When audiences marketed films
2017's list of successful films indicate a trend; marketing budgets don't always determine success
For years now, it has been believed and reinforced that for a film to enjoy a good opening, it must be marketed well. Perhaps this is the year when this rule was finally broken. Several small-budget films that didn’t spend much on the marketing at all went on to be successful, thanks to word of mouth publicity. Siddharth, the producer of Aval, thinks it’s all due to the rise of independent producers. “They go out of their way to not only produce a film but also influence a trend. I don’t believe in the conventional marketing approach, because anything you do for the sake of doing just does not bring in the required effect,” he says. “It’s not necessary to spend lavishly on marketing just because it’s the norm.” He points out that promotions have started seeming identical for many different films. “Publicity is not something that can be created with mathematical precision. Every film demands its own strategy.”
Siddharth explains that for Aval, the team mainly focused only on YouTube and social media. “We did not bother about some usual ideas like announcing the release date in advance, and slowly building up curiosity about it.” He thinks there’s an inherent problem with approaching a film so. “Should there be a delay in the release date, everyone begins to talk about that. You don’t want the audience to speculate on the reasons for the delay, and god forbid that it should be thought of as being irrelevant when it eventually comes out,” he says. “That’s why we decided to keep things simple and do everything we could to make sure that the film gets released on time.” He has a word of advice for producers: “You should always work with the fear that anything can go wrong any time. This way, you will always remember to spend carefully.”
Inder Kumar, who produced Kuttram 23, is convinced that the days of successful films being dependent only on stars is over. “When that was the case, you needed to spend lavishly on marketing as the only way to spread the word,” he says. “Good content sells these days. Today’s audience is intelligent that way. Also, the reach that social media begets has made us wary about the content we are putting out.”
Lokesh Kanagaraj, director of Maanagaram, thinks it’s crucial for filmmakers to recognise who their target audience is. “That’s how you will know what to do to create visibility. When you approach the strategy with clarity, the whole cost naturally goes down,” he says. The strategy of Maanagaram, however, was much simpler. “We knew that our content would deliver and simply planned a press show five says before the theatrical release. The talk about the film began early and spread during those days as planned,” he says. “These days, you get videos that analyse a film in detail. Such videos often motivate the audience to rewatch the film.”
Sibi Sathyaraj, who produced Sathya, also believes that theatres getting turned into multiplexes has helped small-budget films — with limited scope for marketing — do well. “Just getting a good theatrical platform is enough when you have good content. You can’t ask for a better advertiser,” he says. He too emphasises on the importance of social media publicity. “Trailers, teasers and first looks pique audience curiosity. It helps them keep track of the progress of a film until its release. I firmly believe that a good film always has a good trailer,” he says.
He says, “For Aruvi, the festival route worked. Reviews that we got after the festival screenings were not only encouraging, but also created the a lot of expectation among the audiences.” He agrees that 2017 is a year when content was the deciding factor — not money spent on marketing. “Cutting down needless marketing cost also helps us allocate more budget for quality filmmaking.”
Distributor KV Durai who was responsible for Maragatha Naanayam getting a lot of screens thinks that marketing is still important, but that it’s also important to approach it in a smart and resourceful way. “It’s not about being ‘grand’ anymore,” he says. Producer-filmmaker-writer Dhananjayan shares his view. “Publicity can only give you an opening but it cannot help you sustain in the box office. Take the case of many of this year’s hits which ran to packed houses during the weekends. None of those films involved extravagant marketing budgets but nevertheless, managed to do well commercially. Word of mouth is the biggest marketing strategy this year,” he says.