The teaser for Heer Maan Ja dropped yesterday and quite honestly, it seemed like a fun breezy Eid film, which though came across a bit been there done that, but looked like it would prove to be an entertainer.
The review for the teaser was assigned to one of our senior writers Hassan, and writers at Galaxy have complete liberty to write whatever they want as there are no invisible instructions, to mold the opinions. However, in the end, the editor makes sure that the article is more or less aligned with our voice and extreme opinions are controlled, unless necessary: case in point Project Ghazi.
Nonetheless, the review was up with a title that some people (me included) thought to be a bit negative, but in all honesty, it was a title highlighting one major plus and one major miss from the trailer, with the review in totality being more positive. The review was shared on social media and I was personally following the comments just to get feedback on what the audiences feel.
The fake social media trending
It started with one glowing comment, then another, and in a matter of five-ten minutes the thread was already an all hail Heer Maan Ja party with a little mix of let’s hate on Galaxy Lollywood. I was like wow, people sure liked the teaser! However, a few more minutes and the love just seemed a bit plastic now, so I put on my Sherlock hat and did some snooping and what I found out was that more than 75% of the comments were fake comments by bots: The findings are summarised in this Instagram post:
View this post on Instagram
Galaxy Lollywood just reviewed the teaser of "Heer Maan Ja" and it wasn't love at first sight for us. The fans disagreed and that's completely normal. Unfortunately, the comments section was filled with a little too much love for the upcoming film, along with an extra dose of hate for Galaxy. We decided to investigate the situation and what we found was truly disappointing. Fake bots, fake comments, fake love. Is this really what the Pakistani film industry has come to? Is our content so weak that we need such fake PR even before a film's release? We've added proof to support our claim: Exhibit A: These three accounts have two photos uploaded each, all three uploaded the photos on the same dates! Exhibit B: These three accounts all have one photo uploaded each, 5 days ago! Exhibit C: These three accounts all have one photo uploaded each, on 20th April! Swipe left to see more BOTS! Oh and none of the accounts follow us yet somehow knew to like and comment? #HeerMaanJa #AliRehmanKhan #HareemFarooq #WalnutPR
However, the story did not end here. Our Instagram post exposing these fake comments was met with an enthusiastic response with a lot appreciating our efforts and more industry insiders private messaging to get the dirt and sharing more. ‘Did you check their twitter, that is all fake too,’ said one message.
I knew the film was trending on twitter and why not, for a whole lot of celebrities were talking about the film and fans were also tweeting coupled with an enthusiastic PR further bolstering the hype. Yes, there would have been some digital agency behind it responsible for this trending which is how these trendings generally work but some snooping on Twitter and boom I found something else:
There were a plethora of dummy accounts made only for the purpose of creating noise for Heer Maan Ja. Attaching three such profiles for you to see, click on the profiles to see all the tweets they have made.
— Saniya (@SaniyaFatima0) May 1, 2019
— Waqas Raza (@RazaWaqas04) May 1, 2019
— Rahima (@Rahima341) May 1, 2019
Comments from the industry individuals
To make more sense of this Twitter trending, and how digital marketing works, and how important are these trends, I contacted a few industry individuals to get their take.
“Social media marketing plays an important role in film marketing and promotion and is becoming a measure of success for the film industry to some extent. A social media trend and virality, if achieved organically, is great for a movie as it spreads the message to a large cross-section of the cinema-going audience and helps in identifying it as a notable product,” said Zubair Mallick, Director at Lotus PR ,which has been the PR force behind films like 7 Din Mohabbat In, Laal Kabootar and Shareem Obaid Chinoy’s films to name a few projects.
“However, it may not always necessarily convert into the financial success for the film. See a couple of years ago, a million views on YouTube for a song or a trailer meant something – but now you can achieve it by spending a couple of hundred dollars. There are dedicated agencies and media networks, who offer such services as well – to trend a particular topic or piece of content for a fee. For branded products or content, it’s normal and part of the strategy [happens everywhere across the world] but for a film, it may not necessarily work.
Nothing beats pure-organic-word-of-mouth and if your product is strong, your content created to market it strong, you can certainly make noise around it and do something unique on social media. Nowadays, your cinema-going audience is largely online – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and for people who are not active on any of these platforms, they are most probably active on WhatsApp. Essentially, everyone is connected in some way or the other and social media allows us to reach everyone!” further elaborated Zubair
I then contacted HUM TV’s PR, the reason being they have almost always focused on twitter trendings be it their films, drama serials or events.
“We have our WhatsApp groups for PR filled with influential Twitter people, the Twitterati as they are called, we send them the content and they post it. This mass posting, alongside the love and support, showed by the fans and supporters is how we achieve trending. We have real accounts with real people running them, so you won’t see any bots,” informed Minhas of HUM PR.
The team itself
Contacted the team behind the film to get their take on the story. Now first things first, team IRK is among the most professional folks in the industry who have been making films for quite some years now and have a great working relationship with all, us included. Always been a fan of how they rigorously promote their films on the ground, and are generally feel-good type of people who I personally like.
“There are no bots, quite honestly we don’t have the budget,” Imran Raza Kazmi the producer says with a laugh. “We were pushing the teaser as was our PR team, but that is about it, the fans of Ali and Hareem have also been tweeting but there is no paid machinery involved as such”.
Also contacted the good folks at Walnut, who are doing the PR for the film, to get their take on this and Kamil Bhatti informed us that Walnut as PR for the film is responsible for content dissemination and are not exactly looking after the digital side. He, however, did promise to get to the bottom of this and get back to us.
Well while Imran denies the involvement of fake bots, and trust me I really want to believe him, but the facts are out there for all to see. It is good that film marketing and promotions are being taken seriously and film PR is now a thing in Pakistan, but fake comments and paid trendings aren’t helping anyone out. What do you guys think about this? Let us know in the comments.