Marketers' struggle in every medium to chase the elusive consumer continues. Technologies like TiVo and PVRs (personal video recorders) make it possible for exasperated audiences to watch an ad-free show or ad-free content. The 30-second commercial is gradually resisted by the consumer and armed with the remote control, she makes sure she will not watch what she does not want to.
In such a scenario, advertiser-funded-programming lends itself as a rescue tool for marketers. It is a concept wherein a brand bears the entire cost of production in addition to a premium of a show that is designed in such a manner that the features of the product and its inherent brand attributes get promoted for a well-defined target audience.
Globally, Apace Branded Content has worked on successful advertiser-funded-programmes like Toyota World of Wildlife, Gillette World Sport and Allianz Inside Grand Prix. Indian examples include the recent Tata Indicom-funded Fun on the Run, a treasure hunt telecast on Zee TV, and Nerolac-funded Rang jama de, which was telecast earlier.
Shashi Sinha, CEO of Lodestar Universal is a strong proponent of the format, "It is a powerful way of communication. The clients saw a lot of improvement in brand scores due to the shows."
Abdul Khan, vice-president, marketing, Tata Teleservices explains the strategy behind the Fun on the Run show, "Sinha (of Lodestar) and I thought that while we had done a lot of television commercials. We wondered if there was an engaging way to involve the viewer with our brand attributes. Then the idea of the treasure hunt came up."
Media sources say Tata Indicom spent close to Rs 17-18 lakh per episode. The show features eight celebrity pairs engagted in a treasure-hunt. The clues are given to them through MMS, video-clips and other value-added services offered by Tata Indicom.
The concept, though nascent, is likely to catch on. Abhimanyu Singh, CEO of Contiloe Films, which put together Fun on the Run and Rang Jama De, says: "There are developed markets where some brands spend close to 30-40 per cent of their ad-spends on advertiser-funded-programming. The key is to develop the show in such a way that the viewer does not come to know it is an advertiser-funded-programme."
For a production house, it does not make much of a difference whether the show is an advertiser-funded one or not, says Singh.
Paritosh Joshi, president, advertising, sales and distribution of Star India, presents a broadcaster's view, "An advertiser-funded-programme has to entertain the audience, if it has to work. The 30 second commercial format is very much alive and kicking and will stay like that for many years to come. However the need to communicate more subtly may give rise to an increase in advertiser-funded-programmes."