Star Plus attempts ‘disruption’ route to take Mahabharata to India

20 pc of project cost for marketing; initiatives range from mobile museums to apps targeting youth and OOH innovations

Sep 09, 2013 10:55:00 AM | Article | Ananya Saha

Star Plus is wooing the youth, among others, for its show Mahabharat, which starts airing 16 September. The half-hour weekday show will be telecast with a two-week delay on Star Pravah and Star Jalsha.

Creating disruption

The first leg of the marketing campaign for the show began with teasers in May.

On the (current) launch phase, Nikhil Madhok, senior VP-marketing and programming strategy, Star Plus, said, “Disruption was the key thought around our campaign. That's what you will see in every medium we have used to promote the show. Starting with the set of the differentiated character promos that are getting attention; for example, we positioned Shakuni not as a scheming old uncle but as a brother who loved his sister Gandhari so much that he dedicated his life to taking revenge on Hastinapur for the injustice meted out to her. You will find the same thought of disruption in the clutter breaking launch day innovation in print."

The print ‘disruption’, Madhok informed, would be seen in national newspapers across India.

To bring Mahabharat alive across India, the channel has set up a Mahabharat Museum, which will travel to key cities. It will showcase selected weaponry, jewellery and finery worn or used by the characters in the show at major malls. The museum will also take the viewers on a virtual 3D tour of the show’s set. The museums are currently being promoted through city-specific radio and print vehicles.

Reaching out to viewers in small towns will be a 'Mahabharat Museum on Wheels' through LED-installed vans.

Targeting youth who might be less familiar with the story and characters of the epic, Star Plus has introduced an interactive virtual wardrobe in colleges, across seven cities, using Kinect Mirror technology. This will allow youngsters to virtually dress up like the characters from Mahabharat and upload their images on social platforms. The channel has deployed promoters at youth hangouts with Glasstrons –special glasses that will give patrons an on-the-go audio-visual experience of the Mahabharat sets, promos and other content.

Activation and post-launch phase

The channel has also introduced a mobile app that will allow users to listen to Mahabharat shlokas, take part in daily contests, pose with different weapons and jewellery from the show, and even go through the family tree of the characters. An outdoor campaign will spread over 100 cities, including innovations such as a life-size Arjun firing an arrow at a fish rotating on a motor above him. The OOH innovation will be up in Delhi and Mumbai starting 10 September.

Madhok added, “The campaign is deep and extensive going all the way from metros to LC 1 towns. While there is a lot of action around launch, we also have some exciting ideas lined up post the launch of the show.”

As the story unfolds over the next six months, the channel has lined up ‘tent pole activities’. Without divulging numbers, Madhok said, “We have earmarked close to 20 per cent of the cost of the project (production of Mahabharata) towards marketing. And given the ambitious project, this is a very high budget.”

The channel will also air ‘Making of Mahabharat’ in prime time on the channel as well as on Youtube. Facebook would have pages dedicated to specific characters from the show.
Mahabharata will also be heavily promoted across Star Network channels and 25 others, said the spokesperson.

Targeting early prime time

The programming content of Mahabharata will be of 22 minutes duration till 1 October. Once the 10+2 ad cap comes into effect, the content time would be 24 mintues, revealed Madhok.

Madhok explained that prime time is shifting to an earlier slot. He reasoned, “(It is) because of penetration of TV and cable in smaller towns, which usually have power cuts or people sleep early. The prime time viewing, has thus shifted to 8:30 pm. It is a rich TVR slot now.”

But will the epic show attract TVRs, especially with competition from properties like KBC on Fridays? Responding to a query on previous attempts at Mahabharata not having succeeded as much as channels would have liked, Madhok said, “If the show does not have traction with youth, it is bound to fail. That is why we have to be relevant to them – across mediums.”