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January 1-15 2009
The Marketing of Ghajini
Amir Khan’s buzz-cut was just one of the things that generated buzz for Ghajini. The hairstyle, that has been gradually invading our consciousness for months now, made sure that there was no getting away from the tattooed hulk. Marketing of a film today, however, as Ghajini is proving, is much more than creating a buzz around a haircut.
What the makers of Ghajini also did was tie up with an apparel brand, toy stores, cinema halls and a mobile phone company. And more than anything, the hero of the film is not just giving the occasional interview leading up to the release. He seems to have taken the marketing of the film as seriously as his role in the film.
Says Madhu Mantena, producer of Ghajini, “Marketing expenses have gone up. Films are released in a large number of theatres so that there is maximum collection in the first two or three weeks. So, one has to create an urgency around the film and make it an event.” According to estimates, Ghajini’s marketing involved spends of Rs 10 crore by the brands associated with it. Other promotions are estimated to have cost Rs 4 crore.
Making it worthwhile
Marketing of films has changed dramatically over the past decade. If multiplexes have allowed film makers to target urban audiences in small lots - 150 seats at a time instead of about 1,000 in the cavernous halls of old - they have also created a lot of extra pressure on film marketing. With consumers paying Rs 150 (more on weekends) for a ticket alone - the popcorn, the cola and the conveyance are extra - the cost of choosing a film is high. And with so many other forms of entertainment available to urban Indians, bringing them into cinema halls is getting harder by the day.
Because Hindi films are so oriented to metro-based people-like-us, only a handful of films every year try to appeal pan-India in the old fashioned way. In fact there is a point of view that Hindi films are losing their grip on small-town India because the stories and characters belong to the metro world. Only big films with big stars (and even bigger marketing budgets) can dare to tempt the whole of India - big-town as well as small-town. The only two last year that did had Shah Rukh Khan (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) and Aamir (Ghajini).
Where marketing once meant painting a few hoardings, now it can account for as much as 30 per cent of a film’s production cost (that includes the cost of making prints). In Hollywood, it is much more - nearly half the total budget could go into the marketing aspect. In money terms, even that may not be enough, which is why marketers have to use a variety of devices to make the film a point of conversation - audiences want to watch it so that they can become a part of the talk around it. It makes them feel ‘with it’. Says Sooraj Bhalla, director, creative and content at MATES, the entertainment marketing division of Madison which promoted the film Dostana, “Movies are a high-involvement product and it’s important to engage the viewer at every step to encourage her to buy the ticket. Fortunately, actors today have understood that their role doesn’t end with the release of the film, but continues until the viewers pass judgement.”
Glued to their Seats
The promotions for Ghajini started at theatres and multiplexes in Mumbai. This was combined with a string of initiatives designed to bring the audiences trooping in.
• In Big Cinemas, 105 employees volunteered for a haircut that cloned Aamir’s. Tushar Dhingra, COO, Big Cinemas, says, “We wanted the experience to be heightened through these activities.” In some other places, Aamir himself was seen wielding the scissors.
• A life-size statue of Khan’s character in the movie was placed in multiplexes and theatres across India. The small towns were also on the radar. “We placed the statues at B and C centres where such things have never been tried before. And apart from local print and outdoor ads, we advertised on Doordarshan and AIR,” says Naik.
• Van Heusen (an Aditya Birla Group brand) has launched a range of formal wear for the corporate-tycoon look that Khan sports in the first half of the movie. Says Dhruv Jha, business head, brand experience, Lodestar Universal, which helped in the association: “The Van Heusen-Ghajini line took about two years to develop. It was designed with the collaboration of the film’s designers. Khan, being a perfectionist, also added his inputs.” (In 2006, Louis Philippe, another Aditya Birla Group brand, had launched an exclusive line for the SRK starrer, Don.)
• A collectible has also been designed for Ghajini. It is a 10-inch figurine of Aamir in exact detail and will be available in toy stores.
• Samsung, a brand which Aamir endorses, has launched two special edition Ghajini phones, L700 and M200. These come with free 1GB memory cards loaded with Ghajini content, including MP3 ringtones, song videos and wallpapers.
