For movies with deep pockets, it is easier to get the media to go ga ga over it, what with the big stars and the budget for 360 degree promotions. Often a controversy is planted around the lead pair being in love or at absolute loggerheads with each other, to further boost audience curiosity. But what does one do when they have at hand, a socio-psychological thriller of a common man to promote to the masses?
When the Hindi thriller, ‘Dombivli Return’ – starring award winning actor, Sandeep Kulkarni and the very talented Rajeshwari Sachdev in unglamorous, common man roles – needed to be promoted, the team chose a distinctive route around storytelling. Steering clear from dumb contests (read #ReplaceMovieNameWith****), the team, in association with digital agency Heads or Tails, adopted a pure content strategy to engage the audience through real life stories.
First off, the challenge was to differentiate the movie from the award winning 2005 Marathi movie ‘Dombivli Fast’ starring the same actor Sandeep Kulkarni in the main lead. The other drawback was the low budgets available for promotion.
Anant Velankar, the common man speaks
The main protagonist playing a common man in the movie triggered the idea to create a common man with a Facebook page of his own. Anant Velankar, the common man of Dombivli Return is first introduced as a regular common man on social media. He posted and tweeted the daily ordeals faced by commoners.
Coming across as a helpless common man frustrated by the circumstances around him, Anant Velankar connected with folks on social by sharing his thoughts on various social issues doing the rounds on media.
Anant Velankar’s Facebook page started with a series of corruption scandals being highlighted on a timeline basis. Major scandals right from the day of independence were highlighted. The page went on to showcase how things in India have worsened over the years. It also featured posts on news articles that highlighted the plight of the common man.
A set of 3 short videos were launched on the page where he engaged fans with thought-provoking situations where a common man’s good deeds are met with fierce opposition from various elements in the society. The videos were released one by one and each video seemed to have a separate purpose and message.
In one of the video, a eunuch saves a girl from being gang-raped and gets beaten up while at it. The girl escapes while the eunuch leaves the viewer with questions – should I have allowed the rape to happen? Was my deed wrong to be punished? Would you stand up if you were in my place? Viewers were enouraged to share their opinions using the hashtag #CommonManCan.
In an attempt to popularize the character further, a tie up with WeAreMumbai – a rotational curation Twitter account by Mumbaikars for Mumbaikars – took place where Anant Velankar was made the curator. With more than 23.7K followers on WeAreMumbai, the character emphasized on common man related problems and roped the audience into various debates. The 3 videos were launched during this curation period and debates were held on the topics enacted in them.
Anant Velankar’s Twitter page engaged people in the same manner. Content focused on the major headlines highlighting the state of the country.
A constable lost her life because of being administered wrong medicines. This is the height of negligence! http://t.co/Qu7vfESDcn
— Anant Velankar (@AnantVelankar) June 7, 2014
— Anant Velankar (@AnantVelankar) June 10, 2014
Transition from Anant Velankar to Dombivli Return
Anant Velankar’s identity was only revealed after his character was firmly established on social media and had built a relationship with the fans. The transition process from Anant Velankar to Dombivli Return had to be a very thought out process which needed to look very natural to the audience. On both the Anant Velankar and Dombivli Return Facebook page, a countdown was announced with the use of posts. The countdown was to create an element of mystery and curiosity among the audience. The movie bytes followed later with a teaser video making the first appearance on social media. Garnering a decent number of views at 41K, the teaser managed to gain attention for Dombivli Return. The Facebook and Twitter pages of Dombivli Return have since then been sharing about the movie shoot. There is the behind-the-scenes with the main protagonists, sneak peaks at the shooting location and the regular sharing of events as they happened during the shoot.
Creating meaningful engagement with content
Despite a low budget and lack of big stars, Dombivli Return has managed to connect with the audience. Highlighting the plight of the common man to create meaningful engagement through social media and the use of a powerful content strategy, has ensured the movie reaches out to the online masses and also builds up the expectation for the socio-psychological thriller of a common man.
Unlike movies creating online buzz with the help of dumb contests and promoted trends, Dombivli Return has managed to create a meaningful buzz. The social media accounts created for the main character, the kind of content he shared and the conversations he triggered, all led to a cool introduction to the movie.
Movie marketing can be uniquely creative when promotional content sticks to the storyline, while also involving the social media audience. Dombivli Return has set a good example in content strategy for social media promotions of low budget movies.