Accountability crucial in branded content

MUMBAI: The media and advertising industry has recently stumbled upon a new word – Branded Entertainment. While the concept in itself has been around for many a years, the industry is now waking up to its benefits. Seeing the increased interest in this space, Atul Phadnis’ Media e2e and Rizvi Management Institutes conducted a one day seminar – Branded Entertainment Summit 2006 – which was held in Mumbai on 16 September.

The two sessions of the summit – accountability in branded entertainment and the implications of branded entertainment – had the panel discussing issues revolving around the concept. Attended by the likes of Spatial Access’ Meenakshi Madvani, Madison Communications CMD Sam Balsara, Zee Telefilms CEO Pradeep Guha, Star TV president Paritosh Joshi, P9 Integrated CEO Navin Shah, BR Films general manager Sanjay Bhutiani, MATES CEO Darshana Bhalla, Hindustan Lever Limited’s Rahul Welde and LA based IAG Research’s senior vice president Nilofer Faroukhi.

Moderated by Madhvani, the first panel discussion – accountability in branded entertainment – threw up some pertinent questions. Shah said, “The total advertising revenues in India today are pegged at around Rs 15,000 – Rs 18,000 crores. Out of this the revenues from branded entertainment are currently only in the range of Rs 150 – 200 crores. Product placements in films and television are supposed to be discontinuous agents. We are still a nascent industry and till we become a Rs 5000 crore industry, we should concentrate on doing whatever we are doing right.”

Citing the example of Kaante and Thums Up, Bhutiani said, “The association of Thums Up with the film Kaante worked brilliantly for the brand. The personality of the brand came through with the movie association more than it did with the Salman Khan ad.”

He however added that the agency (P9) had not taken any onus of accountability of what this association could deliver for the brand. “However, I feel that if accountability is the key for success then there should be an upside as well as downside in terms of the remuneration given to the agency for the association,” he says. 

Speaking on the issue of who’s ROI is more important – the brand’s or the content’s, Bhalla says, “Where accountability is concerned, it is about the brand. From a buyer’s perspective, the brand has the right to know about accountability.”

Bhutiani added, “Films are the most risky business of the world. No one knows what is going to happen on a Friday. If as person is a brand custodian, he will do everything he can to drag the price down. I feel that every frame in the film has the opportunity to be branded. However, the golden rule of product placement is that less is more.”

Some good examples of recent branded entertainment were Bournvita with that of Krrish and ICICI with Baghban. However, the placement of Coke in Taal didn’t actually do much for the brand and wasn’t a well thought out placement either. 

The second session – implications of branded entertainment – had Guha as the moderator. “Advertiser funded content is a new area for all of us. If film and television is art that reflects reality, then it follows that brands are also a part of it. If they don’t interrupt in real life, then how can they do so in entertainment? However, this question is theoretically perfect only on paper and not in the actual scenario. The reason is that as far as entertainment is concerned, the audience doesn’t want to be interrupted with brand messages.”

Balsara added, “There is a very old Hindi film wherein a deaf and dumb girl asks for a 501 brand of soap by enacting the numbers. That’s how far the concept of branded entertainment goes. As advertising noise in the market place has gone up, the term branded entertainment has been coined. It is an excellent new opportunity that has opened up.”

He also cited the example of Krrish and Bournvita as an excellent one. “However, many other brands in Krrish used the film as just another opportunity for vanilla brand exposure. Let us restrain our selves a bit. If we do them intelligently and in a manner where we can get the proposition of the film to rub on to the brand, then it is worth it,” Balsara added.

HLL’s Welde, on the other hand pointed out how Lifebuoy had also benefited with Krrish’s association, which was inked after the movie was complete. “The association between Lifebuoy and Krrish happened after the movie was ready. However, we amplified our promotions through a 360 degree media campaign outside the realm of the film. And it has worked well for the brand. At the end of the day, as an advertiser, my concern is whether any kind of association has had a positive impact on the sale of my brand. It also has to drive impact and driving impact is about all about an integrated holistic approach.”

The common consensus however was that branded entertainment — if done right — can be a huge opportunity for brands in terms of a new medium of exposure; as well as for media owners, for whom t can serve as an additional revenue stream.

The summit also saw the first ever Branded Entertainment Awards, wherein various awards in different categories of branded entertainment were given out. They were as follows:  

Best product placement in a TV programme

Gold – Madison (Kaya Skin Clinic in Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi)

Silver – P9 (CNN/IBN and Channel7 in Corporate)


Best product placement in an Indian language feature film

Gold – MATES Mumbai (Dominos Pizza in Phir Hera Pheri and Tanishq in Paheli)

Silver – Lodestar (Calcium Sandoz in Virrudh)


Best sponsorship for a feature film released in India

Gold – MATES Mumbai (Tanishq in Paheli)

Silver – P9 (Lifebuoy in Krissh)


Best product placement in a sporting event

Gold – MindShare (Pepsi drink break during the Tri-Series)

Silver – MindShare (Pepsi anthem in the Indo Pak series)


Best sponsorship sports

Gold – Lintas Media Group (Sunfeast Open)

Silver – Creatigies (ING Vysya Hockey League)


Best sponsorship (others)

Gold – Lintas Media Group (Idea)

Silver – Mediaedge:cia (Colgate)