Comedy is a very difficult and complex art to manage every day: Neeraj Vyas
Sony SAB has been struggling with being perceived only as a comedy channel, that too one that focuses on sitcoms. Neeraj Vyas and Vaishali Sharma speak to Adgully on how Sony SAB plans to break through the set perceptions and see growth.
Sony SAB has rolled out yet another brand refresh campaign and this time it is to promote the proposition of ‘Khushiyon Wali Feeling’. The channel is now ready to redefine itself through a new philosophy which is driven on the insight that “Jitni insaan ki khushi badhti hai, utni hee duniya mein insaniyat bhi badhti hai”.
With the new brand philosophy, Sony SAB will stand for a larger purpose in life – that of making people happy by bringing unforgettable moments and infinite experiences that lift the heart and free the minds of the viewers in turn making them better human beings.
Edited excerpts of Adgully’s conversation with Neeraj Vyas, Business Head, Sony SAB, PAL and Sony MAX movie cluster and Vaishali Sharma, Head - Marketing & Communications, Sony MAX Movies Cluster & Sony SAB.
With the brand refresh, what would be the content strategy for Sony SAB going forward?
Neeraj Vyas: It’s a big task to be consistent and be able to deliver what we have promised, which is providing entertainment for the entire family. We have set very high standards for ourselves – as brand that stands for certain values and that value is very clear, that we are here for the whole family and we want the consumer to feel emotionally bonded with the brand. I firmly believe in this new MRP reality that if your brand is not differentiated and if your brand doesn’t stand for something, you will have to pay the price for it. We are blessed with the uniqueness that the brand has on its own and our responsibility is to grow and develop that. The strategy is to work harder and keep working on sharpening the bond that we have created with the customers by being an emotionally sorted brand from everything else that it is on offer. From communications and content stand point, the challenge is to keep enhancing what the consumer genuinely wants from the brand.
How did you come up with the ‘Khushiyon Wali Feeling’ proposition?
Neeraj Vyas: It came from a random conversation that I was having with my colleagues, when one of them said, ‘Whenever I watch SAB TV I feel mast’. Different people have different emotions when they watch SAB TV. And today, a lot of television is about that heightened factor; it is a lot about the hook points which leave the viewer felling tensed or strained. It’s very rare that somebody says ‘I feel good when I watch your content’ or ‘I feel mast’. That’s when I and Vaishali decided to do a dipstick survey to find out what emotions SAB TV raised amongst people. We are virtually sitting on a goldmine in terms of what the consumer thinks about the brand. Our survey revealed that there is certainly something good that we are doing. We sharpened the core thought over long extensive meetings with our agency and came up with this proposition.
SAB TV started off as a pure comedy channel and now you are making a conscious move from that kind of content. What is the thought behind that decision?
Neeraj Vyas: You are right, it has been a conscious decision. To be honest, Comedy is a very difficult and complex art to manage every day. All the factors that go into making a comedy genre a hit is very difficult, you need to work hard so that your work stands out. When you decide to do only comedy, you tend to do a lot of sitcoms, where it is a challenge to come up with plots that stand out – there are certain plots that work and some that don’t work. We have done some outstanding work with ‘Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah’, which has completed 2,750 episodes.
What works, according to me, are the characters and a longer linear arch which has a progression in growth. If you are only in this comedy space, then the characters don’t grow in all of them. We have now moved on to zones which are clearly into the family factor.
We have also experimented with weekend programming, but for now it is wait and watch. We had also launched a show, called ‘Lakkhan’, in the horror-comedy genre. We will take a call on this only post September, because that’s when this whole MRP thing will settle down and we will know where we stand and get more clarity.
How has Sony SAB’s brand image evolved over the years?
Vaishali Sharma: The brand has to evolve and we are working on it the first big step of evolution happened two years ago when you kind of embarked on a new journey, that took the brand and the ethos forward in a way changing with the times, both in terms of our content and product offering in terms of the value it offers. I think the crucial step is to take it one step forward so we are not changing but we are evolving to a higher level. Brands in today’s time have to stand for a higher stand in life. Irrespective of any consumer pattern they will come back with it you and be with you. The fact that we have been moved from being a pure comedy channel to a space which is much larger without compromising on the values that is providing meaningful entertainment. So whether we are dabbling with family stories like Bhakarwadi and looking at fantasy like Aladdin or Tenali Rama they all are human stories which people relate to and they all have fun to it yet with an human emotion.
Could you tell us more about the new campaign?
Vaishali Sharma: The idea started that we don’t really want to be known as a comedy channel we did a research to find out bases of happiness and what are we offering people and what are the pieces of happiness that are important in a person’s life. And with happiness and Sony Sab we are not making big promises and trying to be more relevant and emotional and the fact is that it’s happening on a very small insight. Our promise to customers is that we’ll make them feel happy. It’s a sharp instance that we’ll all relate to. It’s not about the campaign it’s about we relate to it. Taking our philosophy forward choosing happiness ambassadors every month is something we want to do in the digital space, we are telling people to nominate happy people who they have in their life and we will make them the Sony SAB happiness ambassadors. We are going to get normal people on board as our brand ambassadors, we have many ideas and we are going to get the characters involved with the brand, telling them how ‘Khushiyon Wali Feeling’ makes them happy. We have really cool ideas on the board that we will execute further but the hint to you is doing something good getting the consumers to be a part of it.
What are your comments on BARC India deciding to separately report viewership of pay channels and FTA channels?
Vaishali Sharma: We are pay channel and I believe it is too early to say how it pans out and we are still waiting for details but we are confident that it is going to be very big advantage for us. At the end the choice is with the customers and they have the power to choose, the way the performance of the channel will roll, the decision will be taken solely by the industry, the changes are too dynamic and will be taken in ¾ months and these are the kinds of fragmentation became a reality we all have to wait and see.
What kind of traction is Sony SAB seeing following the implementation of TRAI's new MRP regime?
Vaishali Sharma: Why are we celebrating with the campaign, yes we were planning this campaign for a while it came in an apt time and today we are seeing our numbers grow and we are time spend in number 2 which means the choice people are making it’s not about choosing a channel it’s about spend time with channel. We have different sections of audience that we cater to and that’s we are confident of the fact that we are in the right space.