Gully Boy and a lesson in brand-blindness

Gully Boy released yesterday.

Much before its release, a slew of brands, that would have no doubt paid good money to be officially associated with the film, released their promo videos selling us everything from food ordering apps, cab rides to cough syrups. This is all usual when a big-ticket movie is on the anvil.

What seemed odd was the look Ranveer sported in each of those promo videos. It was the same ‘look’. It almost seemed like he had offered 5 minutes each to a list of brands and each brand’s agency came in, one by one, to shoot their videos, back to back. It almost seems like that.

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These are not still-shots. They are screenshots from videos Ranveer (and Alia) has shot for these brands.

Now, first things first, let’s agree that Ranveer Singh (and Alia Bhat) is the money-shot for these promos. Zomato, KFC, Torex or Ola can sell their things without Ranveer Singh too any day, but the very reason why they have signed up with the film is to get the star of the film to feature in their promos and help sell their products or services.

Certain other brands like Truecaller and Hike have taken a different, non-star approach. They have chosen to use the film’s theme, music, lyrics and the likes inside their products and this is a smart idea too.

For the brands that paid for the privilege of having Ranveer Singh, the star, talk about their offers, products or services, he IS the money-shot.

So, if he is the star, and he appears in the exact same outfit, and says 7 different things for 7 different brands… and the brands spend a lot of money to place these ads on TV or online… and people see these ads almost back to back in the breaks on TV, or online… wouldn’t it confuse viewers? About what exactly Ranveer is selling them? At the end of it, all that viewers may remember is just Ranveer and Alia, and the film… and not necessarily the brand. They may become blind to the brands that are latching on to the film given how similar the promos look.

The other area where this happens is in star interviews before the movie release. Usually, if the stars have allotted time on a particular day, the PR team schedules back-to-back interviews with a few leading TV channels, and the stars move from one studio to another, or bring the camera crews to where they are located (usually a 5/7-star hotel/exotic venue). When we audiences see 3-4 interviews on 3-4 different channels where Ranveer is wearing the same costume, it hardly matters because Ranveer Singh is selling the movie… not random products. For the TV channels, it would be a minor issue because their identity is lost and what remains is Ranveer and his same costume across interviews. But it is still ok, since the main product being sold is the film!

But, for brands, it is a different story. For brands, the main intention is to gain from their association with the film and the star. And if such an association is akin to a cardboard cut-out of a star (animated cut-out of course), what people retain in their memory, much like the spate of interviews, is just Ranveer the star and the film.

I completely understand how it would have played out. Ranveer and his celebrity management team would have allocated the stipulated time slots to each brand’s agency and they may have shot these in those time slots. But is there no scope to question this conventional, legacy process at all? In the interest of brands that spend money on the tie-up… and in the interest of Ranveer, the celebrity agency’s star, not looking the same in all?

Adidas is an official sponsor too and the agency would have mandated Ranveer to wear official Adidas merchandise during these shoots. But does Adidas have just one ‘look’ for the film, for Ranveer? This look is not even part of the film’s trailer, something that people would be seeing alongside the promo. But, Adidas, being the large brand it is, could easily create multiple looks for their star so that each brand gets a different look to differentiate from the next sponsor.

To some extent, brands should also question the legacy idea of a vanilla film tie-up if it stipulates just the star giving them 5 minutes to shoot one quick promo. If that’s the extent of the integration, that perhaps is poor value for money if it ends up like this… one among many same looking promos.

So, who can do something about this situation the next time something like this is being planned?

Should the brand managers look beyond their brand shoots and at the larger picture of how each brand (when there are many) is represented, in their own interest?

Should the agencies responsible for each brand’s shoot talk to each other and the film’s marketing team, besides the celebrity management company, to figure out how to get each brand unique bang for their buck?

Should celebrity management companies take this up, in the interest of their celebrity looking exactly same in multiple brand promos, and look at the larger picture?

Someone should take up the responsibility to change things, I suppose. Good learning, from this Gully Boy experience. The bottomline is that I hope brand managers, agencies and celebrity management teams stop looking at these promos myopically, in their individual bubbles and start looking at it from the perspective of end audiences/viewers. What do people end up seeing? Is that effective for the brands that invest money in the film? That should be the criteria beyond simply getting things done in the shortest possible time.

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