Evolution of Film Marketing in India

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on July 19, 2013

The Hindi Film Industry better known as Bollywood  will complete 100 glorious years in 2013.Bollywood has come a long way from the release of India’s first silent feature film Raja Harishchandra directed by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913 which was released with just 4 prints to 2012 where movies are releasing with 3000+ odd prints. Bollywood is one of the biggest film industry in the world contributing around $ 640 million annually and the world’s largest film ticket market with 3.3 billion tickets sold every year (Source: Motion Pictures Association). So how has the evolution to generate money for 107 Hindi film releases in the year 2011 from just 20 movies per annum in the 1930’s?

A film like ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ had 3300 prints released all over the world which was unheard of previously. Today many movies are grossing 100+ crores at the box office in the first week of release itself and this box office success is mainly because of the hype and buzz which and this term 100 crores is becoming an inspiring figure which each and every movie maker wants to achieve. Everyone is in a race to enter the esteem 100 crores club which has become the benchmark for movies. As the number of multiplexes and income level of the people is increasing so is the marketing budgets of the movies to generate ample hype before the release. Let’s trace the journey of film marketing in the Indian Film Industry through various channels.


Posters and magazines

Post independence Indian film industry gained a momentum and historians call the period of 1950s as the golden age of Indian cinema. Movies like Awara, Mother India, Pyaasa, Kaagaz ke Phool were released in the 1950’s. The movies mainly relied on hand painted posters which were used for Out of home publicity like billboards and wall posters.These were a few simple marketing campaigns used by producers to draw the attention of the movie-goers. In those days the concept of PR (Public Relations) did not existed and actors did not gave interviews to the media, nor did they attend parties and thus the movies at that time did not generate any hype or buzz. The 1970’s saw the advent of radio where slots were sold for commercial advertisement. Film festivals, premieres and awards were covered by the media. The International film festival of India became an annual event in 1974. This became a huge grand affair to gain space in newspapers and film magazines. VCR’s came in the market in 1970s which provided an alternate source of entertainment from the sole channel Doordarshan. This lead to increase in the number of movie watchers who could see movies at home rather than theatres.


Early 1990s opened the doors for cable and satellite television in India post the Gulf War, no longer the viewers were confined to only one channel ‘Doordarshan’. Satellite channels like Zee TV and Sony changed exposed viewers to new content. Mix genre movies like romantic, thriller, action and comedy were released and the viewers were spoilt for choices. The promos and songs of the movie started playing on the TV channels and created necessary hype prerelease. Technology evolution helped to replace painted posters by modern digital ones. What is great and unique about Bollywood is that though television was and is its biggest competitor it looked at it as a medium to reach its target audience. Today all movie makers use reality shows like Indian Idol, Saregamapa, and Big Boss to promote their films. ShahRukh Khan the producer of Ra-One visited each and every reality show to promote his movie.

Alternate channels

Another new trend which is emerging today is advertising and media are looking at a new medium to position their product to the target audience. That led to product placement in movies which was experimented where the products were prominently displayed by the actors in the movie. At home setting the attention span of the audience is low, it’s the same while watching television where viewers skip the advertisement. With digitization this has become all the more easier as TV shows can be recorded on the DTH and ads can forwarded. This is where the role of product placement plays an important role in movies where the message can be easily slipped in the narration of the movie. The audience is extremely receptive at a movie theatre; it also becomes more effective when the movie star is endorsing the brand itself e.g. Shahrukh Khan using a Santro car in the movie Chalte Chalte or Aamir Khan wearing Van Heusen clothes in the movie Gajini.

Social Media

Social media has brought a revolution in the world of advertising. Even a low budget movie like Gangs of Wasseypur which was made on a shoestring budget of Rs. 9.2 crore exploited this medium immensely to use it for its advantage. When the first part did well a pseudo election campaign was run between the two main protagonists of the movie. A twitter handle for both the characters was made separately where they aggressively campaigned for their party. A video promo aptly named ‘Shit Wasseypuris Say’ containing all the cuss words from the movie was trending on YouTube and shared multiple times on Facebook. But the movie which changed the dynamics of film marketing in India, the movie which used technology to the fullest for its promotion is Shahrukh Khan’s magnum opus Ra-one. Ra-one made with a budget of 125 crores spent additional 52 crores on its marketing. The marketing of the movie began 9 months prior to release in December 2010 with the release of its theatrical poster followed by two teaser trailers released during ICC World Cup 2012, now this was a very smart move taken by SRK. He knew that the TG(Target group) for his movie was the youth and children and what could be a better way to reach them if not the cricket world cup. From the marketing budget of 52 crores 15 crores were spent on online marketing which was never ever done by any film producer previously. An official channel for the movie was released on YouTube and simultaneously a twitter handle and a Facebook page was created for the movie to reach out to the youth. SRK became the first personality in the history of Indian Cinema who tied up with the web giant Google and held live chats on Google Plus to interact with the fans. 2012 release Barfi went digital by using interactive Youtube videos in which users could change the mood of the main character ‘Barfi’ (Ranbir Kapoor) or take tips from him in wooing girls.  The application  was created to increase user engagement and create awareness of the movie.


Over the last decade phenomenal improvements were made in the theater infrastructure in India. Multiplex culture which started in India in 2002 has improved box -office collection by 3 times. The large number of screens in multiplexes has provided an excellent opportunity for small movie makers to reach  to their target audience. An example of one such small budget film is Aamir Khan Production’s Peepli Live which was made with a budget of 10 crores but grossed nearly 30 crores at the box office.

Pre-Release Revenue Earning Model

Today’s FilmMaker’s have become very smart and they have developed new revenue earning models.Most of the films today recover their cost before release only by selling various Rights of the movie which include

a)Theatrical Rights

b)Satellite Rights or Broadcasting Rights

c)Music Rights

The movie Ra-One was also a pioneer in making full use of this strategy and earned 132 crores before its release which is the highest pre-release revenue earned by any Hindi film leaving way behind its close competitor 3 idiots which managed a pre-release revenue figure of 85 crores.The worldwide distribution rights of Ra-One was acquired by Eros Entertainment for 77 crores.The broadcasting rights of the movie were sold to Star India for 35 crores and the Music Rights of the movie were bought by T-Series for 10 crores.SRK has truly taught us how to market a movie and he is the only film personality in India  who can give a tough fight to any marketing professor in the world

Due to globalization Indian films now have a global appeal with release happening all around the world. Hence marketers today have a larger audience base to touch upon. To top it all corporates are now heavily investing in film industry.  Indian cinema remains a common thread which binds all the fans together throughout the world. Therefore film marketing and promotion is becoming very important and lot of money is spent on it in the present and further a lot more money will be spent on it in the future. Movie-makers today are aggressively marketing their movies because they know the golden rule of marketing is-Jo Dikhta hai woh Bikta hai.

This article has been authored by Huma Shaikh and Rajiv Parwani from (JBIMS) Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai

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