Twenty-eight years of India’s first Hindi satellite channel, Zee TV’s advertising journey has been as strategic and novel as its programming over the years.
‘The Z Factor- My Journey as the Wrong Man at the Right Time’- the memoir of one of India’s prominent businessmen Subhash Chandra describes him as the pioneer who gate-crashed his way to the top. A risk-taker, Chandra had the vision of getting into broadcasting early, even as established media players failed to see its potential. His Zee TV, India’s first private Indian TV channel, changed the rules of the game and tickled the fancy of a public starved of entertainment. Our Brand saga this week delves deeper into the making of the channel, the programming that made it one of us and the Zee TV advertising journey that made it reach crores of screens.
Zee TV- story of rejections and survival
The Zee Entertainment Enterprises was incorporated in 1982 on November 25 and obtained the Certificate of Commencement of Business on 5th January 1983 as Empire Holdings Ltd. in the state of Maharashtra. It was promoted by the Essel group of companies and aimed at entering into the business of entertainment software which finally took place in 1992.
Zee Telefilms (which was later renamed to ZEE Entertainment) entered into a joint venture called Asia Today Ltd with Star TV in order to lease a transponder from the AsiaSat satellite network to broadcast ZEE TV.
Lore has it that Richard Li, then founder of STAR TV, a pan-Asian television network had rejected Chandra’s proposal for a joint venture to launch an Indian language channel. The meeting culminated between Chandra’s team and Li at his Hong Kong office and after much debate and a few months down the line, the deal was finalised in April 1992 with Zee TV going live on October 1 as the flagship channel of India’s first private television broadcaster.
Early days programming slate
Zee TV started with three hours of original programming and went onto six-hours programming a day in three months. Within a year of its launch, it became a 24/7 entertainment channel. The channel also promoted itself with the tagline ‘Yeh Hai Zee TV’ since 1992.
Rather than banking on an array of established producers of the popular Doordarshan shows, Zee’s strategy was to hunt new talent and let a fresh creativity flow. According to the broadcaster, ZEE reached out to fresh talent to create its own team of producers to offer unique content to its viewers and has been known to set up and boost the creative ecosystem for the Indian Media & Entertainment industry. It won’t be wrong to say that several big names in the acting, production, content and direction space have all been a part of ZEE.
As years passed by, as part of Zee TV advertising journey, the channel started creating content blocks including shows like Tara which depicted the story of a modern-day woman and put out a strong message. By 1994, the channel had captured 65% of the satellite market share. Zee TV remained the market leader in the entertainment segment. It forged a deep connect with audiences through path-breaking concepts that captured their imagination like Hum Paanch, BanegiApniBaat, Campus, Zee Horror Show, Khanna Khazana and pioneering non -fiction formats like Antakshari, Saanp Seedi, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, and later Dance India Dance which have gone on to become cult franchises, endured the test of time and whose names resonate in audiences’ homes even today.
The channel has had many firsts to its credit. From starting India’s first cookery show to paving way for the reality TV content, Zee TV came out as a key differentiator while Doordarshan’s popularity refused to fade and yet another Hindi GEC – Sony Entertainment Television- saw the light of the day in 1995.
When quizzed if the channel ever used the characters of one of its shows like Hum Paanch help reach a wider base, Aparna Bhosle, Business Head, Zee TV shared, “Hum Paanch was one of the most popular comedy shows in the ’90s with the most relatable, endearing, slice-of-life take on what an Indian middle-class family is all about. The fact that two of its cast members – Vidya Balan and Ashok Saraf went on to become such renowned Bollywood actors speaks volumes about the caliber of the talent that was hand-picked for the show. With our innate consumer-centric approach, we have always crafted stories and designed characters that reflect the lives of our viewers and resonate with their hopes, aspirations, issues, lifestyles strongly.”
She adds, “Each of the characters in Hum Paanch had their own unique and distinct personalities, their quirks and were brought to life by genuinely gifted actors in the most organic manner. This was loved by the audiences and helped it reach a wider base of viewers across the country as TV penetration increased.”
Due to the immense nostalgia for the show, Zee TV brought back Hum Paanch during the lockdown.
Zee TV advertising journey
In a strategic move, in 2008, Zee TV changed its tagline to ‘Har Pal Banaye Ek Naya Rishta’ from ‘Jiyo Zee bhar ke’ that was coined in 2005, with a new programming line up and a makeover. During that time, a dispute between producers and Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) forced all the general entertainment channels to air repeat content.
Making a comeback and leveraging the opportunity to stand out amidst a bunch of GECs like Sony and Star, Zee TV advertising journey push saw the unveiling of a fresh positioning and packaging highlighting the quintessential Zee TV woman, who is rooted in tradition, but also epitomizes the values of a contemporary woman, and regards her family as the source of inspiration.
The channel released shows like Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai, Chotti Bahu, meri Doli Tere Aangana, Monica Mogre, 12/24 Karol Bagh that portrayed strong female characters as the lead and taking the mantle to survive the patriarchal mindset giving a tough fight to the old customs and stereotypes surrounding the feminine gender reflecting the same in Zee TV advertising journey.
