‘Transformers’ is one of our most critical properties: Rudrarup Datta

India has emerged as one of the priority markets for big ticket Hollywood releases. The year 2017 started on an exciting note with two leading Bollywood actresses playing lead roles in mainstream Hollywood films – Deepika Padukone in ‘xXx- Return of Xander Cage’ and Priyanka Chopra in 'Baywatch’. Incidentally, both the films are being brought to India by Viacom18 Motion Pictures. 

‘xXx- Return of Xander Cage’ was launched amid much fanfare in January this year, which saw action star Vin Diesel promoting the movie in India along with Deepika. In fact, ‘xXx’ was released in India before its worldwide release. 

Now, Viacom18 Motion Pictures has brought the fifth installment of the hugely successful ‘Transformers’ franchise to India. ‘Transformers’ has become a multi-billion dollar franchise, with $3.7 billion in global Box-Office collections and over $10 billion business in consumer products since the first movie. 

Viacom18 Motion Pictures left no stone unturned to promote ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’. The studio partnered with cab aggregator Ola to give a firsthand experience to the audience ahead of the movie’s release in India on June 30, 2017. As part of this association, Transformers were integrated into the Ola app, and the Ola cab categories were transformed into Autobots. If a user spotted a Transformer in the app, they could win official movie merchandise. This activation was carried out across Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, and Jaipur. 

Ola Play, Ola's connected car platform too, added to the buzz that comprises exclusive behind the scenes, content from previous trailers and celebrity interviews.

Elaborating on the partnership with Ola, Rudrarup Datta, Marketing Head, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, said, “Since, ‘Transformers’ is a franchise property and has already been built up over four different films, the whole thought of partnership was initiated to generate a fresh level of innovation and excitement around ‘Transformers’. At some point, the whole interactivity is a brand because it’s an essential automobile kind of category. We wanted to give customers a touchpoint kind of experience with ‘Transformers’ and hence, we approached Ola with an idea to transform all Ola cabs into Transformer icons, which was a natural fit. Being an innovative digital platform, it talks exactly to our target profile of audiences. Ola has been a partner in the true sense for executing things brilliantly.” 

The launch video with Ola cabs went live on June 28 through emailers and in app notifications. The same was also posted on social media platforms and was aired exclusively on Republic TV on June 30 to coincide with the film’s India release. 

On using a newcomer channel like Republic TV instead of an established channel, Datta said that it was decided by Ola, which had done the media buying. “Our main objective was to get it on an app and do something really different which would give an interactive element to the film, because we wanted to present something beyond the movie theatre experience and take them to a live environment. We also did a lot of activities on digital using YouTube and online videos,” he further informed. 

Over and above the Ola partnership, Viacom18 Motion Pictures tapped the major markets through exclusive mall activations. Special Transformers engagement areas were created with a life-sized Optimus Prime installation in malls across various cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai. 

A special engagement experience was created for children and adults alike through special activities including Tattoo artists, Caricature artists, Puzzles and games. Through multiple touchpoints, Viacom18 targeted the audience across the board, reaching out to the fans of the franchise as well as the first-time potential audience. 

Speaking on the challenges faced while promoting new releases in a highly fragmented media market like India, Datta noted, “Hollywood films are really expanding their foothold, and with the kind of films coming in and the kind of experience that they provide, it is expected to cover a major share of the market in the next few years. ‘Transformers’ is one of our most critical properties and thus, the main challenge – as it is for any large Hollywood franchise film – has been creating connect with the local audiences. The main growth which is coming in for Hollywood films is from the dubbed versions and not that much from the English version.” 

He further said that for Viacom18, it is important to create a marketing pitch that is more relevant to the country, rather than just toeing the line of international marketing pitches. “That is what we do with all our films. This is the first time that we have taken ground level activations to smaller cities as well like Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Pune and have done a whole set-up and mall activations to get people to interact with the elements of the film. With this, we have further pushed the envelope into smaller cities with local languages. In Lucknow, it was purely done in Hindi, while in Bangalore and Hyderabad we have used regional languages. We are mainly pushing the dubbed version for getting newer audiences for the franchise,” Datta added. 

He also informed that Viacom18 had earmarked a huge digital spend for the promotion of the film, which was a great shift. “Almost 23 per cent of the marketing budget is covered by digital for an innovative approach. We had alliances with likeminded partners to amplify the whole impact,” Datta added.

Though compared to China, India is lagging behind as a major movie market, there are several in Hollywood who believe that the next boom in terms of actual theatre watching is going to happen in India, Datta remarked. This is attributed to India becoming a major economic hub, and also because people want to experience new content. With the quality of movie theatres improving, the reason for going to a theatre for Indian movie goers is no longer just to watch a movie, but for the entire experience. 

Datta pointed out, “Hollywood movies give you a full theatre experience with their advanced technology. For instance, 90 per cent of ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ has been shot on 3d IMAX camera offering unique visual delights and amazing Dolby sound effects. Experiential watching of cinema is on the rise in India and it will keep on growing. India is on the radar of being the next booming market.” 

Sure, the just launched Goods & Services Tax (GST) has come as a dampener for cinema halls. But as Datta remarked, “It is very difficult to predict right now what the real impact will be as GST has just come into force. I believe that the movie business will continue to be driven by the power of content. People won’t mind paying more for good content; it will be mediocre content that will face problems. There is 28 per cent tax for multiplexes, it is still under debate.” 

Meanwhile, Viacom18 Motion Pictures is gearing up for its staple Bollywood releases. The first off the block will be the Akshay Kumar starrer, ‘Toilet - Ek Prem Katha’. The trailer of the film became the highest watched Hindi movie trailer, garnering 11 million views in just 24 hours of its launch on Facebook. Given the movie’s tilt towards Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi retweeted the movie’s trailer on Twitter. 

Viacom18 has also planned several activations around ‘Toilet - Ek Prem Katha’, starting with ‘Toiletwali Selfie’, wherein chairs for the bride and groom have been replaced with the toilet seats. 

Also in the pipeline is ‘Lucknow Central’ starring Farhan Akhtar. The movie’s main theme revolves around ‘jail breaking’. Viacom18 is planning a high decibel marketing campaign for this film as well. November 17, 2017 will see the launch of the controversial historical drama, ‘Padmavati’.


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