Necessity is the mother of invention, so goes the proverb which is now more true than ever, with the coronavirus upending lives as well as businesses. Bollywood bigwigs, too, need to come to terms with the “new normal”.
The year 2021 has just begun and while plans are being drawn for the release of big-ticket films, it is time to revisit public relations & marketing campaigns that are integral to such releases.
It is a whole new world and could very well shape the way the industry looks at monetising the spend when it comes to pre-and post-release hype.
"Now post the pandemic, activities involving large-scale audiences and fan interactions have gone very limited, with more focus being on digital and social media marketing. Since this again is full of various kinds of products, be it films or other durables, the campaign has to be ground-breaking and clutter-free,” says Girish Johar, producer and trade analyst.
More personalised social-media interactions between the star and the fans are the need of the hour, as they will lead to audience engagement and also focused and direct marketing, he says.
As films like Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi and Salman Khan's Radhe are aimed at the masses, one waits to see how these superstars reach out to their audience. The way Ravi Teja and Vijay wooed the audiences successfully with Krack and Master, respectively, may hold a few lessons for them."I really think we need to take some inspiration from superstars down South and focus on reaching out to the common man and the lowest common denominator. We have to try to get more footfalls and be back in the context of consumption. The first thing in this direction would be to let go of the extravagance," says exhibitor and distributor Akshaye Rathi.
For those who have been directly involved in the PR and marketing of films, it is time to mix and match the best from the past and bring on the innovation for the future.
"We all have learned a lot during these challenging times. Exciting stories and innovative ways of reaching out to audiences would be the name of the game, which I believe would be a good change,” says Hema Upadhyay of 1H Media Consultants.
A leading PR agency, 1H Media is working on Sonam Kapoor's Blind and Madhur Bhandarkar’s just announced India Lockdown among other films.
“We need to closely measure the vibes on how people are responding to a trailer, poster, music or the film as a whole. Though we will surely get back to big events for promotions because that has its own charm, the energy at events is different. Everyone will put in more energy in thinking about what are we going to achieve from a particular spend. The course of PR & marketing will change for sure," Upadhyay says.
Thinking out of the box, innovation and catching as much audience attention as possible are the ways forward. After all, 2021 is going to be a year when the audience would need to be convinced to step out of the safety of their homes to make their way to theatres.“Marketing is also going to change a lot post the pandemic era. It would be no more about spending huge advertising monies on template marketing but the era where 'out of the box' ideas and innovations will work," says Neeta Shah, who is a partner at Pulp Fiction Entertainment. The marketing and brand alliance company has worked on films like Sanju and 102 Not Out and soon-to-be-released Chehre and Bhuj.
Great but not too expensive ideas to catch the limited attention of the audience will work. Marketing will not be about splurging money to be everywhere, says Shah.
"Marketing will also be skewed towards digital innovations, as the audience has been hooked onto the digital medium," she says
But the content remains the biggest draw—what good is PR and marketing without a good story to sell."Post the pandemic, audience perspective has changed a lot. They are not only more open to commercial stories but compelling ones too. For makers, it's a good wide and open diaspora for telling stories and also marketing them, which has also seen a world of change. This will now be the new norm and once cinemas opens with big films, dependence on this will increase manifold," says Johar.
Bollywood has ample time to reboot its strategies and make them work for everyone involved, especially the sellers (filmmakers) and the consumers (audiences).
It was long overdue, says Akshaye Rathi. "A lot of vanity had kicked into the whole marketing and PR ecosystem and the focus was lost from reaching out to the moviegoers. I truly believe that with the changing times, the marketing and PR will definitely re-innovate," he says.We’ll all be watching.