By Anindita Sarkar
Travel and lifestyle channel Fox Traveller, in partnership with events management company Seventy Event Media Group (70 EMG), last month launched the second edition of the India Bike Week (IBW) in Goa, with more than 10,000 visitors queuing up for tickets that were priced at Rs.3000 each. Besides music, stunts and displays, the event also saw one of the largest gatherings of biking accessory brands, with product launches —the brand-new made-in-and-for-India Harley-Davidson Street 750 — and racing teams, even as the Motorcycle Traveller Meet, FMX Stunts, the Full Contact Championship, Ride Parades and the Bike Accessory expo saw bike enthusiasts lining up for the adrenaline pumping experience. Over 30 brands including London Affro Collective were associated with the event with Harley Davidson India the main sponsor. Television branding experiences on-ground is not a new phenomenon at all. In 2011, Star Movies, the English movie channel under the Star India banner, launched the Star Movies Chillout Nites initiative to engage with consumers beyond television. As part of the initiative, Star Movies organised parties at over 200 homes while a movie premiered on the channel. The parties were executed by Fountainhead Events. 9XM’s 30-feet-long Wall of Music is another innovative example. On the occasion of World Music Day 2012, 9XM set up a 30-feet-long Wall of Music enabled with augmented reality technology at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai and at The Great India Place, a shopping mall in Noida, bordering Delhi. This digital wall enabled viewers to download Bollywood songs free of cost by scanning movie posters on the wall using their smartphones. Being a first-of-its-kind innovation to make World Music Day memorable, the activity got 9XM featured in the Limca Book of Records. To be sure, such larger-than-life activations from the television industry have been too few and far in-between, with auto and consumer durables and increasingly personal technology products hogging the limelight. Ernst and Young’s white-paper on the ‘Business of Experiences’ states that the organised segment of the Indian events and activation industry has grown at over 20% since 2010. As marketers plan to increase their below-the-line (BTL) spends, the industry is expected to grow to Rs.4,375 crore by mid-2014. But having said that, the study also suggests that the events and activation industry in India has seen its lowest transaction activity among all segments of the media and entertainment sector. Quite a few industry pundits agree that it is primarily because of a very weak push from television—the most dominant slice of India’s Rs.91,700-crore media and entertainment industry. They observe that large-scale BTL activation is still not a marked trend within the television sector. The reason for this is not too difficult to understand — the role of on-ground in the case of television differs in two ways. First, the kind of reach that a broadcaster is able to deliver from its promos on its own channel is far greater than any on-ground activation and at a far more competitive price. Second, a lot of brands conduct on-ground activation as an opportunity to do immediate sales, something that the television industry does not exactly look for. “In television, there is no immediate sale value. What you are really trying to do with on-ground activation is to establish a close personal encounter of the consumer with the brand or the show message. Here, the desire is that the message should stay with the consumer which in turn will help him/her tune into your channel and the show,” says Nikhil Madhok, senior vice president, marketing and programming strategy at Star Plus, the flagship general entertainment channel (GEC) of Star India. That is now changing with the television industry increasingly banking on on-ground events to do the talking for them. The sector has already started experimenting with novel ‘on-ground’ designs where innovation is the key. In July 2013, Set Max, the Bollywood movie channel from the MSM stable, launched an extensive on-ground initiative to spread awareness about the television premiere of Aashiqui 2, which was scheduled to air on the channel that month. The channel erected larger-than-life images of the movie protagonists at several key points across Delhi and Mumbai. The images were used to replicate a romantic scene from the movie. As a further extension to the innovation, the channel used several models as mannequins, who stood at Bandstand and Marine Drive in Mumbai on a given day and representatives from the channel joined them with huge posters to promote the movie. Talk of a more innovative example and Star Plus’ innovation for its mega serial Mahabharatcannot be missed out. In September last year, the channel created the Mahabharat Museum in malls across Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Indore, Lucknow, Baroda and Allahabad. Now, quite pertinently, such innovations attract more relevance from genres where differentiation through content is not easy. Says Kapil Sharma, vice president—marketing, 9X Media, “Since it is very difficult to differentiate channel content for genres such as movies and music, it helps in building brand differentiation through events and other brand experiences.” Today, what is really catalysing this shift toward innovation on-ground by television is the acknowledgment of the medium even from genres where differentiated content continue to be the key (GECs, kids, youth networks). Says Nitesh Kripalani, executive vice president—Sony Entertainment, “Differentiation through content is just not enough anymore. Marketing teams are now pushing their creative limits to come up with unique ideas that are rooted in the brand essence and build experiences on-ground which are relevant where the brand in concerned.” Currently, entertainment marketing is steadily moving from being a communication medium to a medium that is expected to engage. For its most popular show Devon ke Dev… Mahadev, Life OK launched the Mahadev Ganga Mahotsav in Haridwar in January 2013. The campaign is propagated as a social awareness initiative to find plausible solutions to save the river Ganga. The intent was also to establish Life OK as a channel that cares. Says Shailendra Jha, head of Mahadev Ganga Mahotsav and creative director, Life OK, “Ganga, as per mythology, flows from the locks of Lord Mahadev. Therefore, we felt that a campaign that focuses on saving this very Ganga would serve as a perfect connect with our audiences.” UTV Stars, the Bollywood channel under the Disney-UTV umbrella, launched a unique property called Walk of the Stars in 2012. It is a landmark property devoted solely to Indian cinema in a bid to pay tributes to the fraternity and reinforce the channel positioning as ‘the official channel of Bollywood’. Besides customised slabs consisting of handprints or signatures placed at these locations, the property also has brass statues of select legendary celebrities. The property is located at Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai, which is also home to a number of Bollywood’s rich and famous. “Walk of the Stars has become a significant tourist destination with an average footfall of 5000 over weekdays that goes up to over 10,000 on weekends. We are in talks with Mumbai’s tour operators to include Walk of the Stars as a must-see destination in Mumbai since Bollywood is a significant part of the city’s DNA,” says Shikha Kapur, vice president and head of marketing for studios, interactive and youth and movie channels, Disney-UTV. Talk of the network’s kids brand initiative and Disney Channel’s 2012 and 2013 Jet Set Go campaign needs a special mention. It all started with a contest where children had to spot a plane on the channel and through a simple missed call mechanism, they could win the trip to Disneyland for their entire family. Thirty kids and their families from across the towns of Guwahati, Amreli, Patiala, Jagdalpur, Jabalpur along with Nagpur, Nashik, Bangalore and Mumbai travelled to the park. The importance of increased focus on innovative on-ground activities is not just about the event, but about the amplification that it produces in terms of coverage over news channels and press articles. Hence, though the reach of on-ground activities is limited to a small section of the audience, the amplification that it creates reaches viewers and readers across geographies. “Experiential marketing coupled with positive word-of-mouth is what creates brand resonance and large-scale sampling for a show or a channel. These activities aim to make the consumer the marketer and ambassador of the idea,” says Ashish Pherwani, partner, EY.