Launching film's first look much before release: Will this strategy work?

Of late, the teaser trailers of big-ticket Bollywood projects are being launched several months before the film hits the theatres. We find out the pros and cons of this marketing strategy...

In the West, it is not uncommon for teasers and trailers to come out a full year ahead of a film's theatrical release, more so in case of big-ticket movies. This practice seems to have seeped into the Hindi film industry lately. Ajay Devgn was the first to go the Hollywood way by providing a glimpse of his on-off-on project 'Shivaay' in mid-May. Ekta Kapoor's 'Azhar' biopic followed suit a week later.

Poster of Shah Rukh Khan's upcoming film 'Raees'
Poster of Shah Rukh Khan's upcoming film 'Raees'

The latest movie to be added to this fast-growing list is 'Raees'. On the eve of Eid, Shah Rukh Khan fans got a sneak peek into the crime thriller, which is slated to release on that festive occasion next year. Before that, the teaser of another SRK film, 'Fan', was publicised on various platforms. Producer Ritesh Sidhwani says, "Since 'Raees' is releasing on Eid 2016, the ideal time to showcase the first look of the film was this Eid. This is a special Eidi for all fans." Red Chillies Entertainment also released two posters and the teaser trailer for the film, which is slated to clash with Salman Khan's 'Sultan' — another not-yet-on-the-floors project whose introductory ad was presented by YRF last month.

A new trend
Ajay Devgn has booked 2017 Republic Day for his maiden directorial venture, 'Shivaay', whose first look came out in May — 20 months in advance — although the shoot will commence in Bulgaria only in January 2016. It will mark the debut of Sayesha Saigal, yesteryear actress Saira Banu's grand niece.

Ajay Devgn in the first look of Shivaay, which is scheduled to hit the theatres on January 26, 2017
Ajay Devgn in the first look of 'Shivaay', which is scheduled to hit the theatres on January 26, 2017

Speaking about the strategy behind such early marketing, the spokesperson of Eros International says, "Movie audiences have become smart and are now looking forward to something new. As movie marketers, there is the demand to constantly innovate and market the movie differently to attract eyeballs and widen our reach to the viewers. By releasing the teaser much in advance, movie marketers want to engage with not just the Indian moviegoers, but also touch base with millions of international movie consumers as well."

Emraan Hashmi in and as Azhar, a biopic on former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin
Emraan Hashmi in and as 'Azhar', a biopic on former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin

Agrees Vivek Krishnani, senior vice president (Revenue and Marketing), MSM Motion Pictures, which is collaborating with Ekta's Balaji Motion Pictures for the 'Azhar' biopic starring Emraan Hashmi. "If you are dealing with a larger-than-life subject, you have to treat the film and its promotion in similar fashion. Azhar, the film based on one of India's most loved and yet most controversial cricketing captains, deserved the kind of buzz and build-up leading to the release of the film. So, we came out with a specially shot teaser announcement, which was perfectly timed and aired during the IPL finale," he states.

Even this film is yet to roll though an announcement of the release date has been made — May 13, 2016. "This scale of promotion places the film in the consciousness of the audience, as a movie to watch out for in 2016. Incidentally, after Azhar's announcement, a lot of other big films have taken the same route, be it Sultan or, more recently, Raees, since that helps in building perception and blocking the date as well," adds Krishnani.

Gaurav Verma, chief revenue officer, Red Chillies Entertainment, says the idea is to engage with the consumers at an early stage, to share with them what the film is all about and when are they likely to see it. And as the number of releases is increasing every year, there are no ways to differentiate them other than the cast involved. "For us, Eid was a wonderful window as 'it's this time next year' and the response was also phenomenal. Now, viewers know about the film, how it is and when it is expected. Also, in the movie business today, we are much more organised with regard to planning, prep work and the final product. Producers are spending more time on preparation, campaign planning and publicity. So, they are ready beforehand," he says.

Risks involved
Coming out with a teaser trailer much in advance arguably helps the film become a talking point. But a long gap between this event and the movie's actual release also has its set of disadvantages. With the teaser out, what are the other publicity materials to be explored when the film is just a few weeks away from hitting the marquee? What if it fades out of audience memory since it is bombarded with scores of film trailers every month? And what about the risk of overkill? Krishnani believes that there always lurks a danger of firing the shots in advance and then running out of ammunition, which has to be strategically handled. "Especially in case of the 'Azhar' biopic, we have contextualised the film and placed the premise before the audience and media, which clearly speaks about the exciting, engaging and entertaining content, thereby creating a lot of curiosity. There is also the risk of misfiring if the content fails to connect with the audience. You have to take a calculated risk and do it only if you are confident of the content," he suggests.

The Eros spokesperson says that before marketers start any movie promotion, a certain audience feedback/ research is taken into account before developing and building a strategy. "Each asset of the movie like teaser, trailer, songs and even dialogue promos needs to be backed by a different marketing strategy and spread out across a certain timeline. The objective is to keep the buzz alive among the audiences by constantly feeding them with interesting assets and ensure there is necessary anticipation before the release. Risk is involved in every business and the same goes with movie marketing. But it is important to take these risks — some may work in favour of the movie, while some wont. But ultimately, if your content is good, the results will reflect in your box office collections," he states.

Verma feels marketing campaigns today are long term and have become very specific to target audience. "A longer campaign actually helps us know what's expected and the eventual deliveries. This only has given us the flexibility to come out with a teaser so early. We don't think of it as overexposure. In fact, there is nothing such as overexposure today. Rather, you may ask if we will be able to maintain this excitement till the release next year. We think we can and are confident of maintaining it," he signs off.

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