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Opinion and Insight

Why BBH India is Heading to the Movies

Subhash Kamath, CEO & Managing Partner at BBH India, on why their strategic partnership is set to bowl over brands

Why BBH India is Heading to the Movies

Brands have long had a fascination with movie land but their hook ups and placement deals don’t always land in a way that makes sense for the film or the brand. That’s why BBH India has created a strategic partnership with feature film companies Phantom Films and Reliance Entertainment. They want to curate and thoughtfully integrate brands and movies, and the first test match (pun most definitely intended) is with cricket movie, ’83. Due for release in April 2019, the film tells the tale of the Indian cricket team’s historic 1983 victory at Lord’s in London. 

LBB’s Laura Swinton interviewed BBH India’s CEO and Managing Partner Subhash Kamath to find out how they’re creating a new approach to brand partnerships.


LBB> How did the conversation with Phantom Films & Reliance Entertainment come about?

SK> We had launched our initiative into content and entertainment a few months ago. And our first step was to bring in the right person to lead it for us. We found him in Pranay Anthwal, a seasoned advertising and media professional who had solid experience of dealing with the entertainment industry. Over the years, he has built excellent relationships with the top production houses and has a good understanding particularly of the film industry. One such relationship was with Phantom films and that’s how the conversation began. 


LBB> Can you explain exactly what the partnership will entail – and do you see it extending to more feature film properties in the future?

SK> BBH will help structure all brand and marketing partnerships for ’83 – the film. It includes the regular in film integrations, co-marketing deals and partnerships. We’re looking to create a “FRIENDS OF ‘83” framework where iconic brands can step in and engage the end customer. Primarily, it is about positioning and monetising ’83, but as we go along, it could also lead to other revenue streams like new product creation and interesting brand-film innovations. 


LBB> Why is ’83 the perfect film to pioneer this kind of relationship?

SK> Indians are crazy about two things: movies and cricket. Now imagine a huge blockbuster film on what is perhaps the most emotional and significant moment in Indian cricket: Kapil’s Devils winning the 1983 world cup! It can’t get any bigger than that and is therefore the perfect platform to launch this relationship.


LBB> What has the response been like from brands since you announced the partnership?

SK> It’s early stages, as we’re still in conversation with many potential brands. But the initial response has been hugely positive and exciting.


LBB> Traditionally, how are these brand-movie relationships handled in India? What does bringing an agency into the mix add?

SK> Traditionally, brands have attempted to be associated with the movie business in the form of deals and in-film placements. But they don’t seem to have approached them strategically. With BBH’s strengths in understanding popular culture and consumers, we bring a more strategic approach to integrating brands into entertainment. It’s a more holistic approach in creating better integration, broader co-marketing platforms and deeper engagement with audiences.


LBB> What’s the key to bringing brands and movie properties together in a way that enhances rather than interferes with the movie?

SK> Content will always be king. It is what people pay for. So, nothing should ever interfere with the movie’s narrative or the story telling. Brands must integrate themselves or partner the movie in a manner that doesn’t take away or interrupt the story. And by doing so, engage their audiences in a manner so that they enjoy the content. 

Integrating a brand into the movie is really like casting the right actor for it. The audience must love its presence and should enhance the story. For example, how Audi plays a critical role in the Transporter series.


LBB> In India, what’s the relationship like between the ad industry and film industry? Is there much collaboration or sharing of talent between adland and Bollywood?

SK> Well many film celebrities are already brand ambassadors, given the large number of endorsements we see in advertising today. They become the face of the brand and are often huge investments for the marketer. It’s ironic therefore that many of these deals haven’t been strategically approached. We hope to change that. 

We’ve also seen cross over of talent with many film directors and musicians who create ads as well. And from the ad industry side, we’ve seen top creative directors and writers turn into successful feature film makers. 

Both are creative businesses and its natural that there is a sharing of talent and ideas. And these days it’s not just feature films but even content opportunities with OTT players like Netflix, Amazon Prime and others. The canvas is huge for good talent.