Imagine you running the social media properties of your brand/organization. One of your updates on Facebook or Twitter goes mega-viral and everybody’s bloody happy that your brand/company has got phenomenal global visibility. All good.

Next year, your company tanks, in revenues/profits. Of course, you can’t blame the mega-viral post for your company’s failure. But the point remains – mere visibility is not enough. Getting visibility was a tough task in earlier days when the media avenues were limited. These days, it is relatively easier. But the kind of things that may viral is also relatively lesser, with people exposed to a lot, currently, online.

Visibility has to lead to a business impact – it could be tangible or intangible. For example, it could lead to a positive perception about the brand (the theme of communication to garner visibility should include the brand’s personality, here), which in turn could lead to business impact. If it doesn’t then having mere visibility is utterly pointless.

Like Kolaveri Di.

It went mega-viral and people were counting YouTube views and writing case studies on it. All good? Doesn’t seem so.

Distributors in a â??kolaveriâ?? after â??3â?? goes for a six (The Times of India)

So, do those excited case studies of how Kolaveri went viral still stand? Of course, they do – but Kolaveri was a means to something, not the end. It could be the film’s success or may also be the ticket for Dhanush to get national-level stardom. He has been trying and has been tweeting about movies like Ranjhana and another with Bharatbala. Will he succeed? That depends entirely on what he is capable of. While he has proven to be more-than-capable in Tamil Nadu, a Kolaveri cannot proclaim that he can pull it off nationally.

Kolaveri was a movie promo, not the movie itself. Social media virality needs to be tuned towards the product’s/brand’s success – a viral video becoming viral (!) for the sake of it is largely pointless at the end of it – like the famous ‘15 minutes of fame‘ or ‘one-hit wonder‘.

Update #1: Considering a couple of questions on Twitter, when I cross-posted this blog, here’s an update with a few more perspectives.

1. Anirudh?
Anirudh is the composer of the film’s soundtrack. Besides Dhanush, he was also visible in the after-glow of Kolaveri. To be fair, he has proven that he is not a one-song wonder – the entire soundtrack of 3 is very good!

2. Old Spice viral
One of the best remembered virals of all time (in the limited life-time of virals, that is), is the Old Spice campaign. It not only gave visibility to the brand, but also sales! Yes, sales.

3. The product has to deliver, beyond the campaign
Like any advertising campaign, merely having a talked-about, buzz-worthy advertisement is not enough. It could be a peek into the product’s benefits, but the product has to deliver too! Here, the advertisement delivered, more-than-adequately. The film (the product) did not deliver. Can you blame the agency (advertising) for the product not delivering. Not entirely – but if the agency hasn’t thought through selling the final product and was looking myopically in selling only the promotion, then I guess they can indeed be blamed. Though, if the brief from the product’s owners was to merely go ga-ga online, you can’t blame the agency – they did deliver.

4. The article above clearly states that the film’s producer (Dhanush’s dad) made/recovered his money – it is only the distributors who lost money and are seen demanding a refund for the kind of exorbitant rates at which they bought the film. If the one-line objective of Kolaveri was ‘sell the movie at a profit’, then yes, the makers have got what they set out to. But in business (as in movies too), what really matters – the corporate making money or the consumers/customers of the corporate benefiting (in some way – even emotional; not necessarily in monetary ways)? If you go by the former, then it ignores the brand’s customers, which means they can’t pull off the same thing for another year or another time. The latter, I’d argue is the long-term advantage if you intend to be in business as a going concern.

In 3’s case, the producer has made the money, while his distributors and end-consumers (viewers) have lost money. Is it still a success? I have my doubts on this point, but I completely understand if you find even this level of success as a reasonable outcome of the Kolaveri viral.

5. Other items songs that were promoted heavily – the likes of Munni, Sheila etc. – had one BIG difference – they were promoted with actual film footage; not a random, completely new footage. Unlike Kolaveri. Kolaveri had its own footage, removed from the film. But it did end with a card for ‘3’, ‘written and directed by Aishwarya Dhanush’…and of course, ‘music on Sony Music’. Almost every single review in every Tamil magazine for the film pointed to the fact that the song which they had all been looking forward to, was a damp squib, in terms of picturization.

