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Case study on film promotion and publicity firm Spice now part of IIM-B curriculum

The study was carried out to observe the process where films and individuals have opened up as brands

IIM Bangalore’s Dr S Raghunath, a professor of Corporate Strategy and Policy has formulated a case study on film promotion and publicity agency Spice. The is the first time that management gurus have invested in gaining insights regarding the positioning of Bollywood movies prior to release.

The study was carried out to observe the process where films and individuals have opened up as brands. Raghunath has researched media and entertainment industry and teaches an elective course on Strategic Management in Media and Entertainment Industry and an executive education programme on Business Management in Media and Entertainment Industry.

The idea for the case study came to the professor while he was researching Vidhu Vinod Chopra Films and the release of the 2009 cult hit 3 Idiots. “When I completed the case on Vidhu Vinod Chopra Films and the movie release of 3 Idiots I knew Spice was involved in expanding their reach where regional cinema dominated the regional, small town and rural markets. From published sources I had information about their involvement with other blockbusters,” says Raghunath.

The case study, which will be used as material for the course he teaches, discloses the inception of the agency and its  role in positioning of various big and small budget films that went on to become successful at the box office. Spice has been involved in marketing and promoting films like PK, 3 Idiots, Heropanti, Dev D, Ghajini, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara among others.

The company, headed by Prabhat Choudhary, has longstanding contracts with studios like Yasj Raj Films, Excel Entertainment (Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidwani), Aamir Khan Productions and Nadiadwala Grandsons (led by Sajid Nadiadwala). Apart from this, it also handles the publicity for artists like Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone and Farhan Akhtar.

“It's indeed a revelation that an institution like IIM Bangalore is taking the area of entertainment marketing this seriously. Bollywood or entertainment marketing has emerged as a specialised domain and it’s increasingly getting structured. Movies and celebrities are big elements of popular culture and this sector is emerging as one of the important part of the overall marketing landscape. IIM Bangalore doing a case study on an entertainment marketing communication firm like ours is a great indicator for our business area as a whole,” says Choudhary.

The study highlights the importance of pre-release positioning of Bollywood movies as they are extremely perishable products being launched in a highly competitive market. In India, every weekend is an opening weekend with new Hindi feature films facing some form of competition from English and regional language films releasing on the same day or continuing attraction of the previous week's blockbuster or appeal of another Hindi film of a different genre releasing on the same day.

“The Spice case study also highlights the fact that positioning decision and communication strategy not only helped to attract pre-release audience attention but was used to put a film together and not just to sell it,” informs Raghunath.

For example, SPICE was involved with a sports film from a very different genre like ‘Bhaag Milka Bhaag’ which had no youth connect – none in Gen Next had seen Milkha in action, it was an expensive film to make, it had to influence B2B decisions – it had to be sold to the studios as well.

The other takeaways were: what determines the objectives and process of campaign development, how the diaspora of Indian society and specific audience segments focused campaigns require an in-depth understanding of consumer behaviour, media and communication preferences.

“Customer sophistication, media proliferation and fragmentation of mass market has made it essential for movie makers to establish and maintain a consistent voice and message over multiple media. Thus entertainment products are not just marketing oriented, they are now market driven. Internet and mobile technology is changing the way consumers make their entertainment decisions and therefore it is having an impact on the way movie makers market their products to consumers,” adds Raghunath.

The dominating force is not movie producers releasing entertaining movies but consumers controlling what, where and how they want to buy tickets for the purpose of entertainment and consume entertainment products.