BIG B VS. SRK: A CLASH OF STATE - MENTS !
BREAKING NEWS! THE TOWERING INFERNO SUDDENLY HAS COMPETITION IN HIS ROLE FROM BADSHAH KHAN! NAH, NOT PRODUCTS OR SERVICES, BUT IN THE PROMOTION AND SELLING OF A REGION, STATE, CITY! WASSUP WONDERS 4Ps B&M'S MONOJIT LAHIRI
Let's face it. Bollywood is the land of dream merchants and who bigger than the Big B and King Khan! In recent times (beyond movies and product endorsements) these two superstars have been coaxed to take on new roles: Brand ambassadors of state (Gujarat) / City (Kolkata)! While this task is both daunting and challenging - to say the least - what drove the powers-that-are to make this amazingly daring move? Avid and informed B-Town and ad experts invite us to remember one simple fact: the overwhelming domination of film stars and cricketers in the public domain and media! Are all brand custodians and marketing heavyweights idiots or passinate philanthropists to offer them telephone number, pay cheques to endorse their stuff, they ask. Surely, somewhere, in some way, there has been an impact and mass connect, of a rewarding nature?
Veteran communication consultant Gullu Sen initiates the debate with "how successful this connect is or will be, in terms of the conversion ratio, will depend on the quality of the ad, but the fact that the ad will be noticed and be a clutter buster, is undeniable. Why? Because in a star-obsessed country people will definitely watch any communication with a star as compared to an everyday Joe (Faggu) or plain Jane (Fanaki)! That's for sure!" Crayons' Client Servicing Director Sanjay Chauhan agrees with a slight reservation. He remains both amused and confused at the levels of desperation of many brand and marketing gurus who really should know better. "Shouldn't there be a connect between endorser and product that appears credible, exciting and positive to the TG," he asks. Besiders, isn't there any palpable or tangible difference between hawking hair oil and confectionery, cement, cars, and... a city or region?
"Not required," retorts respected and renowned adman-writer Kamlesh Pandey. He believes that while never in the history of showbiz has star-power been so overwhelming, "effective results can only come when there is an appropriate brand fit. Shakti Kapoor may not be the ideal role model to sell a state, but the aam admi will certainly be attentive, interested and open to what an Amitabh Bachchan or Aamir Khan have to say, as both, the recent Gujarat campaign and Atithi Devo Bhavo have demonstrated."
The Gujarat case study with the Big B is interesting. Till 2010, Modi's Gujarat - say experts - was a classic example of "how to dissuade tourists from coming!" Right from perception to image perfection, everything about the state was a mess. Enter the Shahenshah, and bingo in record time, he did to the state what (in his heydays) he did to the film industry and his fans ... dyamically redefined the meaning, in scope and scale, of groundswell and footfalls! His pathbreaking Khushboo Gujarat Ki campaign (brilliantly & evocatively scripted and shot, gloriusly narrated) showcases the many-splendoured state with appropriate style & panache. In fact, the campaign has placed a new and strange problem at the doorstep of the Gujarat Tourism HQ : How to deal with the sudden tsunami of tourists flooding the state?!
Pandey insiste "credibility" is the key and is bewildered at the choice of SRK as brand ambassador for Kolkata. "He is undoubtedly a huge star but socially, culturally and politically, he is clueless about that city! I can understand if it was Delhi - his home - but Kolkata?" questions Pandey. He believes that his selection - apart from star power - was obviously due to his ownership of IPL team, Kolkata Knight Riders, " but is that any reason? Wouldn't Saurav Ganguly, Prosenjit Chatterjee, even Mithun Chakraborty be a better choice?" He wonders if any right thinking Kolkatan would ever take SRK's brand ambassador role seriously. Ex-Lintas head and renowned environment activist Gersonda Cunha doesn't consider endorse-ments a big deal "because we did it over 50 years ago with Lux!" However, like Chauhan and Pandey he has a problem when the matching is bizarre. "This leads to both distraction and confusion because the attendion is being seduced by things not connected with its intrinsic brand value." Further, if the endorser is also into multiple endorsements, "state" of mind can suffer grave injury! Theatre actress Lushin Dubey wraps up this debate with a totally different perspective. "Among the evolved, educated and sophisticated intelligentsia, neither Amitabh, nor SRK or Preity Zinta (brand ambassador of Himachal Pradesh), Celina Jaitley (face of Egypt tourism), or Salman Khan's dallying with tourism in Cuba, will cut much ice. If they visit these places these stars are promoting, it certainly will not be for them, but because they have their own reasons: However, for large segments of the uneducated, impressionable and culturally underprivileged, for whom stars are Gods and their pronouncements, gospel truths, these campaigns could well work."
So, at the end of day, the conclusion is simple: Stars dazzle, but when they make trips away from the sky, they better be sure that the glow sends the right signals to the right star struck fan, to create the right impact, or else....