By: Sapna Nair-Purohit             Dated: January 27, 2015

A captive audience, massive reach, multiple media exposure and, in some cases, an association to remember, product placements in movies are becoming the ‘in’ thing today. We look at what makes this form of advertising lucrative and challenging.

Super-hero movie ‘Krrish 3’ having more product placements in it than actors, if some of the reviews are to go by, and Nokia’s brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan unabashedly rattling off features of his Nokia phone on-board the Chennai Express make it apparent that most in-film placements in India still lack finesse. 

Over the last few years, there has been a steep rise in the number of brands looking for placements in movies in India. But there has been a problem: quantity beats quality. Several factors have led advertisers to believe that a few seconds of appearance in movies trumps most other forms of advertising. Here’s why in-film placements are in.


The movie business in India has undergone a dramatic change in the last decade or so. The number of movies being made has gone up (around 1000 per year), the reach of the movies (distribution and prints) has expanded and the industry as a whole has become organised. From Hum Aapke Hain Kaun being released in 500 screens in 1994, to a Dhoom 3 being released in 3500 screens in 2013, the reach has multiplied and so has the scale of movies. Trade experts say that an Aamir Khan- starrer that would generate business of Rs. 100 crore in 2013, today manages Rs. 275 crore.

Earlier, because the industry was a tad less organised, there was the issue of movie release dates being volatile, making it a bit troublesome for brands. “The film industry has become a lot more professional compared to old school Bollywood. You find a lot more professionals/ studio systems now in play, making it easier for brands to deal with them and structure sensible marketing alliances,” says Ashish Patil, Business & Creative Head, Vice President, Youth Films, Brand Partnerships, Talent Management at Yash Raj Films.  He is referring to companies such as Disney-UTV, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, and Fox Studios, as also studios such as Dharma Productions and Balaji Motion Pictures which have specific verticals looking after product placements.

Content in movies also seems to have been overhauled to offer more variety and segmentation. Thematic films, ‘upmarket/ multiplex films’, women-centric films, regional films besides big-budget films are giving advertisers options to choose from.


It’s a no-brainer that a product placement is memorable only if it is a strategic and seamless fit. Despite this thumb rule, however, many placements continue to defy subtlety and borders on intrusion. Advertisers tend to go ‘overboard’.

“When a brand manager gets a go ahead from the CEO for an in-film placement, he wants to kill it. It’s like a golden goose and he wants all the eggs at one go. That’s why you see so many blatant in-your-face placements,” says, Gaurav Srivastav, Founder, In-Film Placement Evaluation Matrix, a company that offers a measurement tool to evaluate and measure effectiveness of in-film placements. He adds that once this marketing decision is based on a media tool (and not the CEO’s discretion), things will change.

Film associations tend to work better for some category of products than others. “Films work harder for categories such as lifestyle, fashion, and brands catering to youth and kids. It may not work for products that require too much information dissemination (features) like financial services and household products,” explains Navin Shah, Co-Founder, EMC Solutions, which executes in-film placements and co-branded promotions for brands.

Maruti Ertiga in ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’, by Yash Raj Films, is touted as one of the better in-film placements. Patil explains how it was executed. “We had an idea for a film… it lent itself to a beautiful placement for a car. It was too much of a magic opportunity to pass up. So we pitched to a few possible brands. Maruti was our #1 choice given how generic it is to the category. And fortunately, the best offer on the table [though we had two more] was from them — not just commercially, but also creatively, and what amplifiers in terms of media they were bringing in,” he says. 

Associations between Makemytrip and ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’, Sunsilk and ‘Two States’, Adidas and ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ are cited as recent examples of well-done placements in movies.

Not all brands opt for placements within the movie, but instead go for co-branded promotions or marketing tie-ups with movies. The latter is more popular among advertisers. This is also because of the creative restrictions that advertisers encounter from filmmakers when trying to fit in a brand in the script/ scene. Soon, there will be more evolved ways of executing a placement, especially during post-production. 

Of the 150 tie-ups that Srivastav executes in a year, only 15 are actual in-film placements. The rest are marketing tie-ups implemented after the release of the movie. This involves using the footage of the movie in the TVC, mostly a cut-paste job. Even though some of them end up looking tacky, it is an instant gratification medium.