Update #2: Prashanth Challapalli, head of Jack In The Box, who handled the viral, has a different point of view, which I think should be read in context of my blog post above.

Well as the guy who heads the digital outfit that did this viral campaign, I can only say that the objective of this campaign was not to promote the film but to promote the song. The client was not Dhanush or the producer. The client was Sony Music. And for a music label, the success of the song / album is primary. So I really don’t understand this post. I am very surprised that the writer who is a very respected Social Media expert has basically got the brief wrong as well as the objective of this campaign. If you want to know how this campaign was created and how it went on to become so big, please see this case study video -… The simple truth is that the song made truck loads of money for Sony Music via You Tube ads and mobile downloads. In an age where very few end up buying a music CD, a music label will give an arm and a leg to monetize a song this way.

This is a fair argument, I’d say. The only point I’d like to add is that this was not a Indipop song removed from filmi connections. This was a film song and I suppose Sony Music was doing its best in trying to monetize the content it had paid for. So, if you see it as a standalone song, it did achieve the objective set out by the client, Sony Music.

But, shouldn’t we see the damage done by the song, to the film’s prospects, at all? The agency is definitely not to blame in that case, but one could possibly point to the film’s producer in allowing a completely unrelated viral to go berserk and release a film that was far removed from what the viral was about.

PS: You could well say it is easy to derive such lessons in hindsight. Yes, I agree, but, for whatever it is worth, I did ask this question during the first week of Kolaveri going viral (The larger question is, however, would people spend Rs.200+ just because they like a 5 minute song that they may have already seen/heard many times over?), in 2011, while the world was celebrating this song-wonder.



23 thoughts on “The pointless viral that was Kolaveri?

  1. Karthik- In my opinion, If “Kolaveri Di” was consciously promoted and produced as a “viral” then your points are valid. The spectacular success of the song was way beyond anyone’s imagination…Dhanush, Aishwarya et al jumped on the bandwagon after the song became viral and massively popular.

    1. I believe it was indeed consciously promoted and produced as a viral. Sony Music had hired a social media/digital agency to promote it aggressively. And in terms of sheer promotional success, it worked. I won’t dispute that at all; and the fact that after the initial push-based success, it took a turn of its own. My query is only on what the success was worth.

      1. The success of a song/advertisement can only ensure the opening for the film and not the commercial success of the film and I assume the film makers would have wanted just that.For such a requirement,the song succeeded in ensuring a huge opening for the movie but the sustainability in the subsequent weeks (determined by the quality of the product/movie) was dented by the poor quality of the movie.That said,There have been exceptions with movies like Gemini,Thiruda Thirudi which was successful on grounds of a single song 

        1. Agree. But most songs are used to promote movies, not necessarily the song alone. Here the song was a success, the movie was not. And as you say, the film’s inherent strengths are the only thing that can sustain it beyond initial visibility offered by the song.

          From that perspective, we could argue that the song was not representative of what the movie was actually about and created dissonance in the audience.

  2. No we were not hired to promote the song. We had been working with Sony Music on an annual retainer for all their social media assets for 5 months before this song came our way. And if anyone can engineer a leak and make it go viral, they would be God. Which no one can. As for damage done by the song, what damage are we talking about? Which producer ever shows the entire film and the script to a music label before it is finished. By that yardstick Sheela ki Jawaani should be blamed for the debacle of Tees Maar Khan which in itself is quite an invalid argument. A song is never promoted by a music label to make the film a success because the music label doesn’t distribute the film. It distributes the song and the album. And Karthik how can any piece of content ever be produced as a viral? There is no such thing as a viral video. There can be great content around which you can do viral marketing either on digital or on mass media or on both. As for what was the success of this song worth, it is worth lakhs and crores of rupees in mobile downloads and ad money via You Tube monetization to Sony Music as well as crores of free publicity for the film, albiet inadvertantly to the producers of the film. And as the guys who handled the digital campaign for this song, it is worth tons of money in terms of new business that has come knocking at our door. Cheers!

    1. 1. I am not blaming the song for the film’s failure. I’m blaming the song’s lack of connect with the end product, the film it is part of. If we are going to argue that the song was a product on its own, that is a different topic.

