Why this ‘kolaveri di' is India's coming of age

The video is said to be its first viral marketing campaign

Published - December 04, 2011 07:08 pm IST - BANGALORE



In the last two weeks, two videos have gone viral on the Internet in India. One, the catchy Tanglish-folksy ‘Why this kolaveri di' video, and two, the flash mob at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in Mumbai where a few hundred Mumbaikars were seen shaking a leg to the Bollywood hit, ‘Rang de basanti'.

If you logged on to any social avatar of the World Wide Web, these videos, the ‘shares', the ‘likes' and the instantly-trending tweets were unmissable. While the flash mob at CST, a tribute to those who lost their lives on 26/11, has around 11.45 lakh views on YouTube, ‘Kolaveri di', a promo for Tamil hero Dhanush's upcoming film 3 uploaded by Sony Music on November 16, has been viewed 1.43 crore times.

On the Web, a world that is constantly on the look out for the ‘next cool thing', that Kolaveri's viewership continues to grow by the day, has made commentators christen it the first viral marketing campaign in India. Perhaps more interesting than the song itself are the over two dozen versions of it that you will find on YouTube. There's an anti-inflation version featuring Sharad Pawar; a group of boys from Kerala using the song to appeal to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on the Mullaperiyar dam issue; a talented young girl presenting a “female version” reply to the song that's arguably gender-biased, and many others have done remix versions and videos of the song. Like the song's appeal, the rip-offs too are pan-national.

While Bollywood trailers and content have always been popular online, film-makers have not actively tapped into this medium. Earlier this year, the makers of the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Ra.One became the first film to have its own YouTube channel, featuring songs, promos, footage, ‘behind the scenes', and cast interviews, supplemented by a fairly effective social media campaign. Add to this, the potential of revenue generation offered by music downloads and caller ring-back tone subscriptions; this form of marketing is cheap, easy, instant and a potential recipe for success.

Indeed, mobile value-added service provider, Techzone, which holds the exclusive rights for music tracks, videos and digital entertainment formats for the ‘Kolaveri' movie 3 , has seen a “phenomenal” number of subscriptions, downloads and ‘live-in' requests. Techzone reportedly saw 22,000 downloads of the song in the first five days. While refusing to share numbers, marketing representatives from Techzone told The Hindu that the response has been overwhelming. TechZone deployed the content through its entire distribution network, which includes all telecom operators.

“Generally, for Tamil songs, 90 per cent of the demand comes from Tamil Nadu, but with this song we have received a sizable amount of requests from different parts of the country. This is a first for us,” the Techzone representative said.

A vibrant medium

So are we witnessing a change in cinema's relationship with cyberspace, asks Nishant Shah, a researcher from the Centre for Internet and Society. A campaign like Ra.One does not compare to ‘Kolaveri' because a movie trailer simply offers people a chance to be spectators, unlike the simple and catchy ‘Kolaveri', which has people remixing, editing the footage and using the video to create their own narratives.

Mr. Shah feels that indeed this is the first viral online video campaign that India has had. Most viral videos so far, he points out, were invariably pornographic or even voyeuristic in nature. “Like the Delhi MMS video — that was perhaps one of the earliest videos to go viral — to other pornographic clips of movie stars. Later on, we saw interesting remixes or spoofs, mostly regional; this is the first time that we have home-grown content that has gone viral simply because it is fun, simple and addictive. In that sense it's an intelligent campaign,” he explained. He also feels that this could be the coming of age of video as a medium, particularly so because the campaign has become a pan-India phenomenon.

Tried and tested

Viral marketing is quite big abroad. In that sense, this has all been ‘tried and tested' abroad — from commercials for beer and sunglasses to selling computers and even presidential campaigns; online videos and viral marketing plans are indeed the mainstay of many publicity strategies.

Marketing campaigns can no longer ignore the Internet. Neither can they treat it as an also-ran, says Prashanth, a social media junkie and marketing professional. “Campaigns now have to start thinking of making promotional content for the new media. Currently, a shorter version of regular campaigns are edited for the Web; there are some successful ones in this category too. But a campaign such as the ‘Kolaveri' has the industry sitting up and taking notice. In some sense, the logic is simple: you have your audience cut-out, and the reach is pretty much pan-national,” he explains.

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