Anirban Das Blah
Aug 16, 2012

Opinion: The rise - and rise - of celebrity clutter-cutters

Anirban Das Blah, founder and managing director, Kwan, a celebrity and sports management firm

Opinion: The rise - and rise - of celebrity clutter-cutters

Newer stars are endorsing brands. Existing stars are endorsing more brands. Is this a new wave of celebrity endorsements? I don’t think so.

Ayushman Khurana, Yami Gautam and Eisha Gupta are relatively new faces on the brand endorsement circuit. But they don’t suggest a trend of new faces endorsing brands. It’s just that there is at this point in time a bunch of celebrities who are young, cost-effective and clutter-breaking. What more could brands want?

Is there a risk in using them? Yes - you never know if they will go on to become huge stars. But for a brand, in the context of tighter marketing budgets, and the choice between an established star who endorses six to 12 brands and an unknown model who won’t generate the recall of the ‘smaller’ stars, the successfully buzzing newbies make a lot of sense. It depends on what the brand needs – and goes without saying on what the brand can afford.

In a country where there is cricket and cinema from which to draw celebrities from, I’ve always maintained that there is lesser risk with roping in movie stars because of the lesser potential for pitfall. Ayushman’s Vicky Donor was a hit. He will carry the momentum until his next release, which will release next year. A campaign featuring him running for 12 months is paisa vasool.

More brands per star

It’s not just the new stars who are in the news for endorsements.

Celebrity endorsements are being looked at differently today by brands. A few years prior, one looked at long term strategic fit and brand fit, as against viewing it as a tactical necessity to cut the clutter in the category. If a Ranbir is a youth icon, Salman Khan is providing the mass connect today.

From a to a Relaxo to Revital to a Hayate, we see Salman seemingly everywhere. If you are a brand seeking to target the mass (SEC B,C) audiences, you have an SRK who endorses 15 brands and a Dhoni who endorses maybe five more. An Aamir is a bit more upper end in terms of appeal. A Hrithik occupies an in-between space which leaves brands with a Salman and Akshay. Akshay today has a few brand endorsements, but in the next 12 months, I expect to see an Akshay wave following the Salman wave of today.

In the absence of memorable clutter breaking creatives, celebrity acts as a useful tool to cut through and build recall.

Celebrities, live

The use of celebrities by brands stretches far beyond the advertising. At Kwan, we do 100 to 150 events a month in which there is celebrity participation. It accounts for 30 to 40 per cent of our business today. Whether it is consumer activation or dealer meets, and whether it’s for Nokia, Samsung, Maruti or some FMCG brand, there’s no dearth of celebrity events. The kind of gratification that the celebrity presence delivers at events is justifying that cost (which is significant).

Endorsements will grow

The surge of newer celebrities is not a trend by itself, and endorsements continue to be a growing business. Celebrities have become a necessity for most brands. Even for brands that started off with great clutter-breaking creatives.

Tata Docomo would be a good example. They started off with a bang. Then they roped in Ranbir Kapoor - and the creative has been elevated further.

What’s driving celebrity endorsers is the competition in the category, and the fact that the advertising has to deliver an exceptional level of creativity time after time, cut through a different level of clutter campaign after campaign.

The celebrity knife is one sharp tool that seems to be working.

Eventually, in the long term, I think advertising will stand its ground. But in the shorter term of five to seven years, I don’t think brands can do away with celebrity endorsers - their clutter cutters.…


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