The tagline was seamlessly promoted and integrated in each of its shows while the female leads justified the objectives of the channel to bring to the audiences different facet’s and challenges face by women in general. A 30 second promo video was rolled out featuring the journey of the Zee woman in all her relationships- with her family, her children, her husband, God. The music for the promo was given by the evergreen music-director trio, Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy.
According to reports, there was a predominance of butterflies and flower vines that depicted the nature of the woman in question. Some interesting details about the packaging: The graphics for this video were designed by Tata Elexi, who are also associated with shows like Dhoom, Taare Zameen Par, Roadside Romeo, to name a few. Also, the channel has used real images (kids, wife, husband, grand-parents) not surreal ones to depict the ideology of the channel. These are people one can associate and identify with, and that’s what the channel is all about.
‘Har Pal Banaye Ek Naya Rishta’ came from the insight that a woman always seeks to build new relationships and keeps strengthening them over a course of time- Zee TV too aimed at creating new bonds. The makeover was also the channels’ step towards consolidating and binding its programs and bringing to its viewers a palatable mix of drama, thriller, music and mythology.
After Star unveiled its refreshed imagery in the summer of 2010, Zee TV was back at changing its packaging yet again in 2011 with a new slogan ‘Umeed Se Saje Zindagi’ giving a new trajectory to the Zee TV advertising journey. The new logo was developed by Zee TV’s in-house team and the launch also coincided with the premiere of two new shows on the channel, Shobha Somnath Ki and Mrs. Kaushik Ki Paanch Bahuein. As part of the channel’s new lineup of shows was also India Ke Jaanbaaz, a reality show.
The film was directed by one of acclaimed ad film-maker, Ram Madhvani and reflected as a metaphor for the woman, echoing the emerging paradigms with fresh beliefs and a zest for life. Joining playback singer Kavita Seth for the vocals, was Snidhi Mishra, the young girl from Orissa who was also a Sa Re Ga Ma Pa prodigy.
The channel also joined hands with its then creative agency Draft FCB-Ulka to develop the corporate brand television commercial which was produced by Equinox. The new positioning was about a celebration and vindication of a woman’s emerging beliefs.
In 2014, the channel, during its annual awards property, ‘Zee Rishtey Awards’ announced an evolution in its core proposition to ‘Har Lamha Nayi Umeed. The new brand slogan captured the beauty of re-discovering a new ray of hope with every moment of life. The ‘Umeed’ factor played a key role in the Zee TV advertising journey.
In the wake of the brand refresh exercise, the channel asked its viewers to share their Umeed stories – slices of their life that will go on to inspire content on Zee TV as well as showcased on digital platforms. Some of the most impactful crowd-sourced stories were to be curated into a book by a best-selling author. The channel also encouraged its viewers to begin contributing videos of their acting, dancing or singing to an online talent repository, with gratification for the best entries every single month!
The 25th take- Aaj Likhenge Kal
The popularity of Zee arises from its understanding of Indian culture and beliefs that are reflected in its programming. Zee TV’s content library delivers a variety of choices for the great Indian middle class ranging from non-fiction formats that celebrate the talent of India’s common man to fiction shows that deliver strong messages and drive positive change in society while entertaining viewers. Zee TV’s content resonates with its core ethos – ‘Aaj Likhenge Kal’ that aims to inspire viewers to take charge of their destinies, giving wings to their dreams and aspirations.
The year 2017 marked the 25th anniversary Zee TV where it rearticulated the brand philosophy – Aaj Likhenge Kal. Being an established brand that carries a legacy of its own, the idea was to now make the channel seen as a brand of tomorrow, which inspires and shapes the aspirations of young Indians.
The circular logo represents the universal appeal of the channel’s all-inclusive content. Resonating with positivity and confidence, the orange colour in the logo represents radiance that comes from within- a symbol of positivity and confidence that the brand echoes. The brand packaging is brought alive through elements of nature such as fire, earth, water, air – the diya which represents light and hope, the blooming of an orange flower that stands for the beauty of life and evolution, gold that denotes eternal richness and mosaic which enunciates the power of synergy that stems from several fragmented pieces coming together to form a beautiful whole.
The campaign was brought to life through a soulful musical anthem sung by Shreya Ghoshal, Arijit Singh and composed by Vishal Bharadwaj, the video capturing defining moments in the lives of middle-class Indians, where they’ve dared to dream big, envisioned an extraordinary tomorrow and managed to make a difference to the lives of their loved ones and their own, by just breaking free of shackles, seizing the moment, believing inthemselves and reaching out for their aspirations.
The highlight of the campaign, however, was an evocative 90-second brand film made by the channel’s creative partner Publicis India where the narrative is in the voice of a young girl – Shalini who introduces viewers to her father, a retired government official who has a fear of flying. As he settles anxiously in an airplane seat on his first flight, we see a young woman pilot looking at him reassuringly. The man is about to fly with his daughter who has become a pilot against various social pressures. The film tugs at your heart-strings with the flight being a first for both the daughter and her Papa, both having overcome their battles – some internal, some external.