In terms of return on investment, a well-done in-film placement takes the cake. “A smart in-film placement can give you returns that is 40 times your investment, whereas a marketing tie-up can give you only three or four times,” Shah says. The ICICI Bank placement in the movie Baghban yielded the brand 50 times its investment as ROI. And the Mountain Dew placement in Dhoom 3, which cost Rs. 75 lakh, reached 2 crore people.

Media for movie-marketing tie-ups are bought differently. Entertainment buys (movies) cost much lesser than commercial buys (brands). As the entertainment buying is frequency-based and not TRP-based, advertisers exploit this avidly.   

Brands spend anywhere between Rs. 25 lakh-1 crore on stand-alone marketing tie-ups. Money is spent in buying media and sometimes also shooting with the stars for a custom-made TVC.

“When you do an in-film placement, you end up spending a lot on marketing tie-ups. You have footage from the movie that you want to use. By itself in-film placement is not expensive,” Srivastav adds. The cost of implementing an in-film placement can be in the range of Rs 10-Rs 75 lakhs. But add to that co-branded promotions and the cost escalates to upwards of Rs. 2 crore.

Other value-adds that come along with in-film placements are celebrity bytes, artiste meets and greet events, merchandise and movie material for contests (on social media), PR, and amplified social media conversations.


Although, there are a few tools in practice, the industry lacks a systematic measurement system for in-film placements. Some of the parameters by which producers and advertisers gauge effectiveness of a product placement or association are by evaluating box-office collections, impact and reach on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, besides ratings on TV telecast and song rotations. This is after the release of the movie.

Srivastav’s IFPE matrix software takes stock of things before the placement is worked out by considering two aspects: the value of the movie and the impact of placement being offered. This helps a brand make an informed choice about the placement and how much it will cost.

Value of the movie is determined on the basis of the actors, producers, and directors associated with the movie, based on data derived from Google trends and trade sources. Performances of actors are gauged from their last three movies. The impact of placement is determined by the type of placement — passive (brand is shown in the foreground or background of the scene), active (brand is shown being used or is being spoken about) or hyper active (brand is shown being used and also spoken about).

“Additionally, we also identify whether it is the main character who is using the product and whether the brand essence is being established. We see how the brand and the film are going to react to each other by putting in details that the software will throw up. A final impact of placement is evaluated out of 10,” Srivastav explains.

Other factors such as number of prints and estimated occupancy are evaluated to arrive at the approximate value of the placement. After the release of the movie, the producer shares these numbers. The deal takes into account any change in cost based on the impact of placement and the number of people who watched the movie.

Shah says that while efficiency of a placement or co-promotion can be measured, effectiveness cannot be. The latter requires brand tracks and surveys/audience pre-tests to be conducted — done only at the advertiser’s insistence. He says that the efficiency of co-promotions is easily measurable by analysis of how much the same investment would yield in other mediums and their exposure. “Usually, a co-promotion does five to eight times better than any TVC,” he states.

For some, analysing impact on sales or enquiries for a brand or product helps. For instance, following the placement in Mere Dad Ki Maruti, the Ertiga saw a 30 percent spike in test drives around the time the film was about to be released. There was no particular thematic advertising at the time.

Meanwhile, the song, ‘Fevicol se’ from Dabangg 2 (executed by O&M) got roughly Rs. 40 crore worth of media time, because the song was played constantly on TV and radio.

Those in the business aren’t too perturbed about the measurement bit. “The proof of the pudding is that it is working and brands are coming on board,” says Shah. Touche’. 

Product placements were prevalent even in the 1950s. The 1955 Raj Kapoor movie, Shree 420 had a large Coca-Cola banner. In another, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, released in 1958, a story about three brothers who own an auto repair shop, posters are visible of Mobil Brake Fluid. However, there is no way to figure out whether these were deliberate. One of the most famous product placements was that of Rajdhoot Motorcycles in the film Bobby. The blatant placement of Coke in the movie Taal (1999) deserves a mention too.




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