Indepth: Decoding OTT players’ promotion gameplans – Part 1

Video content in the OTT space has been burgeoning in the last couple of years, and gathered momentum in 2018. With so much of content available today, OTT players now feel the need to create the buzz and differentiation for their shows across media. 

The out of home (OOH) medium has for long been used by the film industry for promoting new releases. With the advent of satellite television, channels too started to leverage the OOH medium to create buzz for new shows. Quite a few innovations have been seen over the years. 

Not to be left behind, we are now seeing the OTT players increasingly turning to the OOH medium for show promotions, and they have been garnering a lot of attention and conversations with their innovations on OOH. Hugely successful shows like ‘Sacred Games, ‘Mirzapur’, etc., had seen a lot of traction on OOH as much as they did on the digital medium. People still recall the promotions for international show ‘Game of Thrones’. As the first teaser promos appeared for the finale season of ‘GOT’ during the Superbowl in the US, it will be interesting to see how they will utilise the OOH medium this time. 

However, OOH is not the sole medium for OTT players when it comes to promoting their shows. Digital remains the first point of contact, besides traditional media. 

In this 2-part indepth report, Adgully spoke to a cross-section of OTT players, content creators, as well as OOH experts to have a better understanding of the core factors that form the crux of OTT show promotions. However, despite repeated attempts, Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar could not be reached for comments. 

The core factors that form the crux of OTT show promotions 

Divya Dixit
Divya Dixit

ALT Balaji has been upping its original content in recent times with several most talked about shows. Divya Dixit, Senior VP & Head - Marketing, ALTBalaji, commented, “OTT offers personalised entertainment to consumers at their convenience. We work as per the convenience of the viewer and that’s where the marketing proposition lies. Then, of course, there are other parameters that are considered, that is whether the show is binge-watch or a multi-part series, the star cast, the target markets and the consumer cohorts. Having said that, since OTT is driven and backed by strong data analytics, we can fine-tune where we choose to target, and that forms the core of the marketing strategy. The entire strategy is to ensure a superior ROI for marketing.” 

She added, “Having said that, ALTBalaji was launched addressing the biggest demographic that is the Hindi understanding audiences, within which we have focused around segments of upscale audiences, urban mass and mass – segregated by both gender and age groups. Within each of our programme choices of Tent Pole Stories, Romantics, Drama, Soap Like, Thriller, Humour, Sensual Drama, Political Thrillers; these enable us to serve differentiated interests.” 

According to Vineet Kanabar, Director - Marketing, The Viral Fever, the strength of the story, the genre of the show, and the talent attached to the project are at the heart of any show promotion. A clear idea of who the target viewer set is, and being able to articulate the essence of the show in a succinct one liner with a strong visual theme remain at the heart of crafting a great show promotion campaign. This helps adapt the campaign brief to all relevant media channels. Other factors that are important in show promotions are the distribution platforms, PR and media strategy behind the show.  

For Ali Hussein, CEO, Eros Now, it was a complicated question. According to him, “It’s a combination of how you are able look at it with a 360-degree approach. We need to have a strong idea on how the show feels and how is it relevant to the target audience, so how you’d like to see the show and how you’d like to portray the show. I think that’s an important kind of an ingredient and then essentially it’s about being able to map out how to reach the audiences both from a creative point of perspective and the media perspective whether it’s digital, television, print, radio, outdoor, it’s a combination of media that makes sure the message reaches to the audience, for starters they can sample the product and hopefully take the true quality test.”  

For Uday Sodhi, Business Head - Digital, Sony Pictures Networks India, show promotions on OTT varied with content and TG. Talking about SonyLIV, he said that the OTT player looked at each show differently and then decided on the marketing strategy behind the same. “As a large OTT app, we are able to segment our audiences and target the right shows to the audiences it is targeted at. We look at existing audiences and at new audiences to target shows and then decide the marketing plan for the same,” he added. 

How to make show promotions that stand out? 

Ali Hussein
Ali Hussein

For ATLBalaji’s Dixit, the ideation of shows was all about fine-tuning the concept of storytelling. This applies to content in general and not targeted specifically to either OTT or broadcast. Any kind of story or concept needs to be executed and told in an interesting format to the audience else it fails. She added, “Of course, to facilitate this we have smart sharp thinkers as part of the team who do war room meetings with content, product, tech teams on every show as well as on overall brand reputation. ALTBalaji is known for its clutter-breaking content, and smart targeted marketing has only helped us increase our direct subscriber base and get enhanced visibility.” 

