05 November 2015 12:52:05 IST

The celebrity saga continues

The indiscriminate use of celebrities, poor scripts give the category a poor name

Last time around, we spoke about how actors, in particular, have the great ability to bring a script to life. Yet, one of the major reasons for the appeal of the actor is also the tremendous following he or she has. Sadly, the diversity in this country poses a challenge too. An actor like Aamir Khan, who has a tremendous following in other parts of India, is barely recognised in the South. Yes, people know him and have probably even seen the dubbed version of Satyamev Jayate but do not follow him as passionately or actively as in other parts of India. So even in the hey days of Aamir Khan and Coke, the brand was looking at an actor like Vijay for Tamil Nadu and here is a commercial that is essentially like a Tamil movie script .

Move away from the tried and tested

The problem with something like this is the cost, as you may end up doing multiple versions if you are a national brand. Cricketers, thankfully, are universally recognised and you could score higher with a cricketer on this parameter, if you will forgive the pun. You could also use the cricketers smartly as Timex did with Brett Lee. In the height of IPLs success, Brett Lee was an icon in India and yet charged a fraction of what an Indian cricketer with less ability might charge. An interesting strategy could be to use sportsmen from other sports. Here too, cost would be a significant reason and the reality too is that sadly India is still a one sport country and people seem to be obsessed with cricket only. Whilst backing other sports and sportsmen is an interesting strategy, it is also bound to have less appeal than cricket. But for a focussed targeted effort it is worth it.

It’s about the script, silly!

While we do see a lot of celebrity advertising, most of it is pretty mundane and predictable. The scripts are what we call as “lazy” scripts, which ride on the belief that the mere presence of the celebrity will ensure success. But scripts like this are only promoting awareness and don’t make a difference, particularly if the celebrity is endorsing twenty different products. How does one remember the diverse brands that MS Dhoni promotes? I wonder if he does himself!

In fact this is one of the biggest problems with celebrity advertising as one cannot control the number of brands that the celebrity will endorse. While they do not promote conflicting brands they certainly endorse diverse brands creating confusion in the minds of consumers. The way out of this is to have a script that cuts through the clutter so that consumers remember the ad, the brand and the celebrity too. Because he is just an actor or an entertainer in the commercial. Here is an interesting ad featuring celebrities as human beings, but you get the picture because of who they are. André Agassi, Steffi Graf and the kid all have a role to play as does GE.

What about a continuing character?

A more difficult and perhaps even more expensive route is to actually create a continuing character that best represents your brand. The Air India Maharaja comes to mind. Forget the often complained about service but you certainly can’t complain about the ads. There have been others like Lalithaji who ruled the roost for a few years as the hardnosed, discerning Indian consumer who was willing to pay a premium for better quality as the commercial depicts. And how can we forget the Hutch and later Vodafone pug dog?

Utterly, butterly, Amul!

However, no discussion on continuing characters would be complete without the Amul moppet, created years ago with a campaign that is always topical, always engaging and one that is so long lasting that it has entered the Guinness book of records. Here are a few ads that made people chuckle and think of the brand too. The style of advertising and the hoarding sites chosen were so unique that people waited for the ads to appear and they did with great regularity.

To sum up

Merely writing about celebrities and cautioning people sadly may not make people rethink about the genre. Nor am I saying it should be abandoned. It has great value when used sensibly. It is the indiscriminate use of it, with poor scripts that is giving the whole category a poor name. When it is your turn to think of this, do so calmly, without emotion, like any other strategy and don’t let your admiration for a cricketer or a film star sway your decision making.

And even if you do use one, ensure that your script rocks!

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