by Raghu Bhat and Manish Bhatt
Like any leader brand, Star Network has a responsibility to expand the market.
However, what is striking, this time, is the sheer audacity of the marketing ambition. This is not an incremental viewership exercise. Rather, it’s a carefully mounted campaign by the broadcasting behemoth to cement its leadership status, beyond doubt by creating a new ‘primetime’ – The 11 am Sunday morning slot.
This is not easy. Lifestyles have changed since Ramanand Sagar held the nation in thrall with the Mahabharata and Ramayana in the 80s. Entertainment options have multiplied. The biggest change however, is that the families with higher disposable incomes have lower disposable time.
The weapons that have been deployed for this ‘ultimate war for eyeballs’ are commensurate with the magnitude of the task. The biggest eyeball magnet – Aamir Khan. Fresh new content – A reality show that is devoid of category clichés like ‘doctoring’ and screechy hype. Scale – The show will be simulcast on the bouquet of Star channels, in multiple languages and DD, for the first time ever. Innovative marketing – the promos are being run in cinema halls. Following the Bollywood tradition of using an item number to create a buzz about a film, a song has been released to publicize the TV show.The disruptive product, along with the level of marketing investment will, in all likelihood, lead to high trials. This will lead to high recall for brands like Airtel who are active sponsors.
The success of the show will help brand Star Plus set a benchmark and command a premium. It will help brand Aamir Khan re-establish a new ‘sociable’ dimension to his perfectionist, slightly reclusive screen persona. It will also help sponsor brands get a pie of what could be, a path-breaking TV property.
However, repeat purchase or in this case, repeat viewing will happen only if the content manages to engage. From Star’s perspective, the assumption is – If the content is compelling, people will create time to fit it into their schedules. Rather than vice versa. That’s the reason even matinee shows of a good Bollywood movie does steady business even on weekdays.
The other important aspect is- the segmentation of the television audience. The use of a mass celeb like Aamir Khan and the common man, hailing from every nook and corner of India, are hooks that will attract people from every socio-economic segment. Evidence suggests, it will be a show that will feature an ‘open display of emotions’. Again, something that is designed to click with women, as well. This pan-India nature of the television audience is the bulls eye target for India’s advertisers- the telecom companies and the FMCG brands. Moreover, many of these companies are looking at rural and Tier 2 towns for the next phase of growth which this show is almost customized to deliver.
On the flip side, the comparative lack of success can lead to a rethink of the use of expensive celebrities in creating TV content. After all, it can’t get much bigger and more expensive than this. If that happens, the next phase of TV content will have to go back to the power of original content ideas, sans celebrities, for some time.
Raghu Bhat and Manish Bhatt are founder directors of Scarecrow Communications Ltd, one of India’s fastest growing ad agencies. They handle brands like Reliance Digital, DLF, Religare, Future Capital, Viacom 18, Eristoff and Anchor Panasonic, to name a few.