Hype Management, Any.One?

“It’s the costliest Hindi film ever. It’s Shahrukh Khan’s dream venture. It’s India’s break-out VFX film. It took five years in the making. It will change the way our cinema is perceived worldwide. It is Ra.One.”

We were sold a million such stories in the ten-month long Ra.One campaign. In the last 3-4 weeks, the campaign itself went beyond being just another marketing campaign. It became an omnipresent media property, prevailing over any and every message you are likely to encounter in a cluttered advertising scenario. The value of the marketing is pegged at Rs. 50 crores, though a large share of this comes through co-branded promotions, where the money is shelled out by brands who want SRK in their ads.

SRK himself has given it his all. He has given an interview to every possible journalist who landed up asking for one. He has done features for news channels, visited reality shows, traveled multiple cities. He’s done all that it takes to make sure that Ra.One is easily the most hyped film in Hindi cinema history.

All the effort, all the marketing muscle, was eventually designed to give the film a rollicking start over its five-day extended opening weekend. Rs. 100cr nett still remains a realistic number at the domestic box office, a good Rs. 15cr above Bodyguard’s similarly extended opening weekend. So, all worked out as per plan, right? Umm… not sure. And here’s why.

Bodyguard was a lazy, under-developed film that survived purely on the charisma of its lead star. Yet, it got average to above average audience response, and managed to survive for at least one more week after the launch weekend hype died down. The film went onto nett Rs. 141cr over its lifetime. For the content that it offered, this is an astronomical number.

If Bodyguard’s content was 30/100, Ra.One is at least 60/100. The film may have its share of imperfections, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still better than 9 out of 10 medium to big budget films that release every month. Yes, Ra.One is a better film than Bodyguard. But those who have not liked it (and we don’t know the quantum yet) have been particularly severe on it, almost to the point of being scathing and bitter, as if SRK stole their Mojo to make this film. And I’m not talking of critics here, but normal ticket paying audiences, who happily shell out the same money on non-starters like Mausam and Anjaana Anjaani, crib for a day, and move on.

In case of Ra.One, you can be assured that they will take more than a day to move on. They will rant. They will spread the negative word of mouth. They may or may not be sizeable in number. But they will make their presence felt. After all, they were promised 120/100. So when they got 60/100, it felt like 30/100.

Under-promise and over-deliver, the general marketing rule says. Sometimes, the nature of the task doesn’t leave this option. But could Ra.One have done with at least not over-promising? At least not overdoing the over-promise? Could they have taken the option of lying just a bit lower, and let the film do at least a part of the job after its release?

Probably yes, though some will argue the juggernaut opening may not have happened if the hype was lesser. Not true. Ra.One closed its week of release with a Buzz of 90% and a Reach of 100% on Cinematix. Bodyguard was 88% and 100% at the same stage. So all the additional hype eventually was worth 2% additional buzz. Yes, Salman is a bigger star today, and Bodyguard came on the back of the roaring success of Dabangg and Ready. But if Bodyguard can touch 88% with just three full weeks of campaign, surely Ra.One didn’t need to go much beyond about 5-6 weeks of a regular, high visibility campaign to achieve its 90%.

In their zeal to reach out, Ra.One makers may have missed a trick. I’m still hopeful this doesn’t make their 60/100 film look like 30/100. We’ll know the real public opinion once we collate our exit poll rating results mid next week. But it’s a foregone conclusion that the hype may have overweighed the content in many cases.

I think Ra.One can still go onto cross Dabangg and Bodyguard’s Rs. 140-141cr lifetime. It may not be able to overhaul the Rs. 203cr nett of 3 Idiots, which is a fair result, given the huge appeal the latter enjoyed when it released, and continues to.

But long after Ra.One’s business dries up, I fear that it may be remembered as the film that was marketed so much that everyone had no option but to see it, than as a film that broke new grounds in Indian cinema, something the film can take due credit for, despite its flaws.

