The panel discussion on ‘Engaging with Consumer through Celebrities’, on Day Two of the CII Brand Summit 2010, held in Bangalore, gave celebrity endorsement the thumbs down, while maintaining that idea was the core and there was no substitute to idea.
The panel comprised actor Vivek Oberoi; Ashok Das, Managing Director, Hansa Research Group; Harish Bijoor, Founder of Harish Bijoor Consults; Senthil Kumar, Chairman of JWT India Creative Council; HS Goindi, President - Marketing, TVS Motor Company; and Rajeev Raja, Creative Head, DDB Mudra. While acknowledging that celebrity endorsement worked if the idea and celebrity gelled well, the panel stated that idea was the core and that too much of celebrity endorsement led to fatigue. People were not sure who was endorsing what as some celebrities ended up endorsing more than 20-odd brands.
The session was moderated by Shruthi Verma Singh of NDTV Profit.
Vivek Oberoi noted that celebrity endorsements helped break category clutter, enhanced brand value and increased sales. He, however, admitted that there was no substitute to creative.
“If there is no inherent idea, the idea is not strong enough, it will not only erode the brand value of the celebrity, but will also be a dampener as far as advertising campaign is concerned,” he added.
Responding to a query on whether a celebrity gained from brand association, Oberoi said, “There is an uncanny resemblance between Bollywood and advertising. It is important that brand value of the product fits the brand value of the celebrity, there has to be a symbiotic relationship between the two.”
Rajeev Raja affirmed that there was no substitute to idea, but “we are missing out on the idea and taking celebrity as idea”. Here, Senthil Kumar chipped in by saying “Idea is the celebrity’’, and added that celebrity should be used as a bridge to amplify ideas.
Noted ad film maker Prahlad Kakkar, speaking through video conferencing, said “If used cleverly, brand can become an equal part of the celebrity's persona. However, just tagging on to the celebrity is not good enough, it is necessary to write the script with the brand ambassador in mind, the two have to be knitted in.”
Advertising professional Suhel Seth, CEO, Counselage, set the record straight when he said that ad film makers often used “celebrities as sheep, which resulted in herd mentality”. On a similar vein, Anisha Motwani, Chief Marketing Officer, Max New York Life, stressed, “Celebrities must come with an expiry date. They cannot become an addiction for the brand.”
“Idea is the celebrity,” Balki emphasized and added, “Idea, if used in an interesting way and fitted the celebrity to the T, will definitely click with the target audience.”
On using top celebrities, Hansa Research’s Ashok Das said that if the brand was new, then one must take the biggest actors, however, if one was building a brand, then "you can afford to take stars slightly lower in the rung".
On celebrities being embroiled in controversies, the consensus was that it did adversely impact the brand, the latest being that of renowned golfer Tiger Woods, who is the brand ambassador for Accenture. Goindi felt, “There is no point in repeatedly telecasting a campaign if it failed to strike a chord with the consumers just because you paid a bomb to the celebrity who endorses it.” Both Harish Bijoor and Senthil Kumar felt that people endorsements were the best, be it the ZooZoos or the pug in the Vodafone ad.
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