So, not very far back in time, it was advertising that created celebrities, and not the other way around. Brands
today depend more and more on famous faces to entice customers and build brand preference. Ranveer Singh and Virat Kohli endorse about 25 brands
each; Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone are brand ambassadors of at least 20 brands
each; Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, and MS Dhoni also have endorsement deals in double digits. One almost gets the impression that brand advertising in India today cannot be done without using a famous face.
Yet, there are successful examples even in the current celeb-crazy environment where brands have managed to cut through the clutter with advertising that became famous, concurrently catapulting their ordinary everyday protagonists to stratospheric fame. Amrita Raichand, a small town girl from Jamshedpur, and an MBA from Narsee Monjee, played the housewife in Whirlpool’s Mummy ka Magic as a chef on FoodFood TV.
The Airtel 4G girl Sasha Chhetri is a better known face across India than most Bollywood starlets and surely India’s women cricket captain Harmanpreet Kaur. Between September 19 and November 20, 2015, Airtel beamed a mind-numbing 54,506 ad spots on national TV featuring Sasha. No wonder, the diminutive 19-years old Xavier’s Mumbai student who hails from Dehradun, became one of the country’s most-recognised and loved (some say hated) faces. Similar is the story of the Kya Aapne Kabhi Online Hotel Search Kiya Hai? Trivago India presenter who ignited an unprecedented, ‘Who is the Trivago guy?’ avalanche on Twitter, Facebook and Quora a couple of years ago. The young man, Abhinav Kumar, is actually the travel portal’s own business development manager based in Dusseldorf. He is today an internet darling with unbelievable metrics.
So, even today, it is possible to create memorable advertising in India sans celebrities, such that the ordinary folks in these famous campaigns gain fame and public recognition even beyond film stars and cricketers. But the essential ingredients in converting these ordinary folks into superstars are 1.) a single-minded advertising idea… like 4G in the case of Airtel 2.) limitless repetition of the ad on air… the 50K ad spots of Airtel in 60 days on TV irritated the hell out of the entire nation, but made Sasha unforgettable.
Creating brand characters who are uniquely yours and unequivocally identified with just one brand are invaluable assets. Far superior to employing mercenary celebrities. But how many brands today have the patience and the perseverance to ideate, create, nourish and celebrate ordinary folks as brand champions?
The writer is an advertising and media veteran Email: firstname.lastname@example.org