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Mahindra’s SUV line looks at film competitions

M&M has associated with The 48 Hour Film Project to hold the XUV500 Memorable Short Film Festival. Winners get free SUVs.

At a time when companies are increasingly focusing on creating original, engaging content around their brands, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) took an innovative approach and toyed with the idea of acquiring content that didn’t sound like an advertisement but at the same time, subtly created a brand presence.

Still from the winning film, Deal

Still from the winning film, Deal

M&M associated with the Indian chapter of The 48 Hour Film Project (HFP), an international short film competition where participants have to deliver the film in 48 hours, to organise a brand-based film competition. Titled XUV500 Memorable Stories Short Film Festival, the brand offered the very vehicle as the prize for the winning film.

Speaking on the objective behind the partnership, Vivek Nayer, chief marketing officer, Automotive Division, Mahindra & Mahindra, says, “People today want to go through new and interesting experiences. New experiences are the new ‘wealth’ in today’s world. The XUV500 brand aims to create memorable stories in the lives of our customers. Hence, we decided to create this short films contest to bring alive XUV500’s brand theme of ‘May your life be full of stories’.”

Preeti Gopalakrishnan, India producer, The 48 HFP

Preeti Gopalakrishnan

Preeti Gopalkrishnan, one of the two producers of the Indian chapter of The 48 HFP, says that M&M invited them to ideate and conceptualise a short film competition format to suit the creative brief. The brief was simple – the XUV500 had to be central to the story, not just a prop. To further aid the filmmakers, M&M offered the SUVs during the shoots.

While the competition took place last year, the winner and runners up were announced earlier this year. However, the winning team received their prized vehicle earlier this month.

How it was done? The 48HFP tapped into its talent pool – film makers, who participate in the 48HFP’s competitions across the country. A total of 29 film makers from across Jodhpur, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai took part in the competition. While some were ad and corporate filmmakers, others included documentary makers as well as film enthusiasts. While six teams arranged the vehicle on their own, the rest got the vehicle for the shoot. But only 23 films were finally submitted.

According to Nayer, the brand theme of the XUV500 was promoted through this short film festival and while the viewer watches these films, the XUV500 remains as the main character in the viewer’s mind. These 23 films have already got more than 1 lakh organic views on YouTube.

“We drew up a concept, planned it, promoted it and executed it within a tight time frame. The complete contest management, managing legal paperwork, logistics of vehicle pick-up and drop, and jury coordination was handled by our team. We reached out to our film community inviting them to take part in an exciting opportunity like making a short film for XUV500, where the company even agreed to provide the SUVs for the shoot. And, the grand prize was an XUV500, a first for any short film competition anywhere in the world,” Gopalkrishnan says. The competition has a large talent pool of filmmakers across the country, who take part in 48 HFP.

Considering the uniqueness of the partnership, The 48 HFP was flexible in its format by giving participants 15 days to work on their short films. “The teams were given five days for script, five days for the shoot with the XUV500 and five days for post-production,” Gopalkrishnan adds.

The films were judged by a jury comprising Shimit Amin, director of Chak De India and Ab Tak Chhappan; Robby Mathew, national creative director, Interface; and Carlton D’souza, chief creative officer, Hungama Digital Media.

All the films including the winning film, Deal, are M&M’s property. M&M has already promoted these films amongst XUV500 owners and prospects and will continue promoting them on social media platforms. The brand will leverage these to promote the brand theme of ‘May your life be full of stories’.

Interestingly, the 48 HFP has done similar initiatives with Tata Docomo in 2011, wherein the brand wanted a TVC competition with the same creative brief as their then on-air campaign. The contest was announced separately during the Delhi and Mumbai legs of The 48 Hour Film Project events, giving details of concept, criteria and rules. Additionally, it reached out to its talent pool through SMSes, posters, e-mailers and FB campaigns and got over 60 creative expressions for the brand in the form of TVCs. There were multiple winners in both legs and they won HTC phones.

Nayer adds that the scope of such an initiative is vast for brands. “Short-formats will continue to play a key role but in tandem with long format in content marketing. It provides numerous ways for brands to communicate and instil their brand theme and ultimately, build equity,” he says.

Yogi Chopra

Yogi Chopra

Gopalkrishnan says that just getting likes and followers is not enough. Today’s users have an opinion on everything and it’s their birthright ordained by digital media to speak out. And, brands need more than paid brand ambassadors. They need story tellers. “We see this as an opportunity to create exciting competition formats and ultimately fresh content using the best talent from around the country. There is a lot of low quality stuff that is coming out on YouTube and managing a good number of views as well. So why not raise the bar, identify quality story-tellers and get great stories!” say Gopalkrishnan and Yogi Chopra, the other producer of 48 HFP.

For the filmmakers, brand-based film competitions add value by giving their films wider reach with brands promoting the films on the digital platform. “For the XUV500 filmmakers, they got a chance to make a road film, and even the car was provided to them. It was a first for everybody – filmmakers, the company and us!” says Gopalkrishnan.

The winning team

The winning team

Anshul Joshi, whose film, Deal, won the competition, says the challenge was to make XUV500 the hero of the film. In the limited amount of time the team had to come up with a story. “We knew we would have a car chase sequence and a game of poker. Poker – because that’s the game we used to play in our friend circle those days. We watched the BMW short films again for their execution style,” he recalls.

(Published in afaqs! on July 19, 2013)


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