      2. I fully agree that there is no ‘viral’. One can merely create conditions to enable virality, produce great comment to the best of our knowledge of the TG and hope things will catch on. No dispute on this.

      3. The only point I’m making, repeatedly, is that this was a film song, and not a pop song. In case of film songs, in India, the product being sold is the movie, since it costs hell of a lot more to produce a film than to record one song. Film songs in India are advertisements for the film. If we disagree on this point, I’m sorry, but that is just my belief…not a universal truth. If the song made a lot of money for the label, that is great news.

      4. Finally, let me present an analogy. Brand A creates a social media contest and it becomes popular online. It is meant to induce people to try the product, but the contest and the campaign catch people’s fancy and even gets a TV show spinoff, making money for the brand and the agency. But the actual product fails to find takers. Should we see the success of the campaign alone and move on? Is there nothing to learn from this?

      1. Why deal in analogies. This is a true blue case study. And Aishwarya didn’t ask us to create a digital campaign for this song. Sony Music did. My repeated point is that Sony Music is not responsible for the movie marketing. It is only responsible for the marketing of the song and making money off it. What is the debate / confusion here?

        1. 1) The fact that  Sony asking you guys to market the song , becoming viral and the fact that the same song failed to create the right vehicle for the movie’s success are not  directly related events .

          2)   I don’t think Karthik is claiming the marketing of the song  as the reason for the failure , but the perception of the public of that song, as the campaign for the movie ( thoug not intended by your agency  ) failed for few reasons , mainly related to the content of the movie. It is not about ‘your agency’ here and what you intended or were asked to campaign , but what public will perceive no matter what !This always happens in advertising too – the advertisers focus on making the ad famous than  creating the perception about the product that they are advertising.

        2. 1. Why did Kolaveri exist? Did Anirudh become a composer on his own? Why ignore the existence of the parent brand (the film) completely and so thoroughly when it was the source of this sub-brand?

          2. Other items songs that were promoted heavily had one BIG difference – they were promoted with actual film footage; not a random, completely new footage. Unlike Kolaveri. Kolaveri had its own footage, removed from the film. But it did end with a card for ‘3’, directed written and directed by Aishwarya Dhanush…and of course, music on Sony Music.

          Every single review in every Tamil magazine for the film pointed to the fact that the song which they had all been looking forward to, was a damp squib, in terms of picturization.

          So, it is perfectly valid to stay at the level of ‘Sony Music is my client and all we did was to promote what they asked us to’. I can’t argue there, because you are right. But, in reality, nobody is going to see Kolaveri as a stand-alone product…its fortunes are bound to compared to its source, the film. If you wish to deny a source exists or that you don’t care about the source, that’s entirely your prerogative.

          But I do agree that you do not have any control whatsoever of doing anything in this case. Your brief came from a secondary owner…owner of a bi-product.

  3.  It is due to over pricing for the content that originally wouldn’t have made more than 10 crores ( I don’t think any Dhanush’s film made than 20 C).

    Secondly the perception created by the video did not set the right expectations with there audience . The song stands out  and thats the perception they have . The trailer  had the right message , but in the noise made by Kolaveri, it fizzled out . On the other hand the Naka MUkka song resonated with what they will see in the movie and  had the right perception of delivering entertainment .

  4. The ROI on the “success” of Kolaveri needs to be looked holistically.a.As  Prashanth Challapalli pointed out the track yielded mega revenues in mobile downloads, music sales etc. b. The song made Dhanush a national brand. Ranjhana, ad endorsements came from that. That’s huge for him / his father the producer. c. Granted the film did not work out, but how could a track be blamed for that. Was Dabaang a hit only because of Munni Badnaam? Finally  there really is no such thing as a viral video. Kolaveri Di was a  promotional video which went viral. You dont blame the promotional video of a film for a film not working out. In today’s day and age with multiple revenue streams that is a fallacious argument. All was not lost,mate.  Cheers

  5. If the intention was for Kolaveri to promote the film, IMO the gap between the release of the song and the film was too long. November 2011 for the song and March 30, 2012 (practically April) for the film. By the time the film was released, people had heard the song, passed it around, and were over it already. Was the film’s release delayed?

