In film placements: Here to stay

MUMBAI: Product placements have made it big in Bollywood. The phenomenon isn’t something new, but while earlier the product fit into the film when required, today the film is made around the product – the reward being tons of ready money.

All of the last one year’s releases feature not only a big star cast, but also a huge array of in film product placements. This year’s first release ‘Kudiyion ka hai zamana’ saw Lays driving the brand recall mantra by placing itself in the film. A fairly recent release such as Salaam E Ishq saw the likes of brands including Ira diamond jewelry and news channel Times Now, strut throughout the film. Even Mani Ratnam’s Guru could not resist jumping onto the product placement bandwagon, one saw a rather long shot of Ms Rai on a Hero cycle.

The recently concluded Ficci Frames 07 addressed the issue by hosting a session with speakers including adman B R Films CEO Prahlad Kakkar, Sanjay Bhutiani, Lintas Total chief strategy officer Raj Gupta and even a senior lecturer in marketing, Middlesex university, Sukhbinder Barn.

The reason for the shift in the way advertising is done, speakers said, is merely because production houses are able to reduce soaring film budgets by incorporating undercover advertising for huge corporate brands. It also increases profitability for the filmmaker, as he would have already recovered a portion of the profit by lowering his production costs, speakers pointed out. These products merely act as props in the films and add a sense of realism to the character, and there is an added appeal when the viewer sees his actor use the product that they see or use in their daily lives, it was noted.

“We are talking of a mass market consumer who consumes advertising in every aspect of his life,” Said Bhutiani. If this form of advertising was done in good taste, it actually could help the brand, he said, adding that brand managers ideally look at the number of runs the film will have, the kind of star cast and the time of release while choosing a film. 

Barn presented his research findings stating that less familiar brands when placed in films,  have a great brand recall provided there is a logical connect between a brand and film. He pointed out that the producer, media placement agency and brand manager, all have an inward approach, thinking only of what they stand to gain in terms of revenue. This leads to a forced fit of the brand, not helping the film or the brand in any way.

Over the years, speakers agreed, that brands stand to gain by ingeniously influencing the consumer, affecting his behaviour pattern towards the brand at the time of purchase. Also, with the rates of advertising slots and insertions skyrocketing, it is an advantage for a brand to be seen in a film that reaches a larger audience and a wider market (films have a lower cost per thousand as compared to print).

What is forgotten is that the frequency of viewership is reduced; and that many more than the target segment is being reached. This may result in increase in the aspirational value of the brand, but will do nothing for the sales, speakers pointed out.