Big brands use TV stars to connect with masses

20 Feb,2012

By Rajiv Singh


Now, Malhotras can raise a toast. After gulping down countless cups of tea during umpteen meetings over the last few months, this middle class family in North West Delhi has finally found a ‘perfect’ match for their son. Rashmi, their prospective daughter-in-law, is not only beautiful but also has a pet name ‘Toasty’ – something that instantly clicked with the Malhotras.


Reason: The other Toasty they know is a lovable daughter-in-law, played by Aishwarya Sakhuja in Sony’s TV fiction Saas Bina Sasural, who keeps her family together. “I am sure Rashmi has similar qualities like Toasty,” said an elated Mrs Malhotra.


Malhotras are not alone in getting influenced by serial characters. There are thousands of such people across the country. And several marketers are now waking up to the potential of small screen stars as brand endorsers.


Over the last six months, a slew of brands including Cadbury, Emami, Hyundai, Maruti, Dulux, Red Label and Lux has roped in popular TV celebrities such as Sakhuja and Hussain Kuwajerwala who can connect well with people at a fraction of cost of hiring a popular Bollywood actor.


“It’s a great strategic move by brands. The TV characters have a strong resonance with the viewers, especially the middle class that relates to the values shown in the serials,” said Prathap Suthan, an advertising industry veteran who created the government’s ‘India Shining’ and ‘Incredible India’ campaigns and is now the chief creative officer of iYogi, an online technical support services provider.


Saurabh Uboweja, director of brand consulting firm Brands of Desire, said that by casting TV stars with successful running soaps, advertisers can have the dual advantage of both role and star endorsement for a sensible signing amount: “They get two candies for the price of one.”



While TV celebrities do have their own large fan following, their relatively lower endorsement fee is a huge plus for several companies in the present tough business environment where subdued consumer sentiments and rising costs have hit sales of several products.


One such company is Maruti Suzuki, the country’s largest carmaker that has had a tough last year and expects its sales to fall 11 per cent in the year ending March.

“In the current cost-cutting environment, it makes more sense to hire TV stars,” said Shashank Srivastava, Maruti Suzuki Chief General Manager (Marketing). The carmaker roped in TV celebrity Anita Hassanandini this month to feature in its Swift Dzire commercial. Last December, it signed Kavita Kaushik and Rajesh Kumar from SAB TV to endorse its multi-purpose vehicle, Eeco.


“Selling a car is not like selling a Bournvita,” said Mr Srivastava. “So, there’s no point in shelling out fortune in having big Bollywood celebrities.” Big celebrities have not really worked for Maruti. Father-son duo of Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan could not boost its Versa sales in 2000-2001. Maruti has also had actor-director Farhan Akhtar and actor R Madhavan to endorse A-Star and Wagon R, respectively, but with limited success.



Marketers also say it’s easier for people to relate to TV celebrities than big screen stars. “While a Bollywood celebrity projects an image which is aspirational and larger than life, TV celebrities relate closer to the real life of the viewers and are hence becoming extremely popular,” said Krishna Mohan, CEO of FMCG firm Emami, which signed Suhana of Star Plus’ serial Sasuraal Genda Phool aka Ragini Khanna in November last to endorse its moisturiser Vasocare.


Unlike film stars, small screen celebrities are identified with the characters they portray in popular long-run serials. So people relate them to the values their characters hold, like a committed housewife, an ideal husband, a perfect daughter… ¦ It helps brands project a distinct identity by endorsing them.


Late last year, paints brand Dulux rolled out a media innovation by tying up with three popular television serials to create vignettes that resonate with their thematic campaign, ‘Apne Rang Chalakne Do’. AkzoNobel’s brand showed the lead pairs from Star TV soaps Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon, and Sony’s Saas Bina Sasural in its commercial.


“Since daily soaps are a big draw in India and the consumer follows their journey closely, the protagonists of the daily shows had the appeal that was needed to propel the idea,” said Pushkar Jain, marketing manager for Dulux at AkzoNobel India.


However, there’s a flip side of using TV celebrities as well, said Mr Uboweja: “Brands want to capture these stars and their soaps when they are running hot. But the shelf life for both is fairly short”. “This ad strategy is a bit like instant noodles, good enough to fill the stomach but not enough to satiate the appetite,” he added.


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


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