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Indian OTT platforms rely heavily on marketing, or do they?

The fight to conquer India's video streaming industry is heating up, and firms are spending massive sums to promote and market themselves and their shows. BestMediaInfo.com reached out to the experts to understand more about the marketing strategies of Indian OTT platforms

Although the pandemic played a major role in pushing the audience toward the OTT platforms, it is the quality of content which has kept them hooked. The fight to conquer India's video streaming industry is heating up, and firms are spending massive sums to promote and market themselves and their shows. But how much of an impact do these promotional actions have on the target audience and is that even enough?

BestMediaInfo.com reached out to digital marketing agencies to understand more about the marketing strategies of Indian OTT platforms.

Marketing is often overlooked in the content industry, but it is critical. There has been an unending number of distinct marketing tactics used by players in the recent past to effectively advertise content on OTT platforms.

Rishabh Khatter

Rishabh Khatter, Studio Head, The Rabbit Hole, said, “Marketing in the content space has a much shorter life span than a product in the conventional space, hence the marketing has to be optimised and create high impact with great hype for the audience to tune into that piece of content. Hence OTTs pick and choose the scale at which they want to market the titles that are upcoming.”

Each title, be it a film or a series, serves a certain purpose, whether it is to serve an existing cohort, draw in a cross between two cohorts or acquire newer audiences. Brand marketers go all out with their spending and the scale of activities over the marquee properties and optimise their efforts on others, he said.

Shrenik Gandhi

“Integrated campaigns are working pretty well. Some OTT brands are also exploring the Web 3.0 ecosystem, but as Web 3.0 isn't a trend yet, integrated campaigns like the ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’’s Netflix release wall mural which was planned and executed by White Rivers Media, are happening,” said Shrenik Gandhi, Co-founder and CEO, White Rivers Media, on the major trends the OTT players and agencies are currently deploying for marketing content.

Bestmedianfo.com had recently reported that Danish Khan, the Head of SonyLiv, Sony Entertainment Television and StudioNext, was talking about how Indian content needs to be marketed at a global level. Speaking at a creators round table organised by SonyLiv, Khan had said that the technology allows people to consume content for a long period, but the content needs to stay relevant.

Gandhi said that White Rivers Media has worked with content publishers who target everything from Tier-4 to Tier-1 parts of the country. The audience targeting is done depending on the content which needs to be marketed. According to Gandhi, the best platforms depend on their content and Instagram and YouTube are the two of the most preferred mediums for targeting audiences right now.

Talking about the meme culture for OTT content marketing, Gandhi said, “Memes are not just popular for OTT content marketing. We would have never imagined it, but we have even seen some B2B brands getting fantastic ROI out of memes and it is working for them. People connect with memes, people understand memes, and memes are shareable. Hence, memes work across multiple genres, especially for entertainment, including OTT.”

The genre and nature of the content and OTT platform influence the marketing style adopted for it. For example, Amazon Prime Video's ‘Mirzapur’ was good enough to cause a stir with its bold dialogues, and the show's scenes were fully absorbed by the meme culture even before it was released and the same happened with ‘Panchayat' S2. Meanwhile, the ‘Family Man’ used its character’s cliffhanging as a marketing tactic, with innovative campaigns like Moosa – Dead or Alive? #TheFamilyManJobHunt and #SrikantKahanHai.

Pointing out the challenges Gandhi said, “Now theatres are back and have opened up after a period where they were closed and people were heavily relying on OTT. Secondly, the shelf life is very less. Piracy is also a challenge. Besides, there are too many options. If the content is not up to the mark or not well-accepted, the audience will immediately shift to something else because of a plethora of options available.”

Video usage in OTT marketing has also become extensively popular. They have started making films ranging in duration from 15 seconds to one minute to increase the engagement of the audience.

Khatter added that OTT platforms are primarily going after the urban population and youth as they have the propensity to spend. The younger generation in the life stage of OTT sits squarely with the now digital audience (Millenials + Gen Z) who have jobs and are ready to spend, which means that they are the ones introducing OTT to their households and families, who have been spending on cable and Dish TV all this while.

But with platforms like Zee 5, Hoichoi and AHA, which are heavily language-specific, the marketing for the same goes beyond urban and youth cohorts as their audience are older and a large chunk comes from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.

Marketing strategies for different shows

As a part of promotions for ‘Kota Factory’ Season 2, the show’s marketing team took to Quora to answer questions of IIT students and aspirants through the characters. Similarly, for ‘AK vs AK’, the entire campaign started with a seeded video in the style of Viral Bayani or Voompla (paprazzi) to feed audiences the legitimacy of the Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap feud.

Netflix opened up a store where you can steal artefacts dodging lasers and security at the mall to promote ‘Red Notice’ and for the release of ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4 they partnered with Oreo to make special edition red cookies or even an IG filter that turns your world upside-down, Khatter explained.

However, not all experiments go correctly as the promotions for ‘Pihu’, resulted in the audience heavily criticising its marketing team for a traumatising campaign that included a call from a crying child. Commenting on this, Khatter said that the key takeaway from this is generally being mindful of human sensitivities when planning a campaign.

Indian vs Global Content players

Comparing the Indian and global content players, Khatter said, “We have been over-exposed to global content for decades now here in India and because of the size of that empire across the world, there is reason and budget provisions made to experiment a lot more through their campaigns which could also mean a side step as a stunt in no relation to the films/series, cause a lot of their heavy lifting via the faces of Hollywood stars/ producers/ directors that anyway go a lot more miles.”


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