at least 100 million eyeballs.

In-film advertising

The concept of in-film advertising dates back to 1927, when Hershey's chocolate was shown in Oscar winning silent Hollywood film Wings. In India, Coca Cola first did in-film branding in 1958 film Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. Many automobile brands (DC in Dil To Pagal Hai, Hyundai Santro in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and Mahindra's two wheeler Flyte in 3 Idiots) have used the concept. Hrithik Roshan telling Priety Zinta about Bournvita in Koi Mil Gaya and recommending Paas Paas to Kareena Kapoor in Yaadein were other such examples.

Interestingly, brand experts believe that though in-film branding is not the main medium for marketing of brands yet, as it accounts for less than 10 per cent of the total advertisement budget, it is cost-effective and gives immediate recognition. It also reduces promotion cost of the film and opens up a new revenue stream for films producers.

However, it is very important that brand should seamlessly integrate with the content. For example Suzuki bikes, which will be used in YRF's Dhoom 3, or Canon gear which was used by Anushka Sharma in Jab Tak Hai Jaan. While in TV, viewers may digest in-your face advertising, in films they don't.

Patil explains, "Films have captive audience, for which a family ends up paying close to a grand (tickets and food) in theatre. They will not like if the advertising is done in an obvious manner, or id it is out of sync." Dhar adds, "We were mindful that we didn't want a very in-your-face advertising."

So, will Y Films do more such projects? Patil, the man behind the project, is not sure. "Necessity is the mother of invention, and working with tight budgets at MTV forced us to innovate. The focus here is to innovate each time," he adds.

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