I’m no fanboy, but I think SRK is sharp enough to reflect upon where his campaign may have gone wrong. And more power to him to come back even stronger the next time, not necessarily even harder, though. After all, one thing Ra.One can’t be accused of is not having tried. Even if it turned out to be 60/100 in the end.

About Shailesh Kapoor

Founder & CEO - Ormax Media. Film Lover. Media Insights Detective. Budding Author. Lifelong Student.
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16 Responses to Hype Management, Any.One?

  1. Clint Eastwood says:

    Contrary to wht u said, u r a srk FANBOY …. with all characters in capital..
    everybody just dropping excuses trying to be a smart film biz guru… u guys knows nothing better thn the next one … u just have a place to opiniate and some personal fanboys to massage ur egos…
    Shailesh- none of ur recent predictions were close to the actuals… and though u come up with more excuses to cover ur asinity .. but RaOne gonna end up way before ur predicted figures…

  2. ashish says:

    very very good post !! i am a huge srk fan myself and i DID Not like the film.. however credit to srk for trying something like this. again,, srk being soo intelligent, i wonder how he allowed such stupidity in parts of the film.
    more so.. i really think he over-did the publicity thing.. bt as srk tweeted other day.. over the period of time.. everything will be forgotten and movie will be remember . i do hope people remember this atleast.

  3. Harsh says:

    Clearly a biased article. We can all see you are a SRK fan boy. But on a side note I think the marketing campaign of this movie was similar to tees maar khan (with one song and overhype) and the content is also similar so it should be less than 100 crores easily. BTW 60/100 ?? seriously ?? did u see the movie ??

  4. kumardheraj34@gmail.com says:

    very well written, whatever RA.One is, its many times better than any of sallu’s movie. shahrukh khan still is the BAADSHAH.
    RA.One will definitely earn atleast 175 crores in india.

  5. Nice article sir
    can u unblock me on twitter ?i have no idea why did u block me please unblock me

  6. Shekhar says:

    First of all, Ra.One is a new kind of film. Its a totally different & new genre for bollywood movie lovers. Marketing is to reach as many people as u can..I think SRK did d right thing by promoting ra1 in a grand way. Otherwise these stupid indian audiences’ taste wl never rise & bollywood wl never progress. Thanks

  7. Keerat says:

    Very well written Shailesh! Can’t fault your logic here!

    In retrospect the hype does seem like an overkill, but i think it stemmed from two thoughts at the makers’ end: the first was fear – fear of SRK having been out of circulation for almost two years, and Salman Khan having neatly toppled him off his King’s throne; the second was pride – i think they truly believed that this film would redefine VFX for Bollywood, bring it at par with Hollywood and hence deserved the extra publicity.

    But sadly, the adage that Content is King still rings true – more now than ever before, with the audiences more exposed, evolved and hence less forgiving! The lack of a tale makes all the effort pale. While I agree that the film is leagues ahead of Bodyguard in terms entertainment, but where Ra.One will not be able to recover is in the lack of the immense star power that Salman wields, but SRK has lost.

    The 120,60,30 is a commonly felt insight that has been very well articulated. The Word Of Mouth scores for the film are now eagerly awaited! 🙂

    • Thanks. Films make stars, not the other way round. Even Salman was “remade” by Wanted.

      Nice two reasons for why they went hammer and tongs.

      But your views on the film’s content seem a bit too conclusive. It may be premature to say if the content has been liked or not.

      • Clint Eastwood says:

        lol.. keep trying to sell tht extra ticket… but its all downhill from tomorrow… won’t even break the weekend record… waiting for ur next list of excuse… rofl..
        “the film which broke new grounds in Indian cinema.” …. lmao .. 2.5 friggin vfx scenes and no story.. some groundbreaking stuff… its being compared with bodyguard.. tht says a lot bout the film… snoozefest… but u keep doing the work which ur “malik” advised u to do…

  8. Tabish says:

    This was a very good article written by you sir…though i am a fan of srk and salman khan but i didnt like the movie Ra1 that much…..but still it is far far much better than lame bodyguard…i fail to understand as to why people are so hell bent against srk and his project..and yeah..i cant help but request mr.clint eastwood to please stop maligning the writer of this article..your comments are sounding very irritating and childish..like someone has paid you to rant against the writer of the article!!..sorry!!

