Cashing in on its potential to get the word around, Tamil cinema is slowly looking towards the Internet for film promotion

Social media has often bailed out small independent producers by getting the word out on their films through creative marketing. Yet, it is the cash-rich producers and studios that have moved first to leverage the power of the Internet in Tamil cinema.

It has taken a Fox Star Studios India to actually invest time and money to disseminate content online to market its upcoming Tamil movie Raja Rani. “Despite the fact that Tamil movie fans are very active on social networks, it was a surprise that people didn’t explore this marketing option. With a focussed online strategy, we were able to make Nayanthara trend nationally on Twitter, something that only the big stars have been able to do,” says Vivek Krishnani, head (marketing & distribution), Fox Star Studios India.

Tweet it

What has been the strategy? “We ran specific campaigns when we launched the teaser and the audio, and we had a campaign coinciding with the release of the film. In a first, the handle was verified by Twitter. By doing simple things such as tweeting when a promotional programme was on television, replying to fans and so on, we were able to show how it cumulatively added to the brand recall,” says Shony Panjikaran, general manager, marketing, Fox Star Studios India. The film’s trailer has garnered almost 1.9 million views on YouTube.

These are by no means revolutionary in the world of marketing. Big-budget Hollywood films have been taking the Internet very seriously over the last few years. Steven Spielberg launched the trailer of his film Lincoln on Google Hangout while the marketing team of Iron Man 3 promised to give fans a sneak preview of the film if they managed to charge Iron Man’s arc reactor to the fullest with their ‘Likes’. The campaign was a huge hit and the team had to release the trailer in just a few hours! Shah Rukh Khan’s Chennai Express also ran a Twitter campaign modelled somewhat on Iron Man 3’s campaign where Twitter users had to tweet with #ChennaiExpressArrives to power a train from Mumbai to Rameswaram to watch the trailer.

The reason why Tamil film producers haven’t taken social media marketing seriously enough is perhaps due to the cushion provided by diehard fans who take it upon themselves to make their stars’ films popular. The fans of Ajith Kumar were responsible for his making Twitter headlines in India as the audio and trailer of his latest film Arrambam was made available online. Despite the loose marketing strategy, Kochadaiyaan swam to the shore on the back of Rajinikanth’s immense popularity. “While there were multiple hashtags doing the rounds on the day of trailer release, there was no effort made to tell the audience what to expect,” says social media and film enthusiast Prashanth.

Wide reach

Some of the estimates suggest that the budget for social media marketing in Hollywood is around five per cent of the marketing budget. In Tamil Nadu, producers seldom spend beyond one per cent of the film’s marketing budget. With the film industry looking to expand its markets beyond India, social networks are perhaps the most economical way to reach out to the global audience for whom the Internet is the main source of information. The time has come for producers to increase the budgets.