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What do Simi Garewal, Karan Johar and Oprah Winfrey have in common?  The answer is easy, isn’t it?  They all gained huge popularity as chat show hosts who spoke with the ‘who’s who of the celebrity world.  They got their audiences to tune in week after week to listen to them talking to a celebrity and getting them to open up and bare their all for the audience.

As far as chat shows go, it’s a very simple format.  Get a cosy sofa or two sofa chairs around a table, a simple backdrop, an interesting speaker, a good interviewer and you are good to go. As a genre, the codes of a chat show are well defined and well understood.  The codes are also easy for everyone to figure out and execute as well. So from a production perspective and based on commercial considerations alone, the popularity of the chat show is easy to figure out. It would be the go-to format for anyone just entering the content production space as well as the seasoned veterans of the space.

From an audience perspective though, the enduring appeal of the chat show requires further decoding.  For audiences who have grown up on a vast amount of audio-visual content in diverse genres – think music videos, movies and TV shows of every possible type, e.g. sitcoms, dramas, crime thrillers, action stories, on the face of it, the chat show should be utterly boring.  Two people sit down and have a conversation about a topic. One opens up and tells all to the other and the audience has to watch the conversation. Nothing happens in the narrative to move it along.

And yet, the chat show has seen explosive growth in the genre of branded content on digital platforms.  On the one hand, as we saw earlier, it is very easy to produce. With platforms like Zoom, it is very easy to record a conversation, do a quick edit and push it out there on social media platforms. That’s a self-produced chat show, which can be done by anyone with a laptop.

Brands who have turned publishers are also producing chat shows to put across their point-of-view and their purpose.

McDowell’s Telugu show No. 1 Yaari is a slick show made for TV and OTT viewing. Featuring Rana Daggubati as the anchor, it uses all the narrative codes of the TV version of the genre. The same show is produced in Kannada and Marathi with Shiva Rajkumar and Swapnil Joshi as hosts, respectively. The Hindi version of the show is hosted by singers Salim Merchant and Anushka Manchanda.

Promo of the show:

No. 1 Yaari shows have an extremely popular movie star/singer/actor as the host, who (like Karan Johar) speaks with various members of the film industry, particularly actors and actresses. It features multiple participants, quizzes, scenes from the Star’s life to create a polished and fast-paced viewing experience. In this show, the brand connect is through the concept of Yaari or an ‘easy friendship that is light-hearted and fun.’

Earlier this year, Gemini cooking oil launched the chat show ‘Ek Aur Pehchan’ hosted by Neena Gupta as part of its “AbHaiMummyKaTime” campaign leading up to Mother’s Day.

In this show, Neena Gupta speaks with four women, mothers turned entrepreneurs about their personal journeys. She plays multiple roles in the show, as an anchor, as an inspirational coach, as a champion of women’s empowerment. And the women with whom she speaks with, regular women, who you might see at the supermarket or on the metro, speak up with clarity, courage and confidence, under her encouraging eye.

The women extrapolate their skills and achievements from the kitchen to a space that is outside the house. From making bio-diesel by using waste kitchen oil to starting a business based on traditional medication or ‘desi nuskhe’, their ventures are located at the junction of home, kitchen and the outside world. The four women are presented as inspirations who broke out of the monotony of home and family to do something of their own. The point of resonance here is with millions of other women who are also occupied by similar matters but can potentially create a worthwhile venture.

Recently launched by Genius Inside, The Genius Code features remarkable personalities such as Amish Tripathi, Pullela Gopichand, Ayushmann Khurrana among others as they impart invaluable lessons while chatting up with the host and founder, Priya Kumar.

The Genius Code presents a well-researched questionnaire to its guests with the aim of extracting insightful answers. Put simply, the show aims to decode the process behind success. While analysing a famous personality’s journey, the chat show makes for more numerous tips and learning lessons. It highlights the fact that the so-called overachievers might be just persistent persons who did not give up. The Genius Code shows great tact in revealing the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ in the journey of a successful person. This gels with the brand’s goal of aiding one’s transformation—both personal and professional.

While chat-shows are as predictable as it gets plot-wise, the inclusion of different techniques to ask questions and varying answer lengths introduce some excitement. An audience might wait for segments like rapid fire. Providing a meaty introduction for the guests, often with a narrated video, heightens the appeal as it humanises the guests. It helps the audience in placing their guests in the everyday world rather than limiting them to just the guest sofa.

Highlighting the concept of friendship among stars, or showing regular women who moved from the kitchen and into the world, play up as excellent markers for respective brand messaging. By maintaining the focus on conversation, chat shows function as a brilliant format for branded content. Of course, less amount of production effort only helps.

Chat shows thoroughly make use of the element of relatability and free-flow of conversation often able to deliver multiple messaging. Relatable experiences might heighten the interest and hook the consumer cum audience for the messaging that the show as a whole ultimately gives. A chat show as branded content might be one of the most enriching formats that there is and hence worth trying for.