What do you call it when a cultural giant from the west meets a cultural giant from east? Do the twains meet? Do they tell stories of success? Of defeat? Of how battles were fought. Some of them won. Some of them lost. Do they share trade secrets of how they became what they are today? Yes, it’s time that Hollywood comes calling, what! hasnt it been around for ages. Perhaps from a cinematic perspective yes inspirations have been drawn from the time Elvis decided to go eccentric with his hairdo but there is so much more to Hollywood than art 😉 and that is precisely the case with our Indian version.So when one accepts that “more” means creating a film (entertainment product) that sells then its a great idea to take notes while the western giant drops trade secrets. Some we already know of and the others we must. Here are few of those others that will allow bollywood to reach out and appeal to a larger youth market:
Divide and rule- Segmenting shows the way:
Remember when Avatar was released in India? Or Inception? Two of the biggest recent Hollywood movies, they were already dubbed in multiple regional languages. Yes. It was a simple case of well India is a large country with so many different languages and dialects. The cultural diversity wasn’t treated like an insurmountable stumbling block, more like a new market for an entertaining film, the audience of which would also find it relevant if only they could understand what was being said on the screen.
Why isn’t the Indian film industry already doing this for every major release? There is a trend but an apologetic one at that.
Mani Ratnam’s Raavan was shot and released simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil (Ravanan) with a Telugu-dubbed version. Rajinikanth-Aishwarya Rai film, Endhiran (Robot), was simultaneously release in Tamil, Hindi and Telugu. But the examples are too scattered. Endhiran could’ve had an English audience, no? the one that watches “Hiss”?
Still wondering why this strategy hasnt gone mainstream yet (maybe because both the movies weren’t a big success in ALL the languages they were released in) .The cultural preference is diverse, maybe because the industry is still very superstar driven and each appeal to their own demographics. But we say if the content of your movie is good, all that is secondary. Segment you should. Why else, would inception and Avatar be successful? Bollywood has done well to break a long standing template of song and dance and superstar power, the regional hurdle should be looked at as the next to unlock virgin markets.
Not only does one adapt via (dubbed) language but also in your promotions and packaging.
Identify regional, lingual and cultural differences one needs to overcome in the short term via promotions and packaging.For instance, if you think that a particular region will favorably respond to relatively fantastical film posters there is no reason why it shouldn’t be done.
The other more long term aspect in reaching to the regions is by creating language agnostic quality content.
There are couple of TV channels now that are dedicated to world cinema, I don’t speak any french but the sheer quality of the films makes you go, I wish I spoke the language this film was made in.
There have been some very good quality popular Hindi movies in recent times which one would have thought would have appealed to a regional audience straight away For e.g. Taare Zameen Par, 3 idiots. Even films like Udaan which catered to only a niche segment, could’ve fared well on box office had it been dubbed in different languages. Perhaps it did not have the requisite budgets, for the film nor for the promotion, but there are inexpensive ways out today. Have we sufficiently harped about Social media yet?
Social media offers an inexpensive way of promoting your films and getting out the word, Hollywood’s been doing it for a while now. Start a contest, give away special sneak preview, merchandise, gift hampers, free tickets to the fans and do it entertainingly in the spirit of the film you’re releasing. This not only creates hype about your movie, but also lets the fans connect with the film by generating a person to person buzz. It is more likely for a person my age to go watch a movie if there are plenty of favourable FB status reviews or tweets about it.
Yes, this is already happening, but more often not the way it should, considering there are about 30 million Indian Facebook users the scope is tremendous.
How does one do it well on social network then?
In May this year, a Hollywood chick flick “Bridesmaids”, weeks before its release asked participants to send pictures of themselves in their worst bridesmaid gowns. The contest generated enough hype for its target audience. What did the winners get? Well, Moroch Movies sponsored the event and hosted 30 bridesmaids to a special preview and treated them with sparkling cider toast before the screening. However, the big part of creating this social media campaign was the self deprecating “yes we are a chick flick” and “yes we have a massive market for us, woo hoo”.
This kind of strategy also takes advantage of how people recommend movies to friends. As the credits rolled, the tweets, the status updates and the texts started. In addition to the commercial advertising, the movie now also had real time endorsements from the bridesmaids. We’ll raise a cider toast to them bridesmaids.This is a clear example of how it is important to have fun if you’re on social network.
For instance Ra.One is doing a lot of stuff with Google (YouTube and Google+) but most of it is meet Shahrukh Khan, talk to him, etc etc. It might work for Shahrukh Khan but he’s not the only one who’s making films right. There were smaller Indian Wedding centric films (tannu weds mannu and band baaja barat) which could have used adaptations of brides maid like contests.
Earlier, we’ve spoken about how there lies a viral video in all of us. Hollywood gets this spot on. It realizes that getting people to first watch and then share your content requires a paradigm shift in how we think about advertising. The main aim of advertising before a movie releases is sharing. So you develop your content with a clear intent of making it go viral.
Case in point,
To promote their “Muppets” movie, Disney released a separate original video called “Green with Envy”, a parody of the Rom-Com genre. It has 1.4 million views on YouTube. Purpose served and Ka-ching! For the muppets as well.
I think Bollywood is going there halfheartedly, you do see Ra.One’s Chamak Challo going viral on YouTube long before the movie’s been released. But it’s still not the same as contentifying your trailers. You need to come up with something that’s out of the box to really command attention from your audience and spread the virtual viral fever.
You know that the trailers of movie on TV are limited to 15-30 seconds spots. So what do you do when you want to release trailers which are of varied lengths and style. There is something called as red band trailers which Hollywood uses to mix with its original (read official) trailers. Red band is a racy or R-rated form of trailer which takes full advantage of the flexibility of the online medium of video sharing (YouTube, for e.g.) These red band trailers are available along with other videos for the movie (original trailer, behind the scenes, interactive videos related to the movie) to keep an interesting mix of things available for all types of audience. The red band trailers are mostly done by the movie sponsors but are made to appear shaky so that they appear bootlegged or something that a fan might’ve done. When enough hype and buzz is generated, along with the intrigue and exclusivity, the production houses, go and remove the video on copyrights ground.Hey, the job is done, isn’t it?
Case in point,
Yea, this is the official trailer, since the red band trailer no longer exists on YouTube. But the red band created enough buzz for even the official to go viral. Many marketers and advertisers believe that it was Sony that came up with the red band video. The video went viral and was later removed from YouTube on copyrights ground. How convenient and how smart.
Another example of non-standard content advertising is the absolutely fabulous interactive YouTube video page for Kung Fu Panda 2. It features, videos of featuring Jack Black and Po( The animated protagonist from the movie).The page’s videos have generated millions of views and nearly 4 million Likes on their Facebook page. Go Po!Watch the video to know what we’re talking about. It’s fun!
Bollywood should look at this approach and come up with different versions of the same themed content to reach different audiences and prevent fatigue.
And last but not the least,
Test your social skills
Hollywood was one of the firsts to use social metrics such as the likes of “sharethrough rate” in order to quantify success of the rate at which their video is shared online. Such data helps studios make informed decisions about which trailers to use and which to abandon. Which age groups are the most active and what do they like. After you know what they like, you make the content for them. It’s a necessity as they are the targets and potential markets for film releases. Bollywood should make use of these social metrics to increase their creative assets and distribution strategies, as well as test new markets for their films. It’s all about word of mouse these days, isn’t it?
There’s no taking away from the fact that Bollywood is a cultural phenomenon which is on a continual rise , but hey , if there are things to be learnt from your western cousin, wouldn’t you shamelessly take notes? well you already have been.