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Of celebrity advertising

Last week I read that Messi had signed up as the brand ambassador for the Tata Group. I really hope that he is leveraged well by the Tata brand. They both deserve it.

This reminded me that since I returned to India, a year ago, I have seen a huge jump in use of celebrities in brand advertising. Some doing it well, some well..let’s just say less so.

To my mind there are basically 4 ways brands use celebrities for their brands.

  1. As themselves: This is the most obvious route, where the celebrity plays her/his real life persona on the screen as well. This is the highest on the credibility scale. The gold standard here, in my opinion is the Mean Joe Greene ad run by Coke about four decades ago. Watch it here. Turkish airlines did some with Kevin Costner, Messi and Kobe and so on. This is a hard area to operate in due to the limited ways to have celebs play themselves and also make the brand connect.
  2. Playing a part in a script: This second set is when the celebrity is playing a part in a regular TV script. ie the script works even without the celebrity. But use of the celebrity raises brand visibility. A great example here is the pappu pass ho gaya TVCs created by Cadbury’s. This is probably the easier on the agency, where they start with a script than being stuck with a celebrity, around who they need to write a script. Here is one from that set.
  3. As props: This is the more common way that I have noticed around, where the celebrity is just standing around and pointing, or waving, embarrassingly at the products they are supporting. I imagine this happens when clients sign up celebs in advance of a brand idea that they are ready to execute with. Some recent examples.IMG_0019IMG_0018IMG_00134. As users: This is where the celebrity claims to be the user of the brand in question. This has absolutely no credibility and treats consumers as morons. Something a famous Scotsman said, one should never do. Many examples come to mind. Unfortunately they all feature Shahrukh Khan. Remember the Santro ads? Who ever thought he would own, and drive one himself. The latest in his series is the campaign for Big Basket. Does the brand really expect anyone to believe that he is a Big Basketer? Here is one ad in the series.IMG_0014So there you have it, my recommended list of ways to use a celebrity, in order of priority.

Before I sign off…wishing you a very Happy Diwali and Happy New Year. May it be start of something new and exciting.

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  1. Harish Iyer
    November 10, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Hi Harish. There is a new trend. Employees becoming the brand ambassadors of the company. Studies have shown that people trust employees more than celebs.

    • HARISH VASUDEVAN
      November 10, 2015 at 10:02 pm

      Yea employees definitely add credibility to the message. Of course the spokesperson must connect to the message being delivered. Somethings are better delivered by internal spokespersons while other attributes need to be externalised. There are clear roles for both.

  2. Jagadish Dora
    November 10, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Interesting read.Also do celebrity endorsements elevate a particular brand not any more I think., Does anybody remember who was that heroine who endorsed Scooty pep was it Anushka, Priyanka or a Zinta can’t recollect . May be getting celebrities may help in nascent stage of a brand …but it may not be successful in the long run. After Nestle Maggi’s huge brand bashing by Government and Food authorities , Celebrities might have been cautious in what they promote, I would rather listen to commoners on a Social media forum or something for me to buy since the person who is recommending a product may not have any vested interests in the brand but may be suggesting based on his experience and expertise,

    • HARISH VASUDEVAN
      November 10, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      Hi thanks for commenting. Celebs clearly serve the role of drawing attention to the brand. Shahrukh and Santro is an obvious example. If celebs add credibility to the key message like sports or music then they obviously work. But judgement is key. Can’t be a same strategy for all situations.

  3. sanjugopi
    November 11, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Nice read Harish. The question I always have is that many times the celebrity over powers the brand. Some studies on brand recall may help get some insights. You remember shahrukh endorsed a fairness cream but will you remember if it was fair n lovely or fair n handsome? In big basket’s case we may since that is the only one in that category (grocery online shopping)doing celebrity ad. So it may be worth to increase brand awareness.

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