Cellphone Love Story

Telus Corp., B.C.’s biggest company, is getting into the business of thwarted lovers, family tragedies and triumphant reunions – Bollywood style. When the dimpled hero of Surrey-based Music Waves Productions’ next film sets out to find his true love, he’ll be armed with a handy Telus Internet phone to help him out. Spokespeople at the B.C.-based telecommunications giant won’t say how much the company is paying for its first product-placement movie deal, aimed at enticing Canada’s sizeable audience of South Asian Canadians to go mobile with Telus. The Punjabi-language Life Exists Where Love Exists opens in November at theatres in India, Australia, Europe and Canada. Although the majority of the audience will be international, Telus marketers are hoping to reach 100,000 or so potential customers in Canada. Preet Dhillon, Telus’s manager for consumer marketing, says the South Asian population in Canada has increased by 37 per cent since 2001, to about 1.3 million people, and its members are generally quick to adopt new technology, making them an important market for the purveyor of phone and Internet services. “Understanding that Canada is diverse, and focusing on those diversities through marketing initiatives such as this are important for us,” he says. The film itself is a great fit for Telus because of its strong B.C. connections, Dhillon says. It was shot half in India and half in Vancouver, and it stars an Indian actor, Harbhajan Mann, who lived much of his life in B.C. and has a strong Canadian following. His last film played in Canadian theatres for 13 weeks, the longest run of any Bollywood film in Canada, according to Jatinder Rai, president of Response Advertising Inc., the company that pitched the movie deal to Telus. The fact that groups such as the South Asian community are growing at a much faster rate than the general population in North America makes them a very attractive target for advertising, says Rai. “The Wal-Marts of the world, the Royal Banks, they’re all out there doing multicultural marketing,” he says.