The move marks a shift to newer avenues for film promotions in Malayalam.

Manju Warrier on a bike ride with YouTube vlogger Mallu Traveler
Flix Cinema Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 18:19

Several promotional clips of ChathurMukham, Manju Warrier's recently released techno-horror film, show her interacting with popular Malayalam YouTubers. In one of the videos, she creates quite a buzz by riding pillion with a vlogger who owns the channel 'Mallu Traveler'.

ChathurMukham has won critical acclaim for ditching conventional horror film tropes and delivering a new-age storyline focused on smartphones, selfies and the internet. But it isn’t just the storyline that is distinct, the film also took a unique route with its promotions.

The film was endorsed by social media influencers, including big names from Instagram and YouTube, many of whom were invited to chat with Sunny Wayne (who is also in the cast) and Manju before the film’s release. TNM caught up with the ChathurMukham’s makers to understand why they chose influencer-driven marketing for the film, and what this shift means for Malayalam cinema. 

“The film is about social media addiction and fully revolves around smartphone screens and selfie clicks. So what better way to promote it than on social media. We decided to go millennial and roped in YouTube and Instagram influencers to chat with our cast,” says Bineesh Chandran, executive producer of ChathurMukham

Mallu Traveler aka Shakir Suban has over 2.12 million followers on YouTube, and is famously known for touring on his fancy bikes. In the video interview with Manju, Shakir rides a red and black Honda Goldwing,  a gigantic touring bike with sophisticated features, including a radio, belt drive, lean assist and other features. The video posted on Shakir’s YouTube is now viral with over 3.7 million views. 

The actors have also shot fun promotional interviews with vloggers Jio Joseph, Food vlogger Sabu and Instagram’s Valmakry.

YouTube vlogger Jio Joseph who owns M4 Tech — a page with a 5.84 million subscriber base that is famous for science and tech experiments —set up cauldrons and test tubes with chemicals for Manju and Sunny to do a science experiment during the interview. 

Food Hunter Sabu, who has 440K subscribers on the channel, also chatted with Manju and Sunny prior to the film’s release. Sabu, who is a cook and a food chronicler. is famous among the culinary and social media enthusiasts of Kerala. Other influencers are the popular Instagram duo Valmakry (431K followers) and Kyatgirl (141K followers) who wore their helmets to meet and do an interview with Manju in Kochi. 

“We selected YouTubers who had good subscribers and an audience base which was likely to watch the movie. Handles like M4 Tech, Sabu and Mallu Traveler have a young follower base. ChathurMukham too primarily targets a young, smartphone-using crowd who would understand the film’s nuances better,” Bineesh adds. 

With an average subscriber base of over 4.5 million, the promotions on these channels have a wider reach. Factor in Kerala’s high smartphone usage, with phone penetration at 80% back in 2014. 

The film’s PR team also briefed the influencers on the content. 

“Mallu Traveler is known for his bikes. So we asked him to do a bike trip with Manju as part of the promotions. M4 Tech is a science guy and a good chat with a science experiment to conclude was perfect. These were our ideas for them,” Bineesh says. 

Valmakry and Kyatgirl came into the chat wearing their helmets and were asked to do the interview with their helmets on for some time

The PR team vetted each influencer, his or her videos, the traction they receive, the content, subscribers and other aspects before approving the interview. 

Social media activations

Speaking to TNM, Sangeetha Janachandran, founder of Stories Social which marketed ChathurMukham, says that she also experimented with the release of the movie’s first look motion poster. 

“There is a PR strategy which we draft for every film. For ChathurMukham we wanted to use tech and social media. So, we identified 150 influencers from five different categories including Cinema, Politics, Media etc., who released the motion poster,” she explains. This includes smaller technicians, camera persons who have a unique audience following. “We also had generic influencers on the list. Names such as Aparna Thomas and Aryan Krishna Menon, and Red FM’s Mike who have major followers are notable,” Sangeetha says. 

The pandemic and shift from traditional PR 

While influencer-driven promotions have come up, it is the pandemic which gave it an added boost.

“Earlier. we would have put up hoardings everywhere. But now it doesn’t make sense due to restrictions. It is a waste of money and effort to identify spaces and put up these hoardings which people may not even see as they don’t step out of the house due to COVID-19,” Bineesh says. 

Sangeetha points out that influencer-promotions are a win-win.

 “Both parties get traction as the channel’s subscribers watch the show and the fans of the star may start subscribing to the channels. In some cases, it becomes a paid promotion where the vlogger demands a certain amount,” she explains.

Prior to this, PR for films involved hoardings, posters and ads in 6-7 newspapers. 

“Ads would be given in digital sites of Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Deshabhimani, Kerala Kaumudi and some print magazines including Nana, Vellinakshatram, Cinema Varika etc. Social media penetration from just these ads is dismal and hence promotions do not reach many people,” Sangeetha says. 

Innovative ideas using tech

This time around, Stories Social also tried out ‘tech based activations’. The firm tied up with Manorama to promote ChathurMukham, but with a twist using tech, Sangeetha says. 

“We asked people to text us their strangest smartphone experiences, and those who sent best answers won a meet-and-greet with Manju along with a free screening of the film,” Sangeetha says. The team also devised other promotional stints using selfies and social media, specifically targeting the young crowd. 

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