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KBC is back: Will the magic work again?

While the campaigns over the last 16 years have always been engaging and the show has been able to create a buzz every time it hit the TV screens, is the brand value of ‘KBC’ still high? Are viewers still interested and eager to play and watch the same format again?

Kaun Banega Crorepati, the television show that changed the face of reality television in India, is back in its ninth season. It was in 2000 that Star Plus launched the show with the campaign asking, ‘Nau baj gaye kya?’ While there have been intervals for as long as four years between any two seasons of the show, the charm of the property has not faded all these years. The ninth season is coming back after a gap of three years, after the eighth season was launched in 2014 with the positioning, ‘Yahan sirf paise nahi, dil bhi jeete jate hain.’ All the campaigns till the eighth season were conceptualised by Leo Burnett.

The ninth season campaign, which says ‘Jawab dene ka waqt aa gaya hai’, has been created and conceptualised by Nitesh Tiwari, a former Leo Burnett employee who worked on the earlier campaigns too.

Danish Khan

Talking on the latest campaign, Danish Khan, EVP and Business Head at Sony Entertainment Television, said, “KBC is perhaps the most relevant show for India. It celebrates our collective confidence in knowledge as a great change agent for both the individuals and the society. This season's campaign, written and directed by Nitesh, has both relevance and impact while being extremely humorous and entertaining. We believe this campaign will entertain, engage and drive viewership for the show.”

Nitesh Tiwari

Director Nitesh Tiwari said, “It is always a delight to write and direct Kaun Banega Crorepati’s advertising campaign. It revolves around the common man and woman with Amitabh Bachchan, and is always based on societal truth. The tone is humorous and the challenge is to make its appeal universal. We are excited with this year's campaign, hope people like it.”

While the campaigns over the last 16 years have always been engaging and the show has been able to create a buzz for itself, every time it has hit the screens the question arises: is the brand value of the name ‘KBC’ still high? Are viewers still interested and eager to play and watch the same format again?

Jagdish Acharya

As Jagdish Acharya puts it, “KBC is like a seasonal product. In this case, when KBC comes, the season arrives and not the other way round. It is not episodic or story-led show. This is more like a sports brand, say an IPL. The format is completely predictable, just like cricket. With Amitabh and the packaging, it has risen to a level of maturity and penetration as a brand where it will maintain a certain amount of draw.”

KBC has a huge recall and a lot of share goes to the amazing marketing campaigns put forth by the channel whether it was ‘Kuch sawal zindagi badal dete hain’ in season three with Shah Rukh Khan, or season seven’s ‘Sirf gyaan hi aapko aapka haq dilata hai’ and ‘Seekhna bandh toh jeetna bandh.’ After season three, the show moved to Sony and the channel waited for a few years and brought back Bachchan with a bang and an impressive campaign, ‘Koi bhi sawaal chota nahin hota’. Season five extended this philosophy with the tagline ‘Koi bhi insaan chota nahi hota’.

KBC has got a thumbs-up from the brand and marketing experts. Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, BrandComm, feels that KBC as a brand being first-of-its-kind had a lot of traction and appeal.

Ashish Bhasin

Tracking the journey of the property in India, Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO, South Asia Dentsu Aegis Network, ‎Aegis Group plc, said, “KBC has a good equity. It was one of the first big reality shows which got the whole nation riveted to it with Bachchan as the host. It was a kind of re-launch for him too. Quite a few brands like Britannia were associated with it in the initial years. It has revived the fortunes for the channels and has worked quite well for the brands too. There’s a lot of residual positive equity with KBC.”

Well, yes. Around 2000, when KBC was launched, Star India needed the strength that the show brought. The channel catapulted to the top slot with a huge gap from the no. 2.

It must be noted that 2000 was a different time and then the entertainment space on Indian television was not as dynamic as it is today. There are so many more options in terms of content – both fiction and reality. Coming after a break of two years, will the upcoming season be able to make a place for itself in all of this abundance of content? Will it get enough eyeballs?

Acharya supports the show saying, “I don’t think it will be affected by the clutter, because it is nowhere close to what the other content is like. It is like a sport brand, more than a story brand.”

Well, the popularity can bring sampling, but not stickiness. Bhasin believes that the show will by default attract a certain number of viewers, whether it sustains and grows these will depend on how interesting and riveting the show is made. He added, “While there is abundance of content, there are so many more viewers too. The channels are fragmented; there’s 24-hour programming on 800-plus channels. There is space for everyone. But will all depend on how well one is able to hold your viewers for a long time. So, reappearing after two years is not a problem.”

Having said all of this, the fact remains that KBC is a combination of three phenomenal things – one of the biggest broadcast networks Sony, the man of the millennium Amitabh Bachchan and a globally tried and tested format Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. An important aspect of any brand is the rub off that it takes from and gives to the associated brands. How much should Bachchan’s strength as a brand and his popularity impact?

Sridhar feels that the popularity and hence viewership might shift from urban to heavily rural, to some extent. He explains, “There was a strong identification with Amitabh and those of us (viewers) who followed his life then. This was in a sense his resurrection. What might happen is that the audience will not be so much from urban markets. There is a shift in the popularity of Amitabh since the launch of the show. The urban audience is quite accustomed to his presence in too many commercials and his consistent engagement on social media. I feel that a lot of audience might be possibly disinterested in him now. The smaller towns, on the other hand, still continue to be his greatest fans. I think the profile of the audience is going to shift and it won’t be much NCCS A metro kind of audience.”

Bhasin too seconds the fact that a rub off is obvious, though, he didn’t say anything about the expected profile of the audience. “When you have a huge property, it rubs off positively on the channel. It changed the fortunes for Star when it was launched and is changing things for Sony too. Someone like Amitabh has a near universal appeal in India. He also has enjoyed a rub off, since this show was kind of second innings for him.”

Sridhar also mentioned that Bachchan has been the soul of the programme and he still has a lot of following and adulation. “The show might be able to milk that.”

Acharya feels otherwise saying, “The programme is much bigger than any of its parts. I don’t think the channel too will be given any additional marks, beyond this show. As a product, it has reached a certain maturity level. I don’t think Bachchan’s popularity can help/hurt the show anymore.”

If the show has a strong following as most of the responses from the experts suggest, then brands would be interested in hopping on to the show, for sure. Bhasin thinks that if a brand selectively uses it in consonance with its personality, it will prove to be a good buy in the long run. He stresses on the effectiveness of the association to be primary, “Today effectiveness is the key in media buying and planning such that whether or not the target audience that you are gunning is available in a cost effective way. The effectiveness of something depends on what was the price and how many viewers did it attract.”

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