That's Leo Entertainment

Publicis unit goes Bollywood

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% With the immense popularity of Bollywood both home and abroad, Leo Entertainment in Mumbai, India, a marketing-through-film arm of Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Worldwide, is starting to build a track record in leveraging cinema for its brand marketer clients.

Following Leo Entertainment's integration of a Coca-Cola Co. brand into a movie, Radico Khaitan, one of India's largest liquor manufacturers, has enlisted Leo Entertainment and White Feather Films to incorporate its 8PM whiskey brand into a feature film entitled "Plan," due out this December.

The film, starring Indian film legend Sunjay Dutt, revolves around the struggles and aspirations of four men who move to Mumbai, India's largest city, after college graduation. They frequently meet in bars or other events where the 8PM brand is featured to share experiences.

In addition to brand placement in group scenes and songs—a prominent feature of Bollywood films—the deal for Radico Khaitan includes co-branded TV spots, print and online marketing, events, contests, road shows and point-of-sale merchandising at 40,000 retail outlets, all developed by Leo Entertainment. The agency also approved the film's script to make sure it matched the brand's marketing message, "A time for friends."

The marketing campaign picked up speed over the summer with a "You can act with Sunjay Dutt in 'Plan'" promotion, in which consumers answered questions on an 8PM branded Web site. Fourteen winners will be brought to Mumbai in late September for a screen test. Four of those will shoot a scene to be inserted into the film, plus win a three-month acting course in New Delhi.

Radico Khaitan paid for the film's production and marketing costs, an undisclosed but "significant" sum, according to Sanjay Bhutiani, managing director, Leo Entertainment in Mumbai.

"The story line and the brand message just fitted to the 'T'," says Bhutiani, who stressed the importance of liquor companies using "different means and ways to promote their brands" considering the legal prohibition against advertising alcohol consumption in the mass media, including print, TV, radio and billboards.

Alcohol marketers are not the only ones associating with film. "Plan" is the second feature film developed by Leo Entertainment and White Feather. Last year, they teamed up to create "Kaante," an Indian remake of Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," with sponsorship from a Leo Burnett client, Thums Up, an Indian soft drink owned by Coke.

"After reading through the script and watching the movie's pre-production, it didn't take long to work out that Thums Up, which is marketed to mature male teens, was the prefect fit for this movie," recalls Bhutiani.

Although the "Kaante" deal was less comprehensive than 8PM's participation in "Plan," Thums Up appeared in a few scenes and the brand was incorporated into the film's advertising, including three TV spots created by Leo Burnett.

Coke has been involved in two other film projects with Leo Entertainment, one of which was the Hindi feature "Kuch na Kaho" ("Don't Say Anything"), a love story starring the former Miss World, Ashvarya Rai, who is also a Coke "brand ambassador" in India. Besides drinking Coke on-screen, she agreed to a "have a Coke and meet Ashvarya Rai" promotion that ran in national media.

Similar deals have been forged for marketers such as Castrol motor lubricant and Tata tea. For example, in the film "Chalte Chalte," the star, who owns a fleet of trucks, endorses Castrol to his drivers so they won't break down on the highway. Castrol posters also appear in garage scenes.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Such deals have become a lucrative business for Leo Burnett, which became the first multinational ad agency to work in the Hindi film industry with its January 2001 launch of Leo Entertainment. For the past three years, the unit's revenues have doubled year-on-year.

The agency set up Leo Entertainment after taking notice of several market developments: numerous international production studios set up facilities in India; multiplexes, coupled with entertainment and shopping venues, were springing up all over India; and a new breed of Indian film makers was beginning to emerge.

"How could the marketing of films be left behind in an industry which was, at the time, dominated by design houses, with no agency in the business catering to this new phenomenon?" asks Bhutiani.

Going to the movies has traditionally been a pillar of India's leisure-time activities, in part, due to the country's unforgiving climate. Most Indians don't have air conditioning and flock to the cinema as a cheap means of escaping the stifling heat.

Although India is the only market in which Leo Burnett has established a Leo Entertainment division, Bhutiani has global aspirations. He won't give specifics, but says his agency has joined forces with "an overseas film house and an Indian film company" to create an English-language film, with an international and Indian cast, to be launched next summer worldwide.

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