Traditionally P&A (print & advertising) in Hindi films is a big determinant in determining the success of films. While earlier the producers were more content in terms of looking at the COP (cost of production) and then deciding the P&A depending on the kind of distribution deals struck, things have been changing a lot in this aspect in the recent past. Earlier one wasn’t always sure of whether the film would have a definite same day all India release or a staggered release. Also even in case of a same day All India release the producer had to take a call on P&A keeping in mind the number of prints being distributed across territories. But with the physical print system slowly fading away and digital distribution now being the norm more or less everywhere, today’s P&A budgets are mostly meant for promoting the film only.
P&A With Respect to Film’s Overall Budget
When it comes to film promotions or P&A budgets there is certainly no one size fits all approach that should be used and thankfully production houses and independent producers are realizing it now. People have started realizing the need for making customized plans depending on various parameters like the COP, the presence or absence of big stars, the genre and many more such. Even for films with a similar budget range people associated are trying to get out following the same tried & tested ways of equating the elements involved in P&A. But despite the changes that are being witnessed unfortunately the dependence on P&A continues to remain extremely high, there seems to be no escaping that unfortunately.
Producers continue to shell out fairly high amounts on P&A in Bollywood, and in terms of % of the film’s total cost, the smaller the film, the higher is this % usually. For example if it’s a film with say a COP of 40 crores, then the film could end up with a P& A budget of say 12-15 crores, which means 23-27 % of the total cost of the film. On the other hand a film with a COP of 4 crores could end up with a P&A budget of 3 crores, which means a high 43 % of the total cost of the film. If one wonders why this disparity, then it’s fairly simple and it’s all about business economics. The bigger the budget then obviously the chances of having well known cast and crew becomes possible. This in turn implies that good barter deals with outdoor/OOH media is definitely happening. This could also ensure a lot of brand tie-ups happen which again could cover a significant cost of print & T.V campaigns. Of course all this is possible with smaller films as well; just that it’s not easy to get this carried out properly.
The Satellite T.V Problem
Another aspect to be looked into is that while promoting a film on satellite T.V has always been traditionally expensive, especially on National channels, the recent 10+2 (10 minutes of commercials+2 minutes) cap insisted upon by TRAI which is already being implemented in a phased manner slowly across all channels is only adding to the difficulty in using the medium effectively. This cap is bringing about an inevitable increase in ad rates as now the slots are limited and at a premium. So this makes the prospect of effective utilization of the medium all the more expensive. The other change that is being noticed slowly is that with the ad/promo rates increasing, there is an effective shift in bringing out promos of smaller durations. So if 30 second trailers/teasers were the norm earlier, there is a shift towards 20 second promos these days. Now while this could cut down on the cost aspect to an aspect, would this be effective for all sorts of films and their campaigns is a question to which all producers and movie marketers are still waiting to understand better.
An Interesting Case Study- Ship of Theseus
Once in while one is happy to come across films which totally change the dynamics of the whole game. Take for instance a film like Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus, which is a true blue indie film which benefited with a presenter like Kiran Rao and a distribution partner like UTV coming on board. Considering that it was a very low budget film conventional wisdom would have meant that UTV would have pumped in a P&A budget similar to or even higher than the COP. But realizing that this was an experimental film and that it catered to a niche audience, UTV decided to stay away from ATL (above the line i.e mass media) promotional activities and instead focused on purely an online and social media campaign. The initial release was restricted to 6 cities, and people across the Country were encouraged to vote for their city if they wanted it to be released over there as well. Eventually this way they ended up extending the release to 37 cities overall.
P&A in Regional Cinema-An Outlook
What is the scene currently in regional cinema? Does it fare better or worse right now when compared to Hindi cinema? Well for one it’s imperative to note that the P&A costs are relatively on the lower side in regional cinema and there are various factors responsible for the same. For starters when it comes to promotion on satellite T.V then it will be done on regional channels like for Bengali films it will be Bengali channels, for Malayalam films it will be Malayalam channels and so on. Whereas in case of Hindi cinema mostly the channels end up being National channels and thus the cost of promotion is much higher. Also when one comes to print media, while these days regional films do use English/National newspapers, the dependence is still fairly low when compared to Hindi cinema where the dependence is very high, once again escalating the costs.
Also when it comes to P&A in case of films made in the South, the respective industry associations also try to do their bit in regularizing things. In A.P for example the producers council (TFPC) has been trying to cap the P&A spends on all Telugu films and tries to ensure that uniform ad rates are established for print and T.V. Of course a few bigger films do try to bypass this if needed by ensuring the brand endorsement route, but these do not impact the smaller films to a major extent. In case of Tamilnadu and Kerala too similar measures are being tried out, though there is still a long way to go. In case of Malayalam cinema a lot of films have been getting their satellite T.V rights pre-sold and thus obviously this ensures that they do get to manage a comfortable scenario at least with the channel where the film has been sold to.
Also in case of Tamil cinema the producers council is trying to ensure that smaller films are not impacted by the big films by keeping a cap of allowing only the festival dates (like Pongal, Deepavali etc) as preferred periods for films of big actors. Of course people do tend get away with if they have planned otherwise, but at least there is an attempt to check things, which is not there in case of Hindi cinema so far. The use of F.M.Radio stations is also more optimal when it comes to regional cinema, which doesn’t seem to be so in case of Hindi cinema. Now we do understand that radio promotion works a lot more cheaply than T.V and yet there is a reluctance to fully tap the potential of the same. Another aspect that’s well utilized in case of regional cinema but hardly so in case of Hindi cinema is the usage of audio launch and trailer launch as a promotional tool. When it comes to Tamil and Telugu films for example the audio and trailer launch functions (sometimes both happen together) are well made use of as a way to promote the film. While this used to be common in Hindi cinema too, with the drop in the sales of audio cd’s (thanks to piracy), the industry seems to be no more keen to focus on the same. While it’s true that sales of audio cd’s have dropped in case of regional films as well, the producers there still feel that the occasion more than serves the purpose of helping in a film’s promotion.
The Way Ahead
Sometimes producers are keen to experiment and look at out of the box options when it comes to promoting and distributing their films but trade sentiments and lack of positive encouragement also holds them back many a times. Also this has become a vicious cycle of sorts where one continues to have to focus on heavy P&A for the lack of doing anything better in that front. With more and more interesting content looking likely to emerge from Hindi cinema over the rest of 2014, will we get to see more experiments and ways of minimizing the P&A budgets? Would we get to see some innovations in terms of movie marketing? Well let’s wait and see how the rest of the year unfolds.
– Vivek Rangachari
Note- The author is Business Head, DAR Investments & Commissioning Producer, DAR Motion Pictures, the producers of films like The Lunchbox, D-Day, Mickey Virus, Haunted, Ugly etc.
This article was originally published in ‘Star Blockbuster’ Magazine, but it has now been edited and re-published here.