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Aditya Bhat

Aditya Bhat, the head of Reliance Jio-owned Jio Studio, believes that brands should always put content on the forefront rather than placing themselves first. “The onus is not on the content creators but the brand custodians in the industry, who should say that my content has to supersede,” he said.

Bhat said it’s important for the media agencies to let the content creators do their job without much interference from their end. Explaining what he means, Bhat said, “Some media agencies that are the middlemen don’t have the maturity or the understanding of what you call content marketing. They still come back to us and ask what integration the brand would have in the first episode. If brands are willing to sit back and give a free hand to creators to create good content, then it will make a great deal of difference.”

Bhat also consults Reliance Jio on their marketing, advertising and content strategy. Apart from this, Jio Studios as a unit consults multiple other brands from diverse sectors on their marketing and advertising strategy. Jio Studios is the transitioned avatar of Bhat’s Business of Ideas. Launched in 2009, Business of Ideas merged with Reliance Jio in 2015 to become Jio Studios.

After the transition, Jio Studios was busy creating campaigns for Reliance Jio, including the famous Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan tune. It is only now the brand has started working for others brands. Jio Studios is working with three FMCG companies on multiple content initiatives and out of which, two of them have been produced but not released yet.

Excerpts:

A few prominent marketers have said consumers today don’t want to watch branded content and are smart enough to gauge the brand’s intention. So, it’s high time the content platforms realise the need of the hour and move to content marketing. You are a branded content expert, so what do you have to say in your defence?

I agree with them. These are fancy words used by the marketers. I don’t want to talk about content marketing or branded content. I think content marketing is an evolution of branded content. A company like HUL might call it co-creation. I think AFP on general entertainment channels has become a passe. The problem with AFP is that the brand is at the forefront and not the content. Today, I have a great story and a brand or category can fit in seamlessly with the story and that is something that I will make. The onus is not on the content creators but the brand custodians in the industry who should say my content has to supersede. While we are talking to advertisers and there are great stories to be told, some of the media agencies, who are the middlemen, don’t have the maturity or the understanding of what you call content marketing. They come back to us and ask what integration the brand will have in the first episode. If brands are willing to sit back and give a free hand to creators to create good content, then it will make a great deal of difference.

A lot of brands complain that people from creative and digital agencies come with the filter of advertising and therefore can’t create content for brands. What is your take here?

I don’t come from an advertising background, I come from a content and marketing background and we also do advertising. So, if you see the work done by the team, all of us have done content marketing and now we are geared up to do advertising. The good thing is that we want to be the master of all trades and that doesn’t mean jack of all.

Content space is becoming bigger day by day. Do you think it can come at par with traditional advertising?

Of course, it can. I will stick my neck out and say that people don’t want to watch ads unless they are entertaining. While advertising will remain, you will have more and more people wanting to see storytelling with seamless experience. People have tried to do films in which brands are integrated and it is done well. Brands have to invest energy and efforts in identifying the individuals who can create a difference.

You are now also pitching for brands outside Jio. What challenges do you see coming from the brands and how can you avoid them?

They all want to work with us, but they have an empanelled agency on board.

One word of advice for content creators and brands undertaking the content route.

Give the creative guys the freedom to create the right kind of content. Don’t push your brand message over and above the content because then your brand will be stronger than the content and the entertainment ability to consume that content might get diluted. While you’ll get a great promotion from your boss, the show might not work. It’s the medium of the writers and creative thinkers. Let them decide what content will be consumed.