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Film Promotions Don’t Fool The Public

Film Promotions Don’t Fool The Public

By Vinod Mirani

NEW DELHI, (IANS) – Filmmakers, especially the stars who prefer to make their own films, or to call the shots when they are not the makers, are seen to be working out new ways of promoting films. They try changing their pre-release promotion strategies.

One must say that the stars have not been very imaginative so far. Most of the time, they just want to better the filmmaker before them to score a point. For instance, there was a time when filmmakers booked several promo/trailer slots on television channels. So, if the earlier count by a producer was 400 slots, the next one would score for personal glory by booking 500!

A television channel even had a special slot at 7 p.m. when it telecast promos of various films. The inspiration, it would seem, came from the Saptahiki slot of the Doordarshan of yore! This 7 p.m. slot is one when nobody is free to watch television, nor wants to see the same promos every day. But the film folk were gullible. If the other producers were doing it, it would be good.

As more TV channels sprang up, the stars decided to create news. The channels wanted to be the first in everything that was worth or not worth showing. So, the reporters ran from one event location to the office, handed over the content, and ran to the next event.

The print media was being ignored for the electronic media. After all, television flashed an event the same evening while the print media followed a fixed schedule. Finally, producers realized that these promo slots on television were helping only the channels, not their films.

Some producers learned to buy fewer but more productive time slots on other channels (news or special interest). Rarely did a producer or his team think up an original idea to promote a film.

Feroz Khan did something novel to promote ‘Janbaaz’ (1986). The Sharjah one-day cricket matches in those days were as popular as the IPL is today, if not more. Feroz Khan displayed the advertising panels of the film on the boundary lines and there was no better way to advertise your film, especially when India and Pakistan were playing.

Boney Kapoor, who knew how to use a good idea when he saw one, quickly followed with the same medium with his ambitious project, ‘Mr. India’.

How did a star make news with whatever limited imagination they could use? The star created an event on a regular basis like the launch of a film promo. Aamir Khan, for example, would invite television channels. He would launch one promo each time at some far-from-civilization location (probably getting a good deal) at something like 10 a.m.! Another promo a few days later, same place, same timing. Poor television crews fell for it, the people did not. The ploy did not last long.

The other ploy was to create a controversy. This trick never worked and often ended up costing the filmmaker financially.

Film advertising entered our homes for the first time when All India Radio started its commercial services. The radio played jingles of both consumer products as well as movies. Then there were wall posters. They were not there when you went home but the next morning, when you stepped out, new movie posters graced the walls as well as kiosks on streetlight poles. They were the greatest eyeball grabbers, especially the six-sheet poster, which was 5′ x 10′. They told you a lot about a film and it was normal for movie buffs to stand below them and gape.

The other major draw was a combination of film photo sets and show cards. They were displayed prominently in a cinema theatre with glass windows facing the road. It was normal for a few people to gather there and take in all that these photos had to offer!

Then there was railway publicity. Those six-sheet posters adorned all the prominent railway stations, on the local and the main lines. This display took a long time but, eventually, covered each station where a train stopped.

Radio and railway publicity were the kind that brought awareness to these mofussil towns and villages far from cities. AIR and Doordarshan had begun to realize the potential of film publicity. So, AIR started a morning 8 a.m. slot when a producer could air a song in three minutes of playtime for Rs 3,000. In all, about eight songs were played.

I used to rile the guys from the company that had a virtual monopoly on this medium, namely, D.S. Mittle & Sons, by noting that they started their day making over Rs 3,500 (@15 percent commission) even while they shaved and showered. Doordarshan also created a slot for the promotion of film songs on similar lines.   

A critic penned the review, but whether a film got five stars, or four stars was the domain of the publication’s marketing team, and their call used to depend on the space that the filmmaker bought. What was happening was that, while trying to fool the audience, these exercises of stars and positive reviews were meant primarily to deceive the buyers of satellite, and now OTT, rights. Only the audience was never fooled.

The whole idea of promoting a film changed with the arrival of social media. YouTube was the first to be launched in 2005. Video streaming probably never thought of becoming a medium of film promotions. But, again, the same lack of imagination was in evidence. The joy was in counting the hits on a certain song or a promo was what mattered.

Now, some filmmakers seem to have realized that all those likes on your promo on YouTube does not necessarily translate into ticket sales. By the time a film is released, that promo is stale and forgotten. It is all about impact and that impact is made only if you load it closer to the film’s release.

The makers of the recent few films have opted for this last-minute blitz to make the desired impact and keep the film talked about till its release. The promos of recent releases — ‘Pathaan’, ‘Gadar 2’ and ‘OMG 2 — have all been released just a week or fortnight before release. ‘Dream Girl 2’ was released 24 days before the film hit the big screen.

The idea seems to have worked. Shah Rukh Khan has done one better. He released a two-minute-long footage of his new film, ‘Jawan’. It was described as neither a teaser nor a promo. Just a flash. The official promo came a week before the release.

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