‘On-air spots are no match for on-ground engagement’- Prem Kamath, Channel V, India-Head


The Channel V Nokia India Fest 2014 concluded in Goa on 8 February. The only event property owned by Channel V and backed by title sponsor-Nokia, the event in its fourth year saw a sizeable crowd of college students pulling into the shores of Goa for two-days of pure revelry. But beyond all the high jinks what matters most are targets and numbers! EE speaks with PremKamath, India-Head, Channel V about exactly that. And more.

How did the idea of a pan-India college fest come about?

We were always approached by colleges asking if we could become their broadcast partners and many times we would do that and put college festivals on air. But having taken part in a lot of festivals while I was in college and having covered college level events as a telecom channel, we realized that as a network we had the ability to do three things- 1. We noticed there are close to 24000 colleges in India of which only about 4000 organized a college fest, the rest did not have a festival of their own because of lack of resources, ability to organize, shortage of space etc. So we aimed to give these colleges a chance to be part of a festival by giving them a platform. 2. We could improve the scale of these festivals tremendously. For instance we could give out 50 to 70 lakhs worth of prize money which is huge in terms of college festivals but it was easy for a network to manage. 3. If we could create a platform that showcased talent using the network that translated into a lot of value. For example, In the short films contest the winning entry was premiered on Star Movies. The students who won the solo dance competition were given the opportunity to be on the ‘Just Dance’ show on Star Plus.

We haven’t done that as much as we would like to, but going forward we have extremely ambitious plans and a very consistent  agenda. Four years back when we first launched the Channel V Nokia India Fest we started off as a marketing initiative. It gave us an opportunity to get into colleges and connect with students and create a great engagement platform outside the television shows that we do.

What are the various events that happen within India Fest?

There are about 30 events that we conduct in the India Fest. Some events are online and others are on-ground. For things like photography the submissions are online and prizes are handed out at the finale. Performance events are organized on-ground. For instance- Footloose is a dance competition, Launchpad is a rock music competition, there is streetplay, fashion shows, quizzes, personality contests etc. So there are essentially 30 events in a combination of online and on-ground activities.

Are you planning to organize any more events the scale of India Fest?

We are currently looking at adding at least two more events the scale of India Fest. The venue will really depend on the nature of the event. With India Fest being organized in Goa the venue proved to be an added incentive that acted as a legitimate reason for students to travel here and engage in an informal, casual setting. That being said, it is much easier to attract an audience in metros such as Delhi or Mumbai. We have been organizing India Fest for four years and we feel fairly confident now in terms of our understanding of large scale events and management of large numbers of participation and audience. Two more such events are in the pipeline but we haven't narrowed down on the categories. We are very clear we are not an events agency so our agenda is not to do six or seven small events every year that add to our revenue. The idea is to create something prestigious and memorable which is worthy of an association with our brand name- Channel V or Star Network. Our objective is to make a difference in people’s lives. If we discover talent, put them on air and two or three big stars emerge from it a few years down the line we will consider our endeavours successful. We are happy if we can do two or three such events every year.

You seek help from which all agencies to help you execute the India Fest?

The digital agency we have on board is Grey. They are the ones who take care of registrations, social media interactions, development of RFID tags etc. The zonals at Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, New Delhi, Goa and Chennai are organized by Fountainhead and the Grand Finale is organized by 70 EMG.

How do you monetize the India Fest? How do you get return on investment on the content that you generate at the event?

We make no TV revenue out of the India Fest. We don't put any events on air and then sell sponsorship on it. We are a 100% on-ground event and the revenue generation is completely through on-site sponsorship. The entire sponsorship revenue is generated for the on-ground event itself. We don't even acquire on-air rights for artist performances. Although the concerts or events are not televised, we have a one hour special on air just to let people know what happened at India Fest which includes snippets of the multiple activities. We intentionally did not want to monetize through television broadcasting because we knew our clients would want us to put a value on the spots we gave them on-air. And we wanted to avoid that approach because the value of an on-ground event cannot be measured by the number of spots or promos that have been put on air. We felt that is completely the wrong metrics. So we told our clients we would be giving them nothing on-air, there would be no spots for sale and no title sponsorship for any of the televised content. What we offered our clients was to activate 4000 colleges on ground, visibility of communication, stalls at zonals and interactivity venues. We also introduced the RFID technology where in each student is asked to login with their facebook during registration, their details are then embedded into an RFID band which allows them to check-in at 60 locations around the venue and automatically update their status as ‘I’m at Channel V Nokia India Fest and watching xyz event’. In the first year itself with just about 6000 students we generated close to 13 million impressions. Thats great value for an advertiser. We feel giving air-time to an advertiser for an on-ground event really devalues the event over a period of time. Therefore we consciously tried to keep the two apart and will continue with that approach.

Who are the current sponsors of the India Fest?

Nokia is our title sponsor. We have 12 other sponsors on board. Honda has been a strong sponsor for us for quite sometime. Fogg deodorant has come on board this year. Woodland has been a sponsor since last 3 years.

How do you guarantee return on investment to Nokia- the title sponsor of India Fest? 

There are very few companies that understand the value of experiential engagement. Nokia is clearly one of them. They have been the title sponsor since the inception of India Fest 4 years back so they obviously see a lot of value in the event. Some parts of the day there is more crowd at the Nokia stalls than there is at the ongoing events where they showcase their products and engage the audience through mobile games and other activities. Nokia realizes that the opportunity to engage with their target audience is huge and meaningful at the India Fest and the value it adds is immeasurable.

Is Nokia a major sponsor for any of your televised shows? 

No. They are an advertiser on our channel but they haven’t held the title sponsorship for any of our existing shows. India Fest would be by far the largest engagement we have with Nokia.

Being a television network what is the kind of value you see in engaging audiences on-ground?

There is without a doubt tremendous value in on-ground engagement. But the discussion is not whether TV is better than on-ground. The best campaigns are a combination of both. TV serves a specific purpose by building an enormous amount of reach and awareness while on-ground can help one experience a brand in a way that two-dimensional communication never can. Feedback is indispensable in brand communication .

The challenge we face is that in India we do not have the metrics to measure effectiveness of an on-ground property. Traditional metrics such as number of impressions are being applied which I personally feel are disastrous means to measure an event efficacy. Even if one person feels dramatically different about a brand after experiencing it on-ground I think thats huge success. Because then that one person will talk to ten people and those ten will speak to ten others. This value cannot be created through mass media communication.

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