Video streaming platforms up marketing game for direct-to-digital films

Video streaming platforms in India that have been premiering films directly on the service, helping many bypass the theatrical route, are upping the marketing game for these movies. Titles like Monica O My Darling, Darlings, Blurrr and Govinda Naam Mera, among others, are primarily targeting influencers and content creators on YouTube and Instagram who connect better with Gen Z and millennial audiences. Outdoor, print and even radio advertising has been attempted for wider communication and while spends are not at par with mainstream theatrical movies, there is a very strong post-release plan often in place if the film is receiving strong word-of-mouth.

“With the growth of digital video consumption, direct-to-digital films have increasingly become a route for good content to reach the masses and cater to the right set of audience cohorts. They bring in more visibility encouraging consumption uptake on the platform,” Manish Kalra, chief business Officer, ZEE5 India said. With such films, there is greater scope to innovate with marketing techniques as they come as fresh, new titles with no prior consumer sentiments in comparison to post theatrical launches, Kalra added. ZEE5 has premiered films such as Blurr, Forensic and Lockdown in the past few months and has LOST with Yami Gautam and Chattriwali starring Rakul Preet scheduled for release.

Shivam Chanana, assistant vice-president of media, marketing and publishing (TV), T-Series said companies like theirs are exploring digital marketing avenues along with traditional means of promotions like print, radio, television and outdoor for digital premieres of movies, ensuring that avenues for influencers and content creators grow multi-fold in the process.

“Marketing campaigns are driven to create awareness across all touchpoints, with digital sitting at the driver’s seat- be it tapping into the creator economy, making trending moments with Reels or Tweets, and editorial or advertorial content,” Ambika Sinha, associate creative director at The Rabbit Hole, the video solution agency of Zoo Media Network. When it comes to-word-of-mouth advertising, nobody does it better than influencers and creators especially when talking to Gen Z and millennials, Sinha added.

Song releases, social activations, on-ground marketing – these have been a part of a movie’s promotion for long, but the addition of influencers and content creators to the marketing mix has added a new level to the efforts, Jitendra Hirawat, director at digital agency SoCheers Films said. For Netflix’s Darlings, there was a lot of focus on digital videos on Instagram and YouTube while Disney+ Hotstar too looked at influencer activities for Govinda Naam Mera alongside releasing videos, so the scale and level of marketing is definitely focused on social media. OTT content marketing is based on user behaviour and artificial intelligence, making the efforts more successful, said Mitesh Kothari, co-founder and chief creative officer at digital agency White Rivers Media. “In OTT advertising, memes also work across multiple genres of content as people relate with them and even share them further. The OTT marketing posts may also include moment marketing and insights like ‘Did You Know?’ or even behind-the-scenes snippets to enrich viewer experience,” Kothari said.

Sushmita Sinha, senior manager, client servicing at digital agency TheSmallBigIdea said the one common strategy that OTT platforms have adopted is having a very strong post-release plan. This is especially true for films backed by strong content like the recently released Qala on Netflix which doesn’t boast of big budgets or big stars but has a solid post-release based on positive word of mouth, Sinha pointed out. “It is an interesting opportunity for print, radio, and even outdoor because till now the advertising on these platforms has been strictly according to where the movie is released. For example, a Hindi movie would be heavily marketed in Hindi markets or a Malayalam movie in southern markets. Now, with movies easily accessible across India, and the globe, advertising can happen anywhere, because the audience could be sitting anywhere,” Sinha said.

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