  6. Wasnt the real motive of the campaign to create a hype around the movie so that as many people watch the movie in as little time as possible  that the “Reviews” factor is thrown out of the window? I feel nobody anticipates the performance of a movie . Any campaign just like that of ” Kandasamy ” or “R.A.One” is to make sure that enough number of people rush in to watch the movie so that by the time the reviews come out , the movie would have got its ROI. I feel Kolaveri has done that , this movie without Kolaveri would have been a bigger damp squib . Nobody wants to project the visuals of a movie and let the viewers “guess” its quality . Everyone wants to play safe and Kolaveri has enabled exactly that. If we go by the effects of the song with the movie , i think Kolaveri scores a perfect 10 in promoting the movie . The performance is history as everyone other than the distributors is laughing their way to the bank. Distributors being Cheated !!! I feel they are responsible for their own greed !!!  

    1. What is more important? Success of Kolaveri or success of 3. Look at the kind of investments behind both (Kolaveri as a song vs. 3, as a film). If Kolaveri, made for a fraction of 3’s budget (and part of the film!) is a massive success while the film it belongs to (made at a massive budget) is a flop, it looks like the advertisement of the product was a bigger success while the actual product failed. The reasons for the product’s failure could be many, but what is the purpose of an advertisement, in the first place? To help the ad agency succeed? Or to sell the product?

      1. Your question is spot on ! But isnt the answer to the question straightforward? The purpose of the Ad IS to sell the product and Kolaveri has done exactly that . No distributor would have bought the movie for such a handsome sum of money . The number of viewers  for the movie would have been a fraction of what it is actually . The idea of the campaign being Sony’s has served the company more than what it expected , indirectly the song helped in bringing the necessary viewer base for a movie made in a shoestring budget . The Ad impressed everyone , they tried out the product and did not like it . The Ad has done its job and the impact was felt by the product , the failure of the product cannot be attributed to the idea of creating the ad or the success of the Ad itself . If every Ad created was candid about the real worth of the product , there would be no need of an Ad Campaign in the first place. More exposure to the actual product?? I dont know how much the makers or the distributors would have been in a better position to do a pre – assessment of its performance by that . 

        1. Good question! To answer the question on what constitutes a sale in case of a movie (producer making money from distributor vs. consumer’s not liking it), if we extend the product analogy, can we use a brand selling its products to dealers/retailer (who actually purchase it outright, for a fee; not just get it from the brand for sale and return unsold stock)? In that case, usually the dealer loses money and would think twice before trusting the same brand. That puts the brand’s future into jeopardy.

          Even in films, big stars like Rajinikanth are known to refund distributor’s losses. This has caused a lot of problems for Tamil actors like Vijay.

          The problem is that someone loses money and that is bound to affect the reputation and prospects of the brand owner. So, it is very unfair to call the producer’s table profit as the film’s success. Many corporate banners actually release the films themselves and in those cases these questions will become pointless.

          So, there is actually no need to consider the nuances of the film industry in ascertaining success or losses. The point was about a product and its promotion…and whether the promotion helped the product or middlemen like Sony Music. There has been success, no doubt, in this case, but I’m of the opinion that the success was misguided and the overall outcome is a failure.

          1. Another perfect argument ! Out of my sheer ignorance i want to ask you a question . Do we find “Middelmen” in general Brand Promotions ? Can we call an Ad Agency which makes a wonderful Ad , makes a lot of money through its Ad’s widespread reach irrespective of the eventual outcome of its Parent Product , a Middleman responsible for misguiding the consumers creating Ads disjunct from the real self of the product? 

          2. I won’t dream of calling ad agencies as middle men; they perform a service for a fee. Sony Music, in this case could be a better example of a middleman since they buy the rights of a part of the film (film’s experience) and are in a spot to recoup that investment. This they did by creating a completely different video, far removed from the film, and which may potentially crate different perceptions about the end product (than the one the film makers had intended).

            In the brand scenario, I can’t use the term middlemen for promotions or communications – everybody is just performing a service for a fee. Distributors and retailers may better fit the middleman term.

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