The Indian ad scape in recent times has witnessed a slew of new celebrity faces, in not one but double or more roles. From Shahrukh Khan for Sona Chandi Chyawanprash to Aamir for Coca Cola and Ajay Devgan for Tata Indicom, ‘double’ dhamaka seems to be evolving as an ad formula. There’s more - Boman Irani for Ambuja Cement, Bhumika Chawla for Heinz, and Javed Jafri for Maggi Tomato Ketchup. And the list seems to be growing too.
But the use of the celeb protagonist in double roles is far from a success formula by itself, say people from the industry.
Rahul Sengupta, Executive Creative Director, Lowe, says, “It is not really a trend. In fact using the celebrity in double roles has been around for sometime now and is not a new thing. As is the case many a time, the ad industry has borrowed this from Bollywood.”
There are more who agree that this is but an old trick, and reiterate that one cannot work without a good script that works on the celebrity, while working for the brand.
Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, Group Creative Director, O&M, points out, “As I see it there is no strong benefit to having the protagonist in a double role, and one needs to figure out if doing this works strongly for the brand. But frankly it’s a very me-too kind of a syndrome and an old trick of the ad world. A lot depends on who the celebrity is and the script. It won’t work necessarily every time. There is no fixed formula to make the celebrity double role ad work if it is forced and the script doesn’t require it.”
By itself, the dual presence of the celebrity protagonist cannot guarantee success of the ad, explains Sengupta. “The tendency is that once this multiple projection is done, people tend to talk about it and thus make the ads popular. But yes, many a time, these are pure gimmicks which outplay the creative idea, and it happens on a majority basis when a big star is signed to endorse a particular product, and the role of writing a good script for the celeb assumes the least priority,” he adds.
Evidence points to the fact that using the celebrity in a double role has worked well for some ads, and failed miserably for others. Preeti Vyas Giannetti, Chairperson and Executive Creative Director, Vyas Giannetti, feels that ‘It’s just a fad’.
“Its likely that if one does it then the others want to follow suit as ad people often copy each other. But more of it is done very cruelly. The fact is that the ad industry tends to be inward looking and one success triggers the next. Such is also the case with other businesses - its just human tendency. The big idea is not to have a celebrity but how to scale the idea up. One can’t have excess of a celebrity as it gets monotonous. The idea of an ad should be to get the brand work and not just the celeb made noticeable,” she says.
Maximising the presence of the celebrity endorser is a temptation to which many yield. Explains Ashish Khazanchi, Executive Creative Director, Rediffusion, “A star in a double role doesn’t necessarily mean double the mazaa. It doesn’t guarantee success and neither does it lead to failure. More often than not, the ad guys show sheer laziness when it comes to churning out good script to make the best use of the celeb.”
He cites the example of Adidas’ international ad featuring David Beckham and the other footballers pitted against each other, to illustrate great use of ‘celeb double’.
As with filmdom, it seems that in advertising too, the presence (and multiple presence) of a star doesn’t guarantee success, but helps if woven intelligently around the brand. The verdict might seem subjective, but unanimously, a well thought-out script is declared the only enduring superstar.