“At TVF, we start with the question – what do we want the viewer to do once they see this show? How do we want them to feel going into watching this, and what emotion should this invoke? Staying true to the authentic theme of the show, and bringing it alive in the promotion campaign on different media is what we aim for. Our social media presence is significant, and getting our fans invested in a show campaign helps us drive the message to more people,” elaborated Kanabar

Eros Now’s Hussein added here, “One of the things that I mentioned is how important it is to have a creative idea, some relevant examples are ‘Side Hero’, and today the audience is a lot more discerning than what it used to be maybe a few years ago. So, one of the things that we did, for example, was for our Five Years Awards for which we had these posters and images about  Kunal Raj Kapoor trying to enter the posters of ‘Krrish’ and ‘Bajirao Mastani’ – it was like the struggle of the side hero trying to get inside mainstream Rs 100-crore Bollywood blockbusters. Those are the type of things for which you partially need to create a culture, one of the things is that a lot of people are forgetting that it becomes very transactional when you only do show marketing or create a brand or a culture so that the show boosts the parent brand.” 

Sodhi elucidated that all of SonyLIV’s campaigns worked on an over-riding thought based on the current and upcoming trends. He added, “Each show is promoted depending on who the audience are and where they are. We promoted award winning show Power through a heavy outdoor and a focused digital campaign, while for the recent launch of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2’, we took a more social and influencer led approach. We were the first to explore outdoor for our original web series, ‘Lovebytes 2’. We aggressively promoted award winning show ‘The Good Doctor’, ‘Counterpart’, etc. and saw tremendous interest from viewers.” 

Which mediums are the most effective for OTT show promotions? 

Vineet Kanabar
Vineet Kanabar

“Needless to say, it has to be the digital medium, where our audience is,” said Dixit. This is followed by the traditional media mix of television, radio, outdoor and supported by social media and PR. She added, Though the competition in the OTT space is burgeoning, I think it is imperative to understand that promotions and subsequent spends are driven by various parameters like target markets, the genre of content and celebrity value.”

In a similar vein, Kanabar, too, said that digital innovations and social media have really taken centre-stage, with outdoor, experiential promotions and fan screenings helping to generate the buzz to drive a show campaign. “Meaningfully working with influencers has also worked successfully for us in campaigns like ‘Yeh Meri Family’,” he added.  

Meanwhile, for Hussein, effective meant in terms of understanding the end goal of the objective. “So, if the holy grail of the end goal means the promotion, I think that’s not the only objective associated, that’s one of the primary objectives. I think it’s a combination of how we’re able to use offline and online media, because believe it or not each one has a bigger role than the other. As a consumer today, you’re not only consuming digital, there is a certain amount of cluttered discoveries and a little bit of a problem. As far as online media is concerned, it’s a combination of how you create a differentiator,” he added. 

According to Sodhi, each show needs to have a different promotional strategy, depending on the nature of the show. He further said, “We at SonyLIV have explored different avenues for each of our shows and that has worked for us. ‘The Good Doctor’ was promoted via outdoor and digital, while ‘Power’ was more ATL led. We have promoted our originals via social media and digital to reach the relevant viewer and we have done targeted advertising for our regional shows.”

Factoring in the spends 

Uday Sodhi
Uday Sodhi

Interestingly, the advent of OTT platforms in India was with limited budgets across both content and marketing, which is the scenario with any start-up venture/ industry. However, with the phenomenal growth at multiple levels for subscribers, advertisers and OTT players, the market has changed in terms of spends. This is all indicative of consumer preference for OTT, whether it is convenience or differentiated, segmented and personalised content. It is a new medium which is accelerating ahead on a positive note and will unfold numerous amounts of opportunities. 

Without hazarding any guesses, The Viral Fever’s Kanabar said that the promotion spends depended from project to project and on the size of the project.  

SPNI’s Sodhi, too, said that the spends purely depended on the kind of content that needed to be promoted and that decides the amount of spends that goes into promoting the same. 

On the other hand, for Hussein of Eros Now, it was a good amount. “If you talk about these finances, then it’s a mature business. Our products are the shows, the number of IPs we launch in a year become the tools to marketing and this is how it should be. However, in the early stages it becomes important for a company to create awareness when they are trying to introduce a new product to the audiences,” he added.

Tomorrow - Part 2: Challenges, growing competition, impact of Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as views of the OOH players.


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