New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) With superstars Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar turning a barber and undergoing tattooing, respectively, to promote their upcoming films, marketing and publicity campaigns have come of age in tinsel-town.
Not content with the massive buzz that 'Ghajini' already enjoys, Aamir Khan set up shop in the heart of the capital city and personally gave the now-famous buzz cut which he sports in the latter half of the film to scores of his fans.
'Ghajini'-makers have also collaborated with multiplexes and food chains across the nation to give all waiters, ushers and ticket-sellers the popular cut. Speculators are betting heavily on the movie that is being promoted as Aamir's first action film to register record openings.
Akshay, the reigning darling of the box-office, may be merely lending his voice to Hindi dubbing of hit Korean film - 'Jumbo' - but that has not limited him from going all out to promote the film while at the same time sending a message of hope for the martyrs of the Mumbai terror attacks.
But, perhaps, the biggest sign that Hindi film publicity has come of age is the fact that the country's biggest production house under-promoted 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi', a tribute to the common-man, given the sombre atmosphere existing in the subcontinent on account of the terror attacks and economic slowdown.
'Bollywood publicists are clearly putting a whole lot of thought in to how to spread the word of mouth. We are seeing more and more meaningful promotional campaigns that not just spread the word about the films but also attempting to give the film a longer shelf-life and emotional connect with audiences,' says a trade observer.
The success of films like 'Welcome To Sajjanpur', 'Aamir' and others have shown that a good film coupled with targeted and sound marketing campaign can give goliath-budget films a run for their money.
'Our marketing costs are very close to our production costs, which means that if we make a movie for five crores (Rs.50 million), often on prints and publicity we might spend another five crores (Rs.50 million),' says Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO of UTV Motion Pictures.
Gone are the days when a filmmaker thought twice before setting aside more than five percent of the film's budget for the promotion of the film.
Theme parties, blogs, online fan clubs, female leads selling tickets, entertaining winners of film contests in mid-air and/or making appearances in reality shows, soap operas and cricket have been done to death.
Film publicists are looking for ways to connect audiences at a more personal level and hence the emphasis of pegging the movie on a hip concept.
'The audiences of today have a limited attention span. A movie has to make an impact on the first day of release. Its fortune is decided in three-four days,' says film marketer Tarun Tripathi.
Public relations specialist Dale Bhagwagar believes that public relation campaigns will soon be the way that many clients will go instead of marketing and advertising, especially in the financial climate today. 'As more and more people realise the cost-effectiveness of PR campaigns, their attention will shift from the expensive ad campaigns to PR strategies and placements.'
But film publicists are a mysterious and dark breed of fixers, stuntsters and arch media manipulators, as exemplified by publicity guru Mark Borkowski in his new book 'The Fame Formula'. Whether that's true or not, for years PRs have been fundamental to the tinsel-town fantasy.
They are, according to Borkowski, the hidden gatekeepers of the Hollywood dream machine 'who guard its formula, often to the death'. As recounted in his detailed analysis of publicity through the ages, they are an invisible army of Machiavellian schemers who were ferociously protective of their clients.
The sordid tales within the pages of 'The Fame Formula' say that one arranged a hasty abortion for Joan Crawford when she became pregnant from an affair with Clark Gable. Publicists also covered up the fact that the sexually rapacious Gable had apparently attended orgies with underage girls, organised by the English actor Lionel Atwill. They hid Spencer Tracy's alcoholism and his alleged affair with Judy Garland when she was only 14.
Back home, film publicists have coined terms like showman, superstar and even dream-girl. Dale agrees that his job is 'equally about concealment of stories, protection and crisis management, than imaging and branding'.
'A complete PR package is about moulding outlooks of people to suit the client's requirements. It's about imaging, branding and executing makeovers. PR is an intriguing mind game in a media minefield,' he adds.
But no amount of good marketing or concept pitching, however, can replace the importance of content. 'Often marketing and publicity campaigns backfire as the success of a film depends on how the audience accepts it,' maintain trade analysts.