Marketing tactic that could work over a longer period of time.

You may have read the news about a mobile number being shown on screen in a film, and the hapless owner of that number being inundated with calls from complete strangers.

Now, why do people bother calling a number they have no clue about? Because it’s free and they are curious. If each outgoing call was expensive, they would not do it at all. But calls are dirt cheap, so people indulge in their curiosity.

Most recently, this happened to 26-year-old Puneet Agarwal, because his number was the one that Sunny Leone reads out as her (character’s) number in Arjun Patiala!

And even more recently, a poor Malayalee in Sharjah (where else?) because his number was shown in Sacred Games 2 as fictional gangster Sulaiman Isa’s number! Apparently, he has besieged with calls and the poor man is completely clueless as to how to deal with this menace.

In fact, in the US, they have a specific ‘fake’ number series meant for use in movies, games, and TV.

Given all this background, I was mighty impressed with what the makers of the upcoming film The Zoya Factor did with their teaser for the film’s trailer.

The teaser, meant to announce the fact that the film’s trailer will be out on August 27th, is made on the lines of teleshopping ads. It stars Pankaj Dheer, known best for this role of Karna in B.R.Chopra’s TV series, Mahabharat. It is funny and gets the satire perfectly.

There’s another teaser that alludes directly to the theme of the film (which has Dulquer Salman playing Indian cricket team’s captain, and Sonam becomes his and the team’s lucky charm!) – cricket!

But what’s interesting is that the teaser displays an 1800 number in the end. I was curious enough to see what would happen if I called that number. I was hoping to get a dead call or a number doesn’t exist message.

To my surprise, the number works! Here’s what happened in the call!

The makers have not only worked on a teaser, but also an audio version of the teaser created specifically for people who would be curious enough to call! Not just that, you also get a text message as soon as you call, again in context.

I don’t know if they can do that, though… taking the call to be consent from users, for them to send us an otherwise unsolicited message.

Barring that niggling doubt, I think this is very smart end-to-end planning by the filmmakers! They anticipated that people will notice a phone number in the ad (because how can a teleshopping-style ad be without a phone number?) and that they will call… and planning for that call-to-action is solid work! The audio of the call too is on-character!

Imagine other filmmakers actually thinking this through while displaying or reading out some phone number in the film/TV series! In these days of delayed viewing of new films (just after a month, at that) on OTT platforms (unlike theaters where people may be attentive enough to write down that number) where people can pause and take a second glance at the number and then note it down, this could be an interesting marketing continuity strategy.

Assume that the makers of Arjun Patiala plan to display a specific number in the film (as read out by Sunny Leone). The makers, obviously, need to buy/own that number and plan content when people do happen to call it.

For instance, Sunny Leone is a brand ambassador of Manforce condoms, 11Wickets fantasy sports and even her own range of innerwear called ‘Infamous by Starstruck’. Imagine Sunny reading out a brief audio ad for one of these products and ask people to go to a website to browse or buy the product, or sign up for the service! And this needs to be recorded once and used as a voice message when someone calls.

If the link read out in the call is unique (and perhaps backed by a text message, like how the filmmakers of Zoya Factor did, though that part is questionable), the brand can track the ROI of this effort directly!

Or, take the Sacred Games 2 example. When people do call ‘Sulaiman Isa’, Netflix, which is already known for some whimsical digital content, could easily plug another program or a special offer to the caller in the recorded voice of Isa! Two things to remember here:
One, this is a Netflix-only show, so anyone who calls would be an existing subscriber of the platform (I’m obviously ignoring the torrent downloaders here), so the message script needs to remember that and appropriately say something.
Two, if Netflix does offer a special offer, the ROI for this effort is every single person who took the offer because the only source of knowledge about the offer is the call!

This is a nice easter-egg style marketing tactic that could work over a longer period of time!

PS: Just came to know that the makers of the Ayushmann Khurrana starrer, Dream Girl, have something similar! A phone number attached to the title, in the trailer, has a similar easter-egg!

When you call the number, there’s a contextual explanation to the caller and also an interactive menu with 3 options! Very well thought through!

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