Thursday, November 19, 2009


New, insane endorsement-economics is blitzing B-town. Does it add up to make sense?! 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri tries to decode this new phenomenon...

Celeb Advertising & Brand Endorsements have always come with the territory in Adville – especially in the last decade and a half. The Big B, SRK and M. S. Dhoni have (for example) rewritten the rules game to showcase every conceivable FMCG product category, attracting fee-deals that could wake the dead … or finance a couple of five-year plans of newly, independent countries – which ever came first! Revered icons with proven track record, their insane package (swear advertisers) is in direct proportion to their astonishing connect with every section of a celeb-hungry nation and thumping brand-equity they invest in the products they endorse. Fair enough … although TAM surveys and reports continue to indicate that less than 10% of the consumer-base of these ads actually purchase the products these (or any) stars endorse. Despite this, the fever rages on…

If that is difficult to fathom for the sane and logical mind, imagine hearing about new stars nowhere near the power and glory of the older lot, with no great earth-shaking track-record, charisma or mass-appeal (‘theek-theek’ according to a young Bolly-junkie) demanding and scooping up crazy paychecks on the endorsement front. Ranbir Kapoor – with one spectacular dud and one decent hit – is said to be hitting the Rs.4 crore mark! Imran Khan, with one decent hit and two dabbas is reportedly asking Rs.3.5 crore per endorsement. (It’s another matter that no one is playing ball, as yet!) Deepika Padukone – possibly the most successful of the lot – is in the Rs.2 crore bracket with Genelia D’souza, a little behind with Rs.1.5 crore. Interestingly, all of them (except Imran) have tripled their endorsement fees in the last few months and – well – are getting takers! So, who’s lost it, guys – the Advertisers, these new kids or the celeb-hungry bozos dedicating their life and times to B-town moves?
“The Dodo Advertisers who believe that casting a celeb will instantly rock their product’s image and bottom lines!” That’s the iconoclastic Pritish Nandy, forever ready to tilt at windmills. While it is totally true that movie stars and cricketers are perceived as the nation’s most glamorous, popular and favourite role-models, Nandy believes that there are two bigger truths defining the space “both advertiser-driven. One is the desire to do a quick kill in terms of public attention without the appropriate consideration to the brand fit. Two, the hysterical anxiety to be seen with these stars to go up the social ladder among his peer group.” The best advertising (ZooZoo, HDFC, Vodafone) don’t need to pursue this track, says Nandy, and are none the poorer for it. Ogilvy’s resident dude Sumanto Chat comes in next. He believes that it has to do with the huge youth-connect that these star-kids enjoy in a space and categories that cater to youngistan. Then, of course, there is a celeb-struck nation and finally “a leg-up in image for the Advertiser and his company!

A Ranbir-Deepika jodi coming to launch his product and then gracing the dinner that follows could catapult him to Page 3 status and is likely to do wonders for the employee-morale present at the event”.

Ad-Guru Alyque Padamse too is convinced that it defines categorically the “thirst that both the Advertiser and general public have for celebhood with ad frat desperate to cash in on it”. However, he warns, that care should be taken to prioritise … otherwise Deepika outscoring the product endorsed in recall value, could be tragic news for the Advertiser! Leo Burnett’s Sainath brings his own spin to the debate. He believes ultimately it is about “effective clutter-busting. New-age India looks for and at new-age stars. There are two kinds of stars. The timeless variety – SRK, Big B, Sachin, Akshay – and the new kids. If the consumer is growing older, he will look for older icons; if he is getting younger, star-kids zoom centre-stage. In a young, resurgent India, this is completely appropriate. A sign of the times.” Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media wraps up this debate with her insightful, knowledgeable and authoritative take. She reckons it has largely to do with the shortage of credible celebs available for endorsement. “SRK and the Big B have been done to death (Remember BINANI CEMENT & LINC PENS? Jeeezus!) – and there is a genuine dearth of sexy, young stars in an environment bursting at the seams with youth-driven products for a gigantic youth market. So I guess, for a quick-hit, grab the latest flavour of the day and go with the flow. The stars too know that this is a cool way to make quick mega-bucks, so strike when the iron is hot. Kal kisne dekha…!”

At the end of the day, certain path-breaking facts emerge. One (unlike earlier times), a star doesn’t have to slog for years and reach a status to gain credibility and pulling-power in the Ad-market. One big hit does it! Two, the publicity machinery has taken on critical dimensions, so media-driven hype (of any sort) for Bolly-stars is big stuff. Finally, Bollywood has discovered the importance of brand-building and with smart packaging go all out to create an image, aura and climate that sells … the result? Its rainin’ moolahs for the Bachhalog, guys!! 


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