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October 19, 2009
The Advertising Industry Can Learn from Bollywood

All my life, I’ve grown up loving India’s movie industry also known as the industry of dreams – Bollywood. Over the last ninety-five years, Bollywood has evolved with different eras that introduced new technology, genres and new methods of storytelling. Bollywood has always embraced change with its colorful arms and bright milieus.

So, here are five things we can learn from Bollywood:

1. Content is the hero

When two twenty-somethings narrate their lives on the big screen through words and acts, you feel catharsis. Bollywood is known for making audiences empathize with the stories, making them sob large drops of emotions. When you form powerful stories to be told for your brands through different media, be it an iPhone app, a Facebook page or YouTube channels, make sure that your content is golden. Make sure that what you want to provide to the user is beyond what’s merely expected of the brand.

When a user is engaged with your brand for two minutes or two hours, you want to make sure that the story lives on beyond that. So, when the user is offline and walks out of the movie theatre, he/she can’t help but tweet/blog/text about how your brand made him/her feel.

2. Converge the old with the new

Bollywood’s screenplays originate from the age old tales that our grandfathers and grandmas told but they are fairly blended to include the culture that represents the streamlined generations that came after.

When we create content, you may want to adopting cool but not at the cost of the brand’s already built legacy. Each brand has its halo, its magic, which when pronounced with potential can prove to be a very healthy mix for the brand.

3. Throw away integrated and embrace complexity

Sometimes there are chorus dances on snow-clad mountains in the midst of emotional exchanges. Bollywood is famous for showcasing multiple-storylines and multiple-scenarios all weaved into one. They are not integrated because they are not supposed to be. And yet they all work together pretty well.

A few weeks back, there was a lot of discussion around one big idea versus a hundred small ones. The debate didn’t conclude with one right answer because one size does not fit all. It is okay to have multiple storylines and fragmented messages that are able to connect with people at a much deeper level.

4. Surpass the tests of time

It’s been 15 years since a certain Bollywood romantic saga released on the big screens but the story still reverberates whenever we bring up the great movies’ list we can watch over and over again. We should strive to create brand stories that people opt in and watch over and over again.

I can’t go through a day without the word ‘engagement’ appearing in my twitter feed. It has found its way on the marketing buzzword bingo sheet. It is interesting to see the Dove campaign still appear on blogs and other corners of the web. Let’s share beautiful brand anecdotes that surpass the tests of time and be able to relate to people even five, ten, fifteen years from now.

5. Remember that you are an artist first

An artist experiments, innovates, curates and is not afraid to take risks. The Bollywood audience is really stringent and unforgiving. If your first half hour fails to engage the audience, they will not hesitate to walk out on you. They will also call you out with unrestricted critiques and comments. But that does not stop the filmmakers from walking on uncharted territories. They continue to reinvent by eventually resizing people’s expectations.
Bollywood is also not afraid to show vibrancy in its aesthetics. It is colorful cinema. Each film is made of myriad strings of colors, performances and pieces of art.

As we move from one day to another, from recession to recovery, from one assignment to another, we shouldn’t be afraid to walk the unprecedented paths, hop over the fence, go over to the other side and generate creative masterpieces.


Feel free to add your own drawn parallels between our industry and Bollywood.

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Mansi Trivedi works as a digital strategist at Modea. She is a communications strategy graduate from the VCU Brandcenter. Born and raised in the maximum city of Mumbai, she thrives among crowds and is constantly intrigued by the interplay of various cultures. 

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