The Promo Overkill

At the movies, my growing up years were the 90s. From Maine Pyar Kiya to Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was the period when my Bollywood fascination was at its peak. Watching a film upto 5-6 times in a theatre was not unusual. Some entered double figures too.

The build-up to a film before its release was radically different from what it is today. Not too many young people can imagine this, but I’ll still try. The only sources available for new films related information were newspapers and a handful of general entertainment channels that aired trailers in defined slots about twice a day. There were no tabloids, no music channels, no reality shows, no RJs, no Twitter, no Facebook, no YouTube.

The result? You went to watch a film with a fair amount of intrigue. You knew only so much, and the rest was for you to find once the lights went off and the film started rolling.

Today, you have to deal with information overload. You may not watch music channels, but Twitter will tell you all the goss about the film and its promos. You may not be on Twitter, but Mumbai Mirror or Delhi Times will throw paid and unpaid stories in your face. You may not even read the papers, but popular reality shows on GECs will ensure there is no escaping the “buzz”.

This overexposure certainly kills the old world charm of a big film release. I wanted to check out if this was only my feeling. So we collected some data to understand the hypothesis better. The table below captures the total duration of unique video footage that was exposed for six different movies, before the release. This could be through Internet, television or any other audio-visual medium. If a shot is used in three different promos, it has been counted only once, as we are reporting “unique” footage here.

All numbers are in seconds.

Film Song footage Dialogue footage Action/ moments footage Total unique footage
HAHK 181 0 5 186
DDLJ 228 0 37 265
Singham 402 99 104 605
Bodyguard 546 72 101 719
Ra.One 329 46 166 541
Rockstar 840 83 62 985

Let’s jump straight into some observations:

1. The footage exposure has increased almost four-fold, from about 3-4 mins to 10-16 mins.

2. Media data will tell us that the frequency of exposure has gone up ten-fold. So the real impact of creative and media put together could be as high as 40-fold!

3. Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge did not reveal even one dialogue from the film before its release.

4. You have enough footage in the four 2011 films promotions to construct the entire story, and eventually visit the theatre to essentially fill in the blanks. For HAHK and DDLJ, the story was unknown. At best, the genre and the premise were known.

So, what do these reveal-all campaigns achieve? Opening weekends? Are we saying that if the DDLJ campaign played out today, the film would not have got a record opening? Then why the eagerness to put more material out, and spend a lot more money promoting it so aggressively?

There are no easy answers. Someone needs to try out the good old formula and make it work in the new context. And then, we can expect everyone to follow suit!

Till then, I’ll miss watching films the good old way. With the intrigue intact.

About Shailesh Kapoor

Founder & CEO - Ormax Media. Film Lover. Media Insights Detective. Budding Author. Lifelong Student.
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6 Responses to The Promo Overkill

  1. Ritu Chhabra says:

    If comparing it with old times, yes, the pre release exposure to the movie is very high. But it has to be! given the increase in the competition this space has seen over the yrs! Competition is with different genre movies, to increased TV software, to increased time spent on user generated online AV content to so on and on. It wud only be prudent to create hype and build up to the release! Who wud want to go into a theatre uninformed as to what he is headed for! thats my opinion! On the contrary, I believe the over kill is riding very high and actually killing viewers of boredom in the area of TV serial promos! Thats wat I feel.

    thnx/ Ritu Chhabra

  2. Interesting point, Ritu. That definitely is the counter argument. The thing is, after a point, the campaign can begin to work against the film, as every campaign has an in-built fatigue and peaks at a point, after which it begins to lose steam. The objective of a film’s campaign should be to reach the peak right on the day of the release. Data we have suggests many films are reaching the peak about 7-14 days before the release. Which is an opportunity lost + money wasted!

  3. Pratima Madaye says:

    Bang on its true…intrigue is no more there and before seeing we know it all

  4. what an article….very true!!…u shld have also included DON2 …coz every body had a good idea abt the plot from the promos!!..for a thriller, the less ppl know abt the story, the better for the film makers and the better will be the shock factor

    • Interesting point. I remember how Abbas-Mustan thrillers in the 90s said nothing about the story in the promos, and only focused on the music and the comedy. The right balance is required. The genre should be known, but not the story.

  5. Actually the point you made in your article is very true. I don’t live in India and I’m not exposed to promo activities if I don’t search for them on the internet. I think that what still keeps me interested in Bollywood. I had followed a couple of Bollywood actors and actresses in Twitter for a while and I remember I felt suffocated with the promo of the movies coming up.

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