Thursday, May 22, 2008

Celebrity Endorsements - The beginning of the end?

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri traces the big bucks story and wonders whether the latest IMRB-IPAN report will disturb the honeymoon between celebs, advertisers and the consumers...

Okay, its been said a zillion times before but it warrants repetition, one more time, simply because the disease just wont go away! India has only two – sorry Politicians, you don’t count! – religions: Cricket and Bollywood. Come what may, they guarantee you excitement and eyeballs, like nothing else. Advertising, forever searching for devices and touchpoints (read: bakhras!) to engage in a meaningful and rewarding manner with its customers, naturally, zeroes into the juicy terrain of these two with breakneck speed, sometimes, not bothering to either look at the speedometer or the impending roadblocks!

Has the journey been smooth? A quick pan of today’s scenario.

Master Blaster and cricket’s hottest icon, Sachin Tendulkar, has always led the pack – in this area too. Apart from his earlier portfolio, he has of late, been signed on by Kishore Biyani’s Future Group as Brand Ambassador for its upcoming range of products, which include energy drinks, shakes, diet supplement powders, sports goods, cricket gear, bats, balls, vitamin-enriched natural juices, treadmills, exercise mats, cycles and eyewear. Pepsi too has signed him up to endorse a sports drink Gatorade. Aviva too has picked him up for a child plan, unit-linked plan. The comeback guy Saurav (Dada) Ganguly has been picked up by consumer electronic firm, TCL, German sports lifestyle brand PUMA and INX News, a new broadcast channel. Tennis star Bhupati has been signed up by ApolloTyres, while Barclays have frozen on Golfing ace Mikka Singh. (These however are exceptions).

Ah, coming to Bollywood, have the ad guys turned on the heat?! Gorgeous, new star scorching the headlines Deepika Padukone leads the youth brigade with Kingfisher (brand ambassador) and watch-maker Tissot, along with Levi Strauss.

Bipasha Basu continues to fly high on the road with Kinetic’s Sym Flyte, as also (for some inexplicable reason) real estate developer, Emgee! Elegant and classy Sushmita Sen – more seen in ads than movies, sadly – blitzes the adspace with Olay, Tag Heuer, Kiah Diamonds and Pantene. Kajol’s going strong with Perfetti’s Alpenliebe and some others. Cousin Rani Mukherjee – Bollywood’s popular Queen of Hearts – has Good Knight mosquito repellent, Titan Raga, Fanta, Dabur Vatika, Nestle Munch, & Aveo. Bubbly Preity Zinta has Rexona Roll-on deo, Godrej EON air conditioners, BSNL telecom and new airline GoAir. The fabulous Lara Dutta and cool Bobby Deol are the face of trendy fashion name Pantaloon.
In the men’s zone, superhero Hrithik Roshan remains hot as ever with Acer, John Players, Parle, Tata Sky, Sony Ericsson, Radico Khaitan… up next is the rockin’ Chhote Nawab, Saif Ali Khan with Taj Mahal tea, Royal Stag, Yamaha, Newport, Colgate, Lenovo, Aveo… Then there is Akki, with Grasim Suitings, Thums Up, Microsoft Xbox 360. And about the Big B and SRK, (bulging with endorsements), who doesn’t know?

All these glitzy and glamorous endorsements are, undoubtedly, wonderfully rewarding for the stars and hugely rewarding for the insatiable (can’t have enough!) star-hungry TV viewers. But, at the end of the day, does it do anything for the clients’ products advertised? Remember the (ageing) yesteryears dream girl Hema Malini hawking mineral water Kent RO and (would you believe it) – Bank of Rajasthan!

Where on earth is the remotest connect or credibility, for chrissake? Equally weird is hi-profile lyricist Javed Akhtar endorsing Jaypee Cement! Bips and real estate? The Big B and Navratna hair oil? Naseer Shah and Om Puri doing equally crazy stuff? Admittedly, for the star its mega-bucks in double-quick time (with Mallika Sherawat reportedly netting a staggering Rs.3.5 crore for an ad campaign!) but what about the poor sucker who doles out the dough?

No humming and hawing any more. The Jury is out. A new survey conducted jointly by IMRB & IPAN reveals some startling facts. Conducted with a sample size of over 2000 respondents, across 12 cities (small and big metros). 86% of those interviewed admitted that the ad that they most remembered had a celeb, but only 3% said it influenced their buying decision. The IMRB head-honchos seemed clear that “more than the celeb pull, factors like quality, price and experience ultimately drove consumers purchasing pattern.” Further, “only 22% of this sample believes that the celebs actually use the products endorsed. In the South, the figure is even lesser, 13%!”

So, should celebs be dumped? “Not really” believes IMRB’s Pal, “At a primary level celeb endorsements help to break the clutter but beyond that… it is doubtful whether they add any real value.” The bitter truth comes from the very survey itself.

The Big B & SRK have so many endorsements across product categories that 15 % of people have “wrong” brand recalls for the towering inferno and 9% for Badshah Khan. Can you blame them?

Remember there is absolutely nothing more dumb or grossly unprofessional than having your audience/customers remember the ad but forget the product!


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