• In a promotional partnership TATA Indicom played pre-recorded Ghajini messages to 10 million subscribers, showcased exclusive mobile content on its WAP portal and organised a Ghajini hairstyle contest.
• Tata Sky has pitched in with an interactive quiz, and welcome screen and filler ads about the movie.
• Hyderabad-based FX Labs has developed a PC-console game.
• Indiagames, a UTV Group company, has developed three mobile games and an interactive mobile application that allows users to follow the training schedule of Khan, step by step. These are available on GPRS enabled handsets.
• In what is probably a first for Bollywood, a viral marketing exercise was unleashed through the site, wallofsuspects.com. Visitors can upload their photos on the wall. Naik says that the winners chosen (by lots) from the submissions will receive a gift from the makers. As an extension of this, Khan’s press relations team compiled photographs of 200 journalists and sent them their personalised photos signed by the actor and with handwritten notes from him.
• An online treasure hunt called Find Ghajini (www.findghajini.com – Ghajini is the name of the villain in the movie) takes visitors through a series of clues and sites. Ghajini’s official site, created by Hungama.com, is rememberghajini.com.
Those connected with the making of a movie are sure that every marketing paisa is worth the outlay since there are multi-channelled revenue streams to look forward to. These range from selling music, TV, DVD, overseas and online download rights, some of which start accruing much before the release date. Take the case of Om Shanti Om released on Diwali 2007. The SRK-starrer created a record of sorts when it reportedly sold its worldwide rights to Eros International for Rs 73 crore (excluding music and satellite rights).
According to media reports, the India theatre-rights for Ghajini were sold to Studio18 for Rs 40 crore. Its music and home video rights were bought for Rs 8.5 crore by T-Series and the overseas deal with Big Pictures is worth Rs 10 crore. The satellite rights have also been sold to Studio18 for Rs 20 crore.
Grab their attention
Everything in film marketing is governed by the potential audience’s short attention span. Traditionally, the Hindi film was released with a few dozen prints in some selected cinema halls. Other towns had to wait their turn as the metros had their fill of the film and the limited number of film prints (in increasingly damaged condition) wound their way into smaller towns.
Today, the situation is different. The game is played out in the first few weeks and means marketing a product with a brief lifecycle and selling it across dozens of cities simultaneously - if things go wrong, there is no second chance.
To capture the public imagination, Ghajini is releasing in 1,400 screens (including digital cinemas) with 1,200 prints. It is estimated that about 10 per cent of the 12,900 theatres in India are digital. Ghajini will also be released in 300 theatres outside India. Its 1,200 prints make Ghajini a ‘big’ release - in the league of SRK’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (1,200 prints) and Om Shanti Om (1,300 prints) as well as Akshay Kumar’s Singh is Kinng (1,050 prints). Contrast this with ‘smaller’ releases like a Bheja Fry or Welcome to Sajjanpur or Cheeni Kum that came up with 200-350 prints. It costs nearly Rs 70,000 to make one print. But creating the pull to get a few million people to part with Rs 100 or more per ticket is a tricky exercise. It is here that star power comes to the rescue as Aamir’s has in the case of Ghajini.
The two years that it took to make Ghajini included 135 days of shooting. Besides being on the sets most days, Khan also spent a month on the marketing. According to Ashoo Naik, the head of marketing for Ghajini, the promotions were planned in the pre-production stage itself and the build-up in media was created throughout this time, with the action peaking a few weeks prior to release.
Khan’s role in the promotions points towards a new trend where actors are closely involved in promoting their films, possibly even as part of their contract. Komal Nahta, editor, Film Information and Film Street Journal, says, “The turning point came with SRK in Om Shanti Om. Before this, no star had promoted his movie so aggressively. I think Aamir’s haircut was a masterstroke!” Amidst all this noise, isn’t there a danger that people would forget that it’s just a movie? Naik disagrees, calling Ghajini “India’s first event film.”
Given the efforts that went into promoting Ghajini, what will the results be? Nahta says, “The content has to be novel or it can be dangerous to build expectations and not deliver. I think Ghajini will live up to people’s expectations.” That would certainly be the makers’ fervent wish.