TVF moves to In-your-face advertising

Snapdeal ad playing at the start of Bisht, Please E01

Today,when I logged into TVF Play to watch Bisht,Please! I was surprised to see a Snapdeal ad. An ad which played for 27 sec.

Bisht, Please — the latest show from the TVF media powerhouse stars Nidhi Bisht in the lead role, and is written by herself and Biswapati Sarkar. Both of them were part of the initial founding team of TVF, and have been responsible for almost all of TVF’s work. The latest series takes Nidhi from the casting director’s seat to the leading actor’s. She has co-written the show with Biswapati Sarkar and in Nidhi’s own words, this show is her ‘flagship project’.

The trailer they put out initially announced that the show would be released in March. However, TVF founder Arunabh Kumar was embroiled in a string of sexual harassment allegations last month and this prompted TVF to delay the launch.

If this Mid Day article is to be believed, two people have filed FIRs against Arunabh and he has currently absconded. However, TVF decided to go ahead with the launch of the show last week and an excerpt quotes-

“The team arrived at a decision to go ahead with the release owing to mounting pressure from sponsors. An E-commerce major who is also undergoing testing times, is backing the project.”

Before we start analyzing the ads, we need to understand that TVF has been disruptive in the digital ecosystem with its brand-content integration strategy. In an interview with Livemint, Arunabh Kumar said-

“In-your-face branded content doesn’t work for audience looking to watch quality content online. But at TVF, we try to make our protagonists consumers of the brand and weave that into the show’s narrative. These are subtle references and keep the users hooked to the story-line.”

The three broad ways to monetize content online are:

1) Branded Content — Tie up with a brand to ‘sponsor’ the content and craftily merge visibility for the brand in your video. TVF is the only player I know globally, who successfully employs this strategy to monetize content.

2) Ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) — Users watch content for free in return for spending time watching ads — could be banner ads or video interstitial ads.

3) Subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) — Users pay a monthly fee to watch either specific niche content or could be a bouquet like that of Netflix, Prime Video etc.

I am a staunch disbeliever of the AVOD model. Why would anyone be happy when they are force-fed an ad, something that they never signed up for and that completely breaks the flow of content consumption?

SVOD services work, but the problem is that they are very expensive. Netflix charges Rs 800 per month! Only if Netflix charges such high prices, will the SVOD model work for it. Netflix wants to, in fact- keep raising prices because it’s focus is on producing high quality content and content creation is an expensive business.

TVF however, followed the Branded content route. Their first web show — Permanent Roommates was sponsored by Common Floor and they wove the value prop of Common Floor throughout out the series in a smooth fashion which didn’t feel intrusive, yet made Common Floor stick in our head.

You know what to do to avoid this, right ? You download the CommonFloor app

They repeated it throughout their shows from Ola drives Permanent Roomates S02 in which the hilarious Purushottam becomes an Ola driver, even till last week in their Bachelors E05 which demonstrated the various uses of the Redmi Note 4.

When your grandfather needs someone to talk to, call Ola
Tu Kingfisher beer hai, BC!
OnePlus 3T has a silent button to escape these kind of ass*
Bada Acha Phone hai Bhaiya

However with ‘Bisht,Please!’ things have reversed : the sponsor, Snapdeal is smashed right into your face. Your nose is bleeding and it’s red everywhere!

(Some spoilers ahead)

The episode opens with a 27sec flashy ad. This is part of the show so my ad-blocker doesn’t recognize it. “It’s okay”, I say to myself.

Why is there an unopened Snapdeal box in your cupboard along with your undies, woman!

Then I see this. This is totally a sellout! I mean, there’s limits.

The boyfriend tells Nidhi that he’s been cheating on her. Ooooh! Interesting.

Why is there a Snapdeal box in the Title Song? And why does the Snapdeal box have dog cookies. Have they gone big in Pet food?

Your best friend is in the hospital with broken bones and this is what you are giving her? Clearly, there’s something wrong with you, bro.

The episode closes with cartoon Nidhi explaining us how awesome Snapdeal is. “ Jee barke Snapdeal pe shopping karlo”

How ‘bout No?

If TVF had to accede to Snapdeal’s demand of running TVC’s, that means brands don’t trust returns on Contextual advertising. They would still rather choose the traditional form of forced advertising where they chuck their brand at you. They feel that at least then, their brand is definitely getting eyeballs.The lack of ROI measures in the industry make it worse for brands to trust the efficacy of Contextual advertising.

If my hypothesis is true, this is bad news for the Digital Media industry. This implies that Contextual advertising as a business model is not working even for the best web media house in India. If Media houses want to stay profitable, they would have to choose only between the other two models — Subscription or Ads.

In a world, where no one sponsors ‘contextual ads’, the only way is to go with the hit formula- Forced shitty ads with heavy budgets, leading filmstars and zero recall.

(If someone wants to know my thoughts on the first episode of Bisht,Please! I have two words for you - No, Please! This is the first TVF show that has disappointed me. Hoping next episode turns it around)