Gautam Dutta: Baking the advertising pie at PVR

Cinemas Features

Prior to joining PVR Ltd. as chief marketing officer in May of 2006, Gautam Dutta had enjoyed a fruitful career as an advertising professional, first with Lowe Lintas and subsequently with Rediffusion Y&R, during which time he serviced the PVR account. “I was impressed by [PVR chairman and managing director] Ajay Bijli’s vision and his keen desire to build the PVR brand, hence joined him to contribute towards that endeavor,” he recalls, crediting Bijli with affording him that opportunity.

As CEO, one of Dutta’s biggest achievements was to build a performance-driven company culture through better accountability and ownership, as well as scientific and objective appraisal using human-resources information systems. These efforts led to the development and implementation of PVR’s long-term strategy in order to create shareholder value. “Besides, I have been able to motivate my team to drive various consumer-targeted innovations, focus on service orientation and processes, and impart better staff training,” he adds.

Customer-relationship management was another important area that was integrated into the operational system to better address customer issues and increase the customer-satisfaction index. Dutta also introduced the company-internal “PVR Innovation Awards,” paving the way for innovative thinking and creative problem-solving across all organizational units. “This served to bond the teams together and guide them towards the common goal.”

Dutta’s original background as a high-level advertising executive came in extremely handy in developing PVR’s advertising revenues across the circuit as well—although it’s only a small part of his manifold responsibilities. The company today commands a phenomenal 40% share of the entire Indian cinema advertising pie. “It truly is a gigantic share and I even dare say that PVR perhaps generates more advertising revenue than what the other major players bring to the table collectively,” he asserts. “Starting from what we sell, where we sell, the concept, the design team internally, and the vast magnitude of work we do with our clients to give them value, [our advertising income] is unparalleled.”

He observes that in other industries the relationship between brands and consumers is becoming more and more transactional due to a lack of human connections with the customer, which results in brand erosion over time. “Cinema, on the other hand, has all the numbers, the profile, the environment and offers a complete engagement of the senses. Depending on the message and its manner of presentation, cinema advertising can hugely support and at times completely eclipse the primary media,” Dutta explains.

All a marketer needs to do is think and design communication that takes advantage of PVR's unique capabilities as a 360-degree medium covering onscreen and off-screen advertising. “Basically, this medium can help [an advertising client] amplify any USP [unique selling proposition] of a product or service.”

But not everything goes in Indian cinemas in terms of advertising. All onscreen ads need to be approved by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Then, like other countries around the world, India likewise has a self-regulatory organization for advertising content, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which maintains and enhances the public's confidence in advertising.

“Their mandate is that all advertising material must be truthful, legal and honest, decent and not objectify women, safe for consumers—especially children—and, last but not least, fair to competitors,” Dutta elaborates. Additionally, India’s Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act enforces a total ban on tobacco advertising, including alternative products like e-cigarettes. Instead, theatres are mandated by the government to screen anti-smoking ads to discourage people from picking up the habit. Direct advertising of alcoholic beverages is banned, too, but cinemas are permitted to screen surrogate advertising.

“The award is testimony of PVR delivering excellence in all facets of the cinema exhibition industry in India and [the company’s] aspiration to become the preferred out-of-home entertainment destination by living up to the growing expectations of the consumer.”—Gautam Dutta