Jun 25, 2008

Ekta's Mahabharat

Ekta Kapoor readies for the mother of all wars on 9X
9x has finally announced the launch date – July 7 – of its much awaited show, Kahaani Hamaarey Mahaabharat Ki (KHMK), produced by Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms. 9X has rolled out a marketing campaign encompassing print, TV, radio and cinema for the serial.The creative campaign for the mythological epic, including the show’s logo, on-air promos and the print and outdoor ads, have all been done by INX Network’s in-house creative units, INX Studio and INX On-Air Promotions.
Anupriya AcharyaTalking to afaqs! Anthony Pettifer, group director, brand and communications, INX Network, explains the marketing strategy adopted to promote the epic serial, “The idea is to extend our reach to all possible touch points in order to reach out to the maximum number of people in our target group. Through our creative campaign, we have lighted a fire which we hope will spread like wildfire to inform people about Mahabharat.“Epics have always done well in India, and they have often been used by general entertainment channels (GECs) to boost their viewership. NDTV Imagine used Ramayan to launch itself, literally. TAM data shows that the serial did influence the channel’s fortunes. Ramayan achieved a TVR of 3.19 within a month, despite starting its run with a TVR of below 1 (CS4+, HSM, as per TAM data). The robust performance of the show propelled NDTV Imagine to No. 3 position behind only STAR Plus and Zee TV in Week 10 of 2008.Similar, if not greater, success is being envisaged for KHMK. And it shows in the way the serial is being promoted. Pettifer says that with the increasing competition among GECs, creating the right kind of curiosity and buzz is a must for a new show. “The creative proposition for promoting the show has been kept simple deliberately. It translates into 9X presenting the biggest TV stars in the greatest drama ever. For us, the expression is brutally simple and clearly communicates to the audience that we bring to them their favourite stars, portraying legendary characters,” he says.KHMK’s marketing campaign has been divided into two phases. Pettifer says, “The first phase began when we revealed the powerful logo of Mahabharat. In the second phase, we aired the promos for the show on 9X itself. Now, a multimedia campaign is being rolled out. This includes introducing the characters of the show to the viewers through various media such as hoardings and billboards.”
The show's hoarding at Mahim Causeway9X has revealed the look and appearance of some of the protagonists of the serial, Bheem and Duryodhan. Next come Bheeshma and Ganga, characters which are being played by well known TV stars Ronit Roy and Saakshi Tanwar, respectively. Explaining why the characters are being revealed in phases, Pettifer says, “The one of the USPs of our show is that the big names of the television world are playing the lead roles. Popular actors such as Chetan Hansraj, Akashdeep Saigal, Anita Hassanandani, Rakshanda Khan, Makrand Deshpande and Kiran Karmarkar are all acting in the serial. The sheer star power is going to pull in the audience for us.”
Will these well recognised faces from popular soaps be accepted as the larger than life mythological characters they play in the serial? Media planners offer mixed responses to both the question and the fate of the serial. Chandradeep Mitra, president, Mudra Max, says, “Well, the popular faces will contribute initially to attracting people to the show. The audience will be eager to see for themselves how the heroes and heroines of the ‘saas-bahu’ serials don the look of iconic characters.” As far as KHMK’s fortunes are concerned, Mitra adds, “Being a Balaji show, there is a fair amount of excitement and buzz in the market. This is a first for the production house, something entirely different from the family soaps that it is known for.”
Mitra points out, “The success of the DLF Indian Premier League (IPL) has proved that the audience is ready to experiment. Today, no one can conclusively predict the success or failure of any particular genre, so fragmented is the audience. The next big idea on TV could be a humour show or, say, even a detective serial. One can only be sure of one thing: The era of the ‘saas-bahu’ shows is over.” However, Mitra cautions that even the IPL failed to garner double digit TVRs. So, one cannot expect KHMK to achieve staggering TRPs. However, since the serial is a Balaji creation, its production values and content are certain to be strong and to appeal to viewers.Anupriya Acharya, president, TME, says, “Mythology and costume dramas are seeing a revival. Obviously, no new epic drama, be it the new Mahabharat or the new Ramayan, can replicate the success of their earlier avatars on Doordarshan. That is because today, cable TV penetration has resulted in fragmented viewership and divided loyalties.” She clarifies, “
The promos that are on air are going to be a big asset for KHMK. The show is being promoted really well. Viewers in both metros and the rural areas are equally going to look forward to it. Advertisers will find plenty of opportunities in the epic serial to place their products.” Acharya is not impressed with the galaxy of stars that Ekta Kapoor has lined up for KHMK. She says, “The TV medium, unlike films, is not dependent on stars. This is proved by fact that many new GECs have introduced fresh faces in new shows. With epic dramas, it’s the story that pulls in the viewers. Otherwise, actors like Deepika Chikhalia (Sita), Roopa Ganguly (Draupadi) and Nitish Bhardwaj (Krishna) would not have become household names in the past.”Pettifer is confident that Mahabharat will do well because it has strong content, powerful characters and high production values. He reveals, “An extensive promotional strategy will ensure enough eyeballs for the show. More than 600 outdoor hoardings and billboards have been employed to catch the viewers’ eye across the country. In addition, INX Networks’ channels, 9X, 9XM and NewsX, are being used to promote the show. Other news channels are also being targeted to air the show’s promos. And, from next week, the show will be advertised on 20 radio stations – we have booked around 4,000 ad spots.”Cinema halls in 17 major cities are airing promo clips of KHMK. Pettifer says, “All the advertising is experiential. We took to advertising in cinema halls during the movie breaks to ensure that viewers can sample the real grandeur, power and scale of the show as they will when they see the promos of Mahabharat shot in high definition television on the big screen.”

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