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As a panel of media platform owners sat to discuss ‘How can brands become multi-channel publishers,’ Sharat Bhattatiripad, Head of Content, Fever 104 FM, started with a sharp example. He said, “The importance of telling a story by a brand is crucial and it can have a huge difference in the life of the brand. While there were many Indian homegrown brands like Baidyanath and Dabur, selling its products with Ayurveda solutions in the country for so many years, they never tried to tell a story. However, when Patanjali entered with the whole story of Swadeshi and anti-multinationals, people were moved by it.”

The moderator of the panel, Abhimany R, conference host, CMS Asia, kept asking the speakers about various subjects like the content marketing in the world of multi-channel publishers, can brands become publishers with consistent content and the need and role of regulation.

The other speakers on the panel were Abhishek Joshi, Vice-President and Head, Marketing, Analytics and Content Syndication, Digital Business, Sony Pictures Networks; Clarinda Cerejo, Editor-in-Chief, Editage Insights and Prerna Singh, CMO, Eros International.

Abhimanyu threw the forum up for Cerejo when he asked how Editage Insights has been working towards telling stories of scientists on various publishing platforms. She said, “Our core job is to provide language, editing support to the researchers and trying to find a publication. Another part is that we have realised that not all researchers are looking for the above but they need to feel like a part of the researcher community. They are looking at learning. We model ourselves around Babycentre, the parenting site. With research burgeoning from non-research centric countries, they are so far moved from what is happening in the west that they need to create their own platform where they could listen to others. This is what we help them do.”

Abhimanyu asked Joshi as to what he feels about the brands who are putting up their content. Does he feel threatened and consider them as a competition as a publisher? Joshi answered, “There is no competition. As soon as I start speaking to my advertisers such that I am competing with you, the entire relationship goes haywire. The essential fact of the matter is that I need the brand and it needs me. It is not an era of speaking to customers in one direction, it is not an era where you sell products and services; it is an era where you sell stories. You need a publisher to reach your audience the way you want to reach them.”

He further explained that advertising is selling a product. “But if a brand has completed five years and wants to do brand awareness, then he has a story to tell about it. He can segment and choose his audiences the way he wants to by selecting the right media.”

On a similar note, Singh of Eros International also explained how the marketing for movies has changed. Abhimanyu threw up a question on her that as a brand, what kind of channels have emerged for marketing of a movie? “Earlier it was all about the launch of the trailer in a press conference, and posters, etc., now there’s so much more,” said Abhimanyu.

Singh agreed that the platforms and the way audience react have both changed. “We do lots to bring the story in front of the consumers. We have a very tough target cycle because the results have to come in the weekend. While there has been a storytelling done to make aware about which film is releasing, but it doesn’t restrict to the mahurat or the promo launch. We have to build a parallel story.”

She went on to give recent examples by saying, “Of late, Padmavat and Padman and the way the entire campaign was portrayed on social media and the messaging across audience (pan India audience). For the people to come and sample the idea. Multiple films release each Friday, so, how do you outsight your communication and build that engagement so that your movie is the preferred choice.”

“With multi-channel options, the consumer has become very selective about which movie to watch in the theatre. Bajirao Mastani had a very different strategy. We launched the campaign a year in advance. Our first strategy was to position it as Game of Thrones or Gladiator from India, to the overseas audiences. We launched the trailer and the promo, a year in advance. Because the story was very Maharashtra-centric, then how do you communicate to the pan India audience? We had parallel digital content going around. We co-created stories which can get the other type of audience.”

Having said all this, mostly the pattern of content publishing by brands revolved around the campaigns or high points in brands’ life. A lot of times, the messaging by brands is sporadic and lack consistency, unlike the publishers who put up the content in a regular fashion. Abhimanyu pointed out to Bhattatiripad and asked him for more examples of brands that use radio in general, and which have been consistent in the content like publishers? Do they have a publisher mindset?

“Increasingly, brands are realising the power as to how you use the platform and the strength of the platform to demonstrate. One day, one of my RJs got a call from a gentleman who told that his father had died as the ambulance got delayed. We decided to run it on the channel and we were determined to do something about this, though not sure what. After putting it on air, Fortis Hospitals came up and approached us to do something about it, though they too were unsure of what to do.”

Bhattatiripad went on, “Finally, we tied up with all Delhi hospitals, Delhi traffic police and launched a campaign ‘Ambulance First.’ We started ambulance update on radio, the first to happen. Whenever an ambulance left from the hospital to reach a certain place, our RJs would announce the route on air and tell people to move to the left of the roads, so that the ambulance has a clear way, irrespective of which hospital and which ambulance. That was one of the most powerful campaigns that we ever did. Fortis realised that and it was big on their part too. So, a campaign like this can happen only on radio because people are consuming the platform on the go. It is important to understand which platform will be the best to implement a certain campaign.”

Adding more to real-life examples of brands looking for content, Joshi said, “Brands who don’t get to advertise elsewhere often come to us (digital), like condoms, alcohol, etc. Kamasutra had come to Sony Liv, with a brief and they had no creative to go with it. And accordingly we made an original series of six episodes such that the mention of the brand was made in the sixth episode. However, the whole series was talking about the underlying message that the brand wanted to promote – like safe sex and other things. On digital, the content has no shelf life and it remains out there for always.”

He explained the need to be consistent for brands, “A lot of celebrities don’t have their YouTube channels for this one reason and that was because YouTube needed to be consistent about putting content on YouTube, it cannot be sporadic.”

Singh vouched for the importance of digital, saying, “Most campaigns are kick-started on digital. Gone are the days of a physical event like a mahurat and trailer launch. All of these happen online.” Having said all of these, content also calls for criticism. With the censor board and many other regulatory bodies, along with legal teams within publishing companies that put out huge list of dos and don’ts, the publishers have got a knack of putting out the most usable content. However, brands who are just about to start turning publishers will have to learn it gradually. Bhattatiripad said, “Editorially, the policy has to be imperative for everyone. It does become an issue of sorts sometimes, since you have five RJs in each of the 11 cities and 55 people can have different views on different things. But as a company, we have to deal with certain things in a more controlled manner.”