Indian advertising today is becoming more competitive and advertisements that feature celebrities come under the scanner even more. Perhaps it is the star attraction that makes people watch these ads closely, or the simple fact that it is not cheap roping in a celebrity itself becomes a reason to watch out for celebrity ads.
Along with the ‘big’ idea, it is also great scripts, right celebrity endorsement and the right brand fit that make all the difference for celebrity ads. In the last few years, advertising industry has witnessed an increase in celebrity associations with brands. The list begins with the likes of actors Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan, and sportspersons like Sachin Tendulkar, Mahinder Dhoni and Sania Mirza, among others.
The creative fraternity has seen a continuous change in the role of a celebrity in the creatives of an advertisement. If the pattern is studied and creative heads are to be believed, celebrities are careful in choosing the brands they endorse and as a result, are involved in the communication of the brand as well. Today, we see a celeb competing with himself for the various brands he endorses. For instance, Amitabh Bachchan has over 15 endorsements, and the brands signing him would like to differentiate between the AB in Cadbury and the AB in Reid & Taylor. Similar is the case with sexy Saif in Provogue, and the good son and brother in Asian Paints.
Surely, the stakes are changing for celebrities in endorsements and this has led them to be involved in the ad. Where Senior AB didn’t have a problem in following the script given to him for BPL some years ago, Junior AB would today prefer to approve the script first.
The challenge is a different one for creative heads as well in bringing the best out of the stars, with the latter adding their own inputs, as well in understanding the strategy of the commercials. When asked whether celebrities have become the new consultants for creatives, almost all creative heads agreed.
Josy Paul, NCD, JWT, said, “Celebrities are everywhere. Often we are confused -- am I seeing an ad for a brand, or is it a promo for a feature film? The reason for this explosion of celebrities has a lot to do with the ambitions of brands in India. The marketing targets of Indian advertisers are getting bigger. How do you talk to such a large-scale divergent audience? The simplest and most convenient answer seems to be to put a celebrity in your ad.”
He added, “What they really want from all agencies and creative people is a really good script. They want to look good.” On the new celebrity behaviour, he said, “These days, celebrities don’t just land up at the shoot and say, ‘Bol, kya karna hai’. Many of them ask for the script in advance. Some ask for meetings where things are discussed threadbare -- some even get involved in strategy and planning of the idea. It’s fine for celebrities to get involved. Their experience is different from yours and they have a primal sense of the market. Listening to them helps.”
Manish Bhatt, VP and EVP, Contract Advertising, said, “Bollywood and cricket celebrities create a large impact, and the myth that celebrities were the last resort for creatives that can make an impact is broken today by the manner in which celebrities are used. Celebrities are clutter breaking and they bring too many advantages. At the same time, however, sometimes they don’t like your idea and there are chances that a creative idea can get killed. In that sense, they are the new consultants, and listening to them can some times pay off, sometimes not.”
Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, Group Creative Director, O&M, believes that most of the Bollywood actors have adapted to the changing nature of advertising business. He said, “These are smart people who understand what are good scripts and bad scripts. Many of them investigate on scripts, like Abhishek Bachchan in the Motorokr ad, where he is trying to make a fool of himself but still emerges as a winner. They themselves are operating in a domain where they realise that today, one needs those kind of crazy creative scripts to stand out in the clutter. There are too many celebrities endorsing many brands, and hence they do their bit in standing out for the different works they do.”
Priti Nair, Creative Director, Lowe, said, “The biggest challenge is when the celebrity is given how best to use him creatively. Today, celebrity ads have to be more entertaining and involving, and hence celebs have to be used like that. Titan with Aamir Khan, Motorola with Abhishek, are some examples. If the changes a celebrity asks for are unreasonable, then it would be interference. But that rarely happens. Till the end, a good creative person will try and keep the idea intact, and weave the problem around it rather then succumb to it. If celebrity involvement works towards delivering a better end product, then why not allow them to be involved? I can vouch that some of the nuances that Amitabh Bachchan brings to the table are his own and no creative person can write them.”
The celebrities’ role in an ad has increased from starring to strategising. They are the new consultants and reality checks for advertising professionals. What do they next evolve to, promises to be an interesting watch.