Since the time, Sindhu won a Silver and Sakshi a Bronze for India at the Rio Olympics, their phones (probably endorsed by a Kareena or an Alia) I guess haven’t stopped ringing. Or perhaps their managers’. For, many brands are on their way to signing them as brand ambassadors. For now it’s O.K., for Sindhu or Sakshi to sign on the dotted line in these endorsement contracts and make hay while the medal shines. However not if the Government pushes forth the changes in the Consumer Protection bill which proposes jail term and fine for celebrities in case of misleading advertisements for products they endorse. The intention being to make celebrities also responsible for products they endorse apart from the manufacturers. “Consumers tend to get influenced by the promise made by the celebrities in ads” is the argument behind the proposed move.
As a marketing professional I have never been very excited about using celebrities in ads to push a product. In B-schools every year, one popular project students carry out with the blessings of their professors is to find out the effectiveness of celebrities in an ad campaign. That the study is done regularly conveys that the jury is still out on that. At a superficial level though, it is commonly accepted that use of a celebrity helps break the clutter and differentiate the ad. Though as per me, this is “laid back, lazy creativity” as there are indeed many other ways to break the clutter. Using celebrities is of course a low hanging fruit for those with big budgets and is often deployed as a creative strategy when one can afford. I just realized that this piece is not on whether to use celebrities or not in ads. We will keep that for another Sunday. But on the proposed changes in the law which could stop the party on its tracks for the so called Brand Ambassadors.
Going back in time, I think ads whether print or TV just had people featuring in them and were called as models. And then slowly the practice of plugging in celebrities like actors, sportspersons,… crept in as I mentioned, probably to make the communication stand out. I am not sure when this “celebrities modelling” for an ad morphed into “endorsing the product” and then as we see now becoming “brand Ambassadors” for the company.
As long as celebrities “featured” in ads for products I guess they were just plain actors parroting some lines. But when they started endorsing brands (making a killing in the process) – that’s when I guess they came into the ambit of influencing buyers’ decision and of course within the prying eyes of lawmakers. In my understanding there are 2 types of celebrity endorsements. First, where a celebrity is used to promote a product which is related to what he/she is doing and is a direct endorsement. For example – A Sachin or a Kapil Dev being used to promote ‘Boost’- an energy drink for children. When Kapil says – “Boost is the secret of MY energy” there is a clear communication to moms that “if you want your child to become like me, do consider giving Boost to your kid”. Or when Katrina Kaif says – “if you want a smooth skin like mine, use Lux Soap”!
The second category is where brands just use a celebrity as a face in the ads and the products may not be related at all. For example – Amitabh Bachchan featuring in Binani Cement ads.
And probably there exists a third category – where the product is not related to the celebrity’s field of normal work but companies tap into the credibility of the star to push their wares. Though this is not common, we have started seeing this of late. For example, when Cadbury’s wanted to make a comeback after they got hit by the “worms inside chocolate” tornado, they dialed in Amitabh. Amitabh featured in the commercial as “himself”. See the ad here. As you can see in this TVC, he was clearly putting his personal credibility at stake to communicate to consumers that with the many steps taken by the company, “All is well” with the chocolates!
(I’m not considering the social awareness campaigns using celebrities for the moment)
In the whole business of celebrity endorsements, many questions do arise. Do the celebrities who extol the virtues of brands use the product/service themselves? Have they first checked if the claims they are making are true? In the case of endorsing for investment projects,.. do the celebrities vouch for the credibility of the promoters?
The thinking behind the proposed changes in the law seems to be after many instances of consumers landing in the pit after they invested their hard earned money in projects which also had big stars endorsing the same. At the same time, there have been so many cases where consumers lost money in projects where stars were not at all involved!
It is difficult to believe that consumers are so gullible that they buy a product just because a star endorses it. This premise seriously underestimates the intelligence of a consumer. If just a star endorsement can make a product tick, all those mobile phones with celebrity brand ambassadors must be outselling the I-phone isn’t it???
But whatever it may be, punishing celebrities for wrong claims of a product because they feature in the ads seems a bit farfetched. A consumer is expected to do his/her bit before deciding to buy a product/service. More so in the case of big investments. Putting the blame on a M.S.Dhoni just because a real estate project he endorsed didn’t see the light of the day is sheer escapism, I believe. I think we should consider celebrities featuring in ads as enhancing the entertainment quotient and nothing beyond that. At the same time as a socially conscious individual a celebrity should be careful in lending his/her name or face to a product which has inherent health concerns a la Gopichand who refused to feature in Cola ads in his prime time! And also do a bit more homework on the credibility of the brand/promoter before signing on the dotted line for the next 1 crore endorsement deal. Or else post the new law it will be “Ad today, Sad tomorrow”!!!
Post script: Will be interesting to know in which category of celebrity endorsements does the Jio campaign featuring our PM fall into???😝😝😝
9 thoughts on “Ad today, Sad Tomorrow – A Brand Ambassador’s soon to be story!!!”
Anand…I agree…next what, why not go after the director of the ad, and the ad agency, and the light boy who worked on the ad. The crux of this legislation is to make it appear to be in public interest but reality they are giving a clean chit to various government organisations that approving the projects or giving the regulatory approvals. ..Is the ISI, or a FDA equivalent effective? Do they have enough budget? When kalyan jewellers sells copper as gold, which government organisation is supposed ensure the shops sell the quality products?
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Hi Arun, well said! I agree with you. All these orgns can be effective if they want to. And thats a big IF.
Thanks for your comments Arunmozhi.
Thanks for yet another interesting read. It seems to me duplicitous to hold celebrities to a higher moral ground (“do your research before endorsing a product; ensure that your claims are truthful”) than that of consumers, primarily because some of us are stupid enough to be swayed by anything with celebrities in it. What makes the law assume that these celebrity endorsers are in adequate possession of intellectual, moral, material, and other resources to do this? Then why are “regular models” for ads exempt from this requirement? Granted the celebrities have a wider visibilty, but is there research that proves that products endorsed by celebrities grasp a larger market share and vice versa? Law that does not provide equal protection to all its subjects (in this case celebrity models v. regular models v. guy on the street endorser) is toothless law. The driving force behind this law seems to be to penalize celebrities (and their financial wealth) for not being a researcher first before doing a job that brings home their bread, however big a loaf it may be.
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Completely agree with you Aruna. Thanks for pitching in with your views.
The jio campaign can fall under the common politicians category “sell my country” campaign.
There are many a times where the ad features feedback from the common man. In this case, how to hold him / her responsible. End of day, ppl are expected to use a bit of common sense and some minimum research before they throw in their hard earned money.
Assuming the unit price of the product is high, the same may actually be termed as a ponzie scheme (not always though).
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True Girish. Thanks for reading and for writing in.
You have been featured in Tangy Tuesday Picks on September 13, 2016.
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Ne’er knew this, thanks for letting me know.