Bhosle reiterates, “Through characters and stories that inspire, our constant endeavour, as a channel, has been one of providing the spark that encourages our viewers to draw from their own inner strength, break free of self-imposed and societal shackles and take charge of their own destiny. This fresh reiteration of our brand purpose continues to urge audiences to curate their own extraordinary future.”
Cut to 2020, post the lockdown, with the resumption of shoots and return of original content on Zee TV, the network decided to announce it’s daily content comeback on 13th July through collaboration with leading brands – PepsiCo, Nestle Maggi, Amul Lassi, Red Label, Cadbury Dairy Milk, ITC Dark Fantasy.
With a massive outdoor teaser campaign fronted by consistently reinforced messaging by the mentioned brands on billboards strategically placed next to each other, industry bigwigs like Raj Nayak, Roshan Abbas, cricketer Suresh Raina, RJ Anuraag Pandey, and many others took to social media channels wondering what the #13thKiTayyari was all about. The banter between these prominent brands on Twitter left people even more curious about why they should be “stocking up for the 13th July.”
With many more brands and companies jumping into the fray, the excitement only escalated further for the D-Day. On Sunday morning, a day prior to 13th July, with ZEE’s social media machinery unveiling the teaser’s connection with Zee TV’s content come back on the 13th and the partner brands amplifying the social media surround, Twitterati was abuzz with rave reviews. #13thKiTayyariZeeTVKeSaath continued to trend on Twitter throughout the day, making it one of the key events of the Zee TV advertising journey.
With this teaser campaign, ZEE aimed to prove that TV has always been the greatest common unifier with the power to bring together some of India’s most loved brands in an extraordinary partnership celebrating the coming together of viewers, partners and fresh episodes with the promise, #BanegiBaatSaathSaath – celebrating the spirit of solidarity and the joy of being back.
Digital Media Activations
While #13thKiTayyari campaign did become a hit across social media, Zee TV is not new to experimenting with the perks of digital media activations. In 2018, to build the surround for its show Kaleerein which touched upon the subject of young women being expected to change themselves for the sake of landing a suitable groom in the ‘marriage market’, Zee TV launched the #ChangeHerNot social media experiment.
It all started with the launch of a specially designed website that commoditized brides, slotting them into categories and labels almost akin to an online shopping experience. With the objective of highlighting the sheer absurdity of this stark reality and to nudge the audience to question these age-old shackles, the matrimonial website was introduced on social media by vocal supporter Gul Panag who criticized the portal for commoditizing brides.
After much furore erupted on social media mocking the intent and the breed of thinking that the website was propagating, Zee TV and Gul Panag owned up to having collaborated and launched the website to address the burning issue of brides being expected to fit pre-conceived stereotypes in marriage across the country. The initiative was widely appreciated and went on to win Zee TV several awards in the arena of marketing and social media.
Another campaign that was very well-received by the audiences was the innovative launch of the last season of DID in 2019.With a view to leverage the fan frenzy that surrounds the return of a dance franchise as iconic as Dance India Dance and to create an exciting touch-point for viewers to feel actively included in the mass anticipation and countdown towards the launch of its seventh season, the channel’s marketing machinery innovated yet again by partnering with the short video platform Tik-Tok.
With the new season introducing a fresh format of weekly knock-outs much like a sports league where 16 dance champions representing the 4 zones of India were to be pitted against each other in the #DanceKaJungistaan, the Tik Tok #DanceKaJungistan challenge invited fans to replicate the unique hook-steps choreographed by the coaches of the 4 zonal teams as a sign of their support to their favourite zones on the show. In its first two hours of announcement, the dance challenge was viewed by over 25 million users across the globe and a week down, it had crossed 2 Billion Views with the challenge going viral on the Tik-Tok app.
In November 2020, Zee TV introduced a first-of-its-kind Brahmarakshas 2 game filter on Instagram and Facebook that makes fans get hooked to a virtual wild goose chase. The filter garnered 1.4Mn reach with 2.5L users experiencing the filter, 2Mn impressions within 6-days of the campaign.
During Diwali, the channel introduced a special contest that gives its viewers a chance to win vouchers and gold while watching their favorite primetime shows. Apart from contests and campaign announcements, the channel has been a strong player in the digital domain too leveraging the new age medium with appropriate content formats and making them sync with the core philosophy.
Commenting on the Zee TV advertising journey so far, Bhosle adds, “With multiple broadcasters offering a sea of content choices, it was synergies between an astute content/ creative team with a finger on the pulse of the Indian viewer and aggressive marketing machinery that helped us break through the clutter and reach out to the largest denominator of audiences.”
Since its inception, Zee TV is a pioneer in the Indian television space – be it introducing singing talent-based reality television with Sa Re Ga Ma in 1995, revolutionizing the way dance was perceived in the country with Dance India Dance in 2009 or encouraging children’s creativity, spontaneity and acting skills through India’s Best Dramebaaz in 2013.
The 28-year old channel has many firsts to its credit and continues to create common stories amassing a huge chunk of fan following with its every move.