Business Today

Brand new hardsell

How do you turn a music television channel into a marketing vehicle that goes beyond plain vanilla advertising? MTV thinks it has the answer. And it's called Viacom Brand Solutions.

By Anusha Subramanian | Print Edition: August 26, 2007

Have you tried to pin back your right leg with your right hand, place the other hand on your shoulder, head butt your opponent out of the circle and you are a star at 'Porok'….'Diyusa diyusa Porok moto apa'. For those unfamiliar with the lingo, this is the Xbox 360 ad created for the product's India launch and the spoken tongue is a mix of almost 10 Indian languages to leave the viewer guessing. For the Microsoft Xbox 360 launch in India late last year, 'Porok', a sport played in certain parts of rural India, was picked up and given a grand spin to denote the power of gaming.

In tune with today's youth: MTV Networks' Swamy (second from left) with his team
Early this year, Nokia, one of the world leaders in mobile communications, came up with a campaign 'Shot by You'-a first-of-its-kind initiative to utilise 'User-Generated-Content' to create a music video. While the company partnered with VH1, it was the first time in the history of the Indian music industry that a music video was created using video clips sent in by the consumers, thus pushing 'user interactivity' into the mainstream media. Pentagram, one of India's contemporary rock bands, was roped in for this initiative. When the Mumbai-based band Pentagram rocked to 'It's ok, it's all good'; swaying to its beats in the music video were Nokia users.

Cadbury India wanted to position its brand 'Bytes' as a popular snack among the 15-25-year-olds in India. The company got a variety of customised mtv music-based ringtones that were available for free with the purchase of every pack of Cadbury Bytes. Thus, each consumer could get a free ringtone with every purchase, and would have multiple options to choose from, depending on how many packets he purchased.

If you are wondering what's common to the brand push for Xbox 360, Nokia and Cadbury Bytes, here's the answer. For one, the companies have all gone an extra mile to connect with their customer and what's more, all these campaigns were conceptualised and produced by MTV India's new division Viacom Brand Solutions (VBS) that delivers customised integrated marketing solutions for select brands.

From catchy taglines and crisp copy to companies nudging you to "broadcast yourself", the advertisement paradigm has changed. Explains Arvind Sharma, CEO, Leo Burnett India: "While in the era of two or three TV channels, TV marketing was equivalent to mass media, now as efficiency has begun to erode and (with) retail explosion and other non-traditional media vehicles gaining importance, customer-centricity is increasing."

While all these campaigns or brand promotions were unique, common to the VBS brief across these ad campaigns was the "connect with the youth".

Coming in handy, while executing this brief, are the existing strengths of MTV. "It's a new approach to offer marketing solutions to brands by leveraging some of the key strengths that already exist within MTV Networks-youth expertise, unparalleled creativity and on-ground event expertise," says Amit Jain, Managing Director, MTV Networks India.

Giving an insight into the strategy, Jain categorically says: "MTV is not just a music channel, but a brand in itself that connects with the youth very well. In India, however, we were not doing enough justice to the brand and operating it like any other TV channel. Viacom Brand Solutions will help us leverage the brand attributes."

In most cases the clients themselves approach MTV-VBS and some of them are Viacom's international clients as well. On why Microsoft chose MTV for Xbox 360 launch, Mohit Anand, Country Manager, Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division India, says: "MTV embodies the youthful spirit of Xbox 360 and is uniquely positioned for reaching out to the young gamers across the country."

Amit Jain
Amit Jain MTV India: "MTV is not just a music channel but a brand in itself that connects with the youth."
The campaign was equally crucial for MTV Networks as it marked the launch of VBS in India. "(It was) no easy task considering the rich creative history of Xbox communication. After brainstorming with the creative team, what came out was the mammoth 150-second Porok," says Jain.

MTV also worked out a whole new set of unique programming content for Xbox 360, the online gaming service across its three channels-MTV, vh1 and Nick. "That's another advantage that MTV can offer through VBS-presence across the entire network," says Jain.

So pronounced is the MTV-VBS positioning as a youth-connect that another Xbox ad featuring actor Akshay Kumar and cricketer Yuvraj Singh-meant for mass consumption-was not done by it. Microsoft roped in McCann-Erickson for the ad.

In the case of Cadbury's sweet snack Bytes, the company wanted to break into the 15-25-year segment and approached the VBS team at MTV to design and implement a full-fledged and turnkey solution. Central to the Bytes campaign was the need to "engage with the audience". Narayan Sundararaman, VP (Marketing), Cadbury India, explains: "We wanted to build a team-connect and a team franchise for Bytes. To be able to do this, we had to go beyond the conventional advertising and engage with our audience. We realised that MTV understands the language of youth very well and therefore approached them for the promotional campaign of Bytes."

The VBS strategy for Cadbury was to create customised music-based ringtones. Reasons Jain: "MTV's key insight into the 15-25-year-old audience was that mobile phones have become a part of young adults' lives. Increasingly, the majority experiences music on their mobile phones-most commonly through the music-based ringtones and call-back ringtones. Therefore, ringtones were chosen as the strategy."

The in-house creative team at VBS took care to ensure that ringtones were of all types-i.e., monotones, polytones and truetones-to cater to the different mobile handsets that the consumer might have.

Bytes ad
Sweet success: The Bytes ad reached out to 6 million youth

According to Sundararaman, "Cadbury ran the promotion for 45 days, which reached out to approximately six million youngsters (six million packets of Bytes were sold)."

For FMCG major Hindustan Unilever (earlier Hindustan Lever), VBS relied on the power of music. HUL released the special edition Lux Body Wash packs with a new dance track 'Lux Friday Night Fever'. The premise: Friday Night Fever signature moves will be the ultimate swinging companion for India's young adults.
Explaining the rationale behind 'Friday Night Fever', Ashok Venkatramani, VP (Skincare), HUL, says: "The idea came to us first in a discussion on how the youth reflects the inner attitude. This album encapsulates the energy and confidence of Indian youth."

With all these campaigns in its kitty, does VBS propose to operate like any other production house and do campaigns for outside clients? "No," says Jain and stresses that MTV-VBS clearly does not operate like other production houses. As of now, MTV India works only with its key top clients like Coke, Cadbury, Levers, Microsoft, to name a few.

The reason: For VBS, it's also about building its own brand while creating advertising tactics for others. "We will not produce ads or come up with communications solutions for mainstream brands. We'll work with brands that bring us extraordinary mileage and are not restricting ourselves to being a production house like others. Everything that we do will have MTV relevance and feel to it," emphasises Aditya Swamy, VP (Marketing), MTV Networks India.

MTV India plans to offer advertisers more touch points to reach their target audience. This could be through advertising deals and pr stunts, partnerships with fm radio stations, client-led events, road shows and music events. "We are going to be more than a TV channel which would be a pipe for advertisers to push ads," says Jain.

The search for the right connect could just be the trigger point for spawning of more marketing solutions providers like vbs. Says Sharma: "As clients are spending across segments, there will be lot many marketing solution providers (like VBS) and each one will address different areas and different needs of clients. Such solution providers are in no way competing with the large or even medium-sized agencies."

In the race to capture the must-win market constituting young adults, customer-centricity seems to be a win-win for all. "There is so much of media clutter and, each and every brand is trying to break through this clutter. In order to be able to do this, the key today for most brands is to find the right connect and engagement with the audience," says Cadbury's Sundararaman.

To this end, it's time for the ad makers to move at the speed of delight to capture the hard-to-please young and the restless.

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