  9. harsht says:

    First I have a clarification to offer – some other ‘Harsh’ has commented on your post, and that is not me – I am harsht on most online social media 🙂
    Moving to Ra.one, I couldn’t agree more about the 120/60/30 ‘.

    We are basing bad press of Ra.one so far on one of two things – Bad critical reviews ( not all are uniformly bad, except the expected ) and bad public opinion ( on twitter). I think looking at both sources for what Indian audiences ( or for that matter anywhere) is not without problems. Glee is perhaps the most liked show in the US on twitter, but it doesn’t get to the top 25 in ratings. And those tweeting are anyway exaggerating, these will get nullified in the averages of the broader word of mouth.

    1. Critics merely predict (at times) with some accuracy the success of a film. But they rarely influence movie going behavior, except for art house cinema. The more ‘trade oriented’ critics have given it better reviews than others.

    2. Regarding user reviews, most studies ( of course in the West) have shown that it is the Volume of User Reviews that predicts success, not the valence. So if lots of people are tweeting that Ra.one was bad, this still indicates a high volume of reviews.

    3. Regarding WOM at least initial numbers from IMDB ( again this may be more diaspora, multiplex types) suggest a moderate to good response ( 7.0 out of 10)

    4. Finally, the fact that Ra.one does not have close competitors will also help see it through ( Many people simply choose from available options and at least for now Ra.one is more available than others)

    Would wait for WOM figures!

    • Hi!

      I certainly didn’t base my views on either critics or on twitter. For that matter, I don’t think imdb is any barometer of Indian mass opinion either. My company is in the business of tracking the real entertainment consumers on a daily basis. My initial views are based on some of this unstructured feedback that has started coming in. That’s why I said, that the quantum of this audience base, who felt let down, will be known next week.

      The day I start writing media stories using twitter data and media reviews, you can assume that I’ve shut shop 😉

      • harsht says:

        No no my, not your feedback was basis these platforms – I couldn’t do much better sitting here.

        But the volume vs valence point is something which intrigues me – an average rated but much talked about movie does better than a highly rated but slightly less talked about one. Any clues why?

        Another question, to what extent are movies like these sold out well in advance – especially now that people book on phones etc

        • Advance booking has declined as a concept in the last 10 yrs. There are about 350+ multiplexes in India, and for big films, there are so many shows that tickets are generally almost always available upto one hour in advance, and for most film right at show time too. In fact, advance was a much stronger concept when single screens existed as the only real platform. I remember standing in advance queues for upto 6 hrs to buy tickets for certain movies on Monday morning. This technology thing is really a small speck that offers convenience, but doesn’t change the nature of relationship that people have with films.

          Regarding your first point, all films have two components to their collections – one that comes from the opening and one that comes from word of mouth and sustenance thereby. The first comes from hype and promo appeal, the second from actual content. As simple as that. In my recent tweets (yesterday), I spoke about how lifetime to day 1 collections is a key measure of sustenance. Pre-release hype has nothing to do with the film’s quality itself. Very few people understand this duality of concepts. Even in the film industry, it’s a struggle to explain this to some. For many, good opening means good word of mouth. And vice versa.

  10. harsht says:

    Actually what you say as Day 1/ Total collections in some 90s literature has been modelled as Week1/ Total( by DeVany and Walls, Hollywood Economics) – and the whole sleeper effect is also what we see because of this – films that pick up in week 3 or so – but often that is for those that are released in smaller number of screens!
    Don’t worry about replying to my loud thinking at this stage – It is just so interesting to see that tonnes of this stuff I read is being done by you, and there is no academic work on this on Bollywood – we must use some of your old data and publish 1/2 good papers – they can be very enlightening

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