By: Yohan Chawla
With immense competition in the quest for creating engaging content for brands, lots of branded content agencies have emerged, making the space even more competitive than what it already is. Last year, Network 18 launched its own branded content division Amplify18 — a division they like to call an “image building entity”.
Amplify 18, a start-up backed by the mighty Network 18, has been in operations since a year and has Mayur Parekh as Business Head.
Mayur has over 12 years of experience with expertise ranging From Branded Entertainment, Advertising-Sales and Marketing to PR and Communications.
During this conversation, Mayur spoke about how Amplify18 goes beyond the traditional mediums of advertising, their distribution services, clientele, content aggregation, smart narratives for branded content, and a lot more.
1.Tell us about Amplify18? How does it move beyond the current format of Advertising? Who have been your past clients?
Amplify18 is the branded content and entertainment entity of the Network18 group. The differentiating factor is our approach – all the campaigns conceptualised are customer-centric since our messaging is not a sales pitch or an advertisement in other words. Branded content is more like a positioning and a trust exercise towards consumers at large.
Some of our recent clientele include:
Movies — Entertainment: There are enough content ideas that can be promoted strategically as seamless programing right From the film’s look, teaser/ trailer to their performance at the box office.
Top studios like Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Balaji Motion Pictures and various small budget film producers. We have also worked with regional moviemakers Marathi, Gujarati & Punjabi cinema in particular. Fundamentally, we cater to everyone who has a story to tell!
Corporate – Brands like Mobilewalla, Okwu India, Lloyds, Standard Electricals, StayHappi, Havells Home Appliances, Magic Moments MusicStudio to name Few.
2. How does Amplify18 use the mighty Network18’s strength in order to build business and Finally service its clients?
Each client requires a customised positioning approach. Today, brands want to communicate with their consumers which all of us refer to as consumer engagement, nationally and strike an emotional connect — predominantly through popular media like TV and Digital. This is where Amplify18 offers its expertise as a content aggregator For the group in recommending the right media-mix for client campaigns not just in terms of planning but also at the creative stage.
Our network spans across 26 states in Fifteen languages, making it an ideal platform for any form of strategic promotion.We at Amplify18, constantly keep the messaging as candid and simple as possible for a better brand recognition among its consumers.
3. What have been the key learnings and understanding of Amplify18’s business operations?
Over the last decade or so, we have seen several media houses taking the content monetisation route. Some are successful ventures even today while others are still bleeding costs on their top line. One thing we need to understand about the business is that branded content works the most when its narrative is smart, has a good mix of information and entertainment. Consists of social and emotional cause or when it integrates celebrities, influencers or public figures.
As far as learnings are concerned, Amplify18 is undeniably a start-up shop From the Network18’s stable. At Amplify18, we do what’s best for the business and we have learned to improve upon past conversations with our clients. By that I mean, strive hard each time to offer something new. The thinking hat has to be kept on 24×7 and be a good listener!
4. With the explosion of branded content across the spectrum and brands willing to take the engaging content route rather than the traditional advertising route. How difficult is it to build the business with so much of cut-throat competition.?
Indeed the business is very competitive with more and more companies getting into this space. Having said that, I think what eventually matters is aggressive pricing coupled with a smart and diverse marketing mix that understands how each element connects PAN India and drives higher engagement for your clients. For instance, Digital penetration is at its best in top 7 metros in terms of connectivity followed by TV and therefore an important marketing platform for brands whereas, Radio and regional print publications are still in demand for much of rural parts of India.
5.The complete digital evolution has not yet struck the Indian scenario, since TV and Print continue to dominate any media plan and digital has recently started getting a share of 18% to 20% of the spends, how does Amplify18 aim to increase that number and in turn capitalize on the same for its own business operations?
Digital is a perceptive medium on the rise and that’s one reason why publishers are starting to build a solid base in the form of Digital Live TV as an inventory. However, TV still continues to rule any media-mix owing to its massive reach. Thus, while operationally TV continues to be our key media mix, we also bundle-up our digital inventory to give that balancing effect to the overall client audience.
6. How does Amplify18 intend to service clients for their distribution needs?
Our diverse TV and Digital network is our key strength in serving our clients who need to attain a massive reach or sometime need geo-targeting for select campaign promotions.
For example: Our top 6 Hindi speaking channel markets work wonderfully for films that are set in North India as a backdrop and require heavy promotions in those markets.
On the other hand, most of our brand activations are PAN India, and are possible through our wide News18 network — which fosters popular brands like CNN News18, News18 India, News18 Lokmat and an array of regional channels, thereby providing India general news ranging From international affairs to the most hyper local events. Our Network’s strength lies in its 1200 plus on-ground reporters and alliances with international brands, which bring the fastest and most accurate information to its viewers.
7. Which are the need gaps in the Brands, Events and Entertainment space, which Amplify18 plans to fill?
I think in all 3 spheres there still exists a knowledge gap in terms of utilising the branded content in its right form. A lot of agencies that we interact with stick to the traditional or vanilla FCT buying without even suggesting the branded content route to their clients. There lies the cavity, as brands even though are keen to explore the branded content space are not guided or in other words, educated about the presence of media house content aggregator platforms such as Amplify18 and its reach.
8. Your thoughts on blockchain compliance and how would it impact the industry?
One of the most thrilling feature of blockchain From a compliance standpoint is its real-world immutability: as soon as any data is saved into the chain, it cannot be changed or removed.
Not to forget the proximity and transparency of information captured within a blockchain means that all necessary data can be recorded, shared and made available in near real time. Currently, some of this technology application is evident in the banking industry. I think one of the common use of blockchain in the media and entertainment industry would be ease of facilitating payments by eradicating middlemen, thereby passing on the cost benefit to the consumer. Such rapid digital transfer is possible through blockchain.
Today, we are already seeing start-ups that are exploring new payment models through blockchain technology. Given these solid characteristics, blockchain technology will likely be a catalyst for generative novelty world-over in almost every business.
9.How much does Amplify18 concentrate and encourage technological innovation among its clients? Which are the new and upcoming technologies being used by Amplify18?
The best stories are based on facts, and interesting analytics provides you with current, accurate data to incorporate into creative pitches, by-lines, infographics, speeches, and more. I think this has quickly become a PR tool I recommend to all my clients. Amplify18 encourages the use of technology through our digital assets coupled with our strong presence across all the leading social media platforms.
10.Which of your clients’ success story can be a case study for our readers?
Recently, we executed a 3 part behind-the-scenes campaign for Magic Moments Music Studio featuring popular Bollywood actors Jacqueline Fernandez and Kartik Aryan. The thought behind conceptualising these videos on our very own News18 Network (TV and Digital) was to have a fun and affable take on the campaign messaging. We discussed the promotions flow with the brand’s agency and achieved this by focusing on capturing shots From the beautiful locales of Budapest where it was shot. Furthermore, we also took bytes From both the actors on shooting for this campaign without blatantly promoting the Magic Moments brand.
Branded content is all about positioning the right messaging and that’s what Amplify18 is proficient at!
11. What’s the way forward for Amplify18?
Amplify18 has been introduced by our management by keeping the Lean thinking mechanism in-mind. We have approached slowly but steadily so far with great persistence and currently the focus is to build on some great body of work in our portfolio. I am positive that Amplify18 will start to achieve great results From 2020 onwards having a 25-30 % YOY growth.