Movies are being taken to entertainment-starved audiences in rural India via an innovative movies-on-wheels project that is also enabling brands to speak to this notoriously hard-to-reach group.

Caravan Talkies is an initiative from cinema distribution network UFO Moviez, whose CMO & National Sales Head explained to Exchange4Media how the set-up works.

During the day, the Caravan Talkies vans roll into villages across India. They are parked in prominent positions in the marketplace where most people will see them, said Siddharth Bhardwaj, the vans operating effectively as a mobile hoarding.

A large cinema screen is then unfolded on the side of the van to create a big-screen, open-air experience for an eager audience. “In the evening, when the sun goes down, there is a sun-down movie show that happens which is free of cost,” Bhardwaj said.

“The man-power deployed is used to do activations for the brands and there are activities undertaken for the brands which sponsor the van,” he continued.

Commercials air during movie breaks and there are free sampling opportunities provided by sponsoring brands.

“It provides 360-degree activation and brand experience solutions along with customer research to advertisers,” Bhardwaj advised.

“Overall, it presents itself as an ideal mix of traditional media tools and experiential marketing.”

Already brands like Coca-Cola, ITC, Hindustan Unilever Ltd and Dabur have partnered with Caravan Talkies, which has now spread to 14 states.

But the audiences have left project coordinators somewhat surprised. Rather than demanding the latest Bollywood hits, they are keen to watch older movies, some from as long as 30 years ago, and they prefer films in their own language, Bhardwaj told The Hindu.

He’s not concerned that Caravan Talkies might lose its appeal as more people are able to watch content on mobiles, or have transport to reach cinemas beyond their villages, which mostly still have no electricity supply.

As WARC notes in How to market to rural consumers in India, out of 1.3 billion Indians, 840 million live in a total of 624,000 villages; by 2030, that village population is expected to reach 888 million – so the potential of rural audiences will remain huge.

“This is a campaign where the film comes to you, the idea is here to stay,” Bhardwaj said. “People in villages may watch films on mobile, (but) the joy of a 15-feet screen is different. This is a market that’ll stay.”

Sourced from Exchange4Media, The Hindu; additional content by WARC staff