Celebrities Sell

TEAM BW | Updated: Dec 30 2008, 06:41am hrs
Only recently, the prestigious Newsweek magazine put Shah Rukh Khan among the 50 most powerful people in the world. To borrow a phrase from the US weekly newsmagazine, its not just that his (Khans) romantic flicks make gazillions, even brands and their advertising agencies in India seem ready to bet their shirts on Khans power of persuasion.

Three out of the top five most recalled brands in 2008 feature Khan at his dapper best. Airtel, Nokia, ICICI, all of which have brandished Khan as their ambassador for some years now, have been placed at No 2, No 3 and No 4 slots in the annual HotSpot Poll by BrandWagon in association with Synovate, a global market research company.

Obviously, when Bollywood starlet Neha Dhupia famously said, In Bollywood, either sex sells or Shah Rukh Khan, she didnt realise the full import.

Khan currently endorses more than 30 brands, including Pepsi, Hyundai, Airtel, Videocon, ITC Sunfeast, Tag Heuer, Dish TV and Belmonte Suitings. With the biggest bite of the endorsement pie, he is expected to earn at least four times as much from endorsements as he earned from his only release this year, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.

Coming back to the survey of the Most Recalled Television Commercials of 2008, the top slot is occupied by the ad for Vodafone featuring the little girl and her podgy pug. Pepsi, HDFC, Samsung, LG, LIC and Cadburys Dairy Milk in that order complete the list of Top 10. Whats noteworthy is the use of celebrities across categories. And in some cases, brands such as Airtel are using multiple celebrities to endorse various offerings, as documented in our article A Starry Affair (BrandWagon, December 23). As a Mumbai analyst told BrandWagon in a recent interview, Most people recognise a Bollywood celebrity. Thats half the battle won. Thats one of the key benefits of being a celebrity in our star-conscious culture.

To put things in perspective, the HotSpot poll of 2007 had Airtel at the top of the heap. Dairy Milk, Reliance Mobile, Surf Excel and Vodafone completed the list of Top 5 Most Recalled Brands on TV. And the top brand in the five categories polled were FritoLay (F&B), Nokia (mobile handsets), Whirlpool (consumer durables), ICICI (financial services) and Hero Honda (automobiles).

To give a background about HotSpot 2008, the quantitative study was done using an unstructured questionnaire, which was administered to a fairly large sample of respondents in the age group 20-45 years. The sample comprised students, chief wage earners, housewives and working women. The interviews were conducted face-to-face and telephonically and the cities polled included Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.

The survey throws up some interesting regional variations. For example, the top slotted Vodafone commercials notched up the highest recall in Kolkata (59%) and the least in Mumbai (6%). Airtel, which is placed at No 2, fared the best in Hyderabad (37%), and No 3 Nokia seems to have moved respondents in Kolkata the most (30%).

Now we go category-wise. FritoLay, Pepsi, Thums Up, Maggi and Complan are the Top 5 in Food & Beverages. In fact, FritoLay, Pepsi, Thums Up are tied at the No 1 slot. Except Complan, all the others have had Bollywood stars and cricket icons standing up for them.

The next categoryhandset makersalso spends oodles of cash on star appeal. Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and LG are the Top 5 on this list. Except Korean company LG, the other four have used the charm of Bollywood stars Aamir Khan (Samsung), Abhishek Bachchan (Motorola) and Hrithik Roshan (Sony Ericsson) on various occasions to enhance recall. Samsung didnt figure among the Top 5 handset brands in last years HotSpot poll.

Evidently, Aamir Khans association with the brand has had a positive rub off.

Among the Top 5 mobile service providers are Vodafone, Airtel, Idea, Reliance and Tata Indicom. In this case too, there are a truckfull of Bollywood celebrities working hard for their brandsAbhishek Bachchan for Idea and SRK-Saif, Madhavan-Vidya,

Abhay-Raima, not to forget Shreyas Talpade, for Airtel. Retaining the pug as a prop has benefitted Vodafoneafter all, it denotes continuity.

Consumer durables brands LG, Whirlpool, Godrej, Samsung and Onida notched up the top honours in their category. SRKs jadoo was evident in the financial products category with ICICI leading the pack and HDFC, LIC, Aviva and SBI following suit. In the automobile category (two-wheelers and four-wheelers taken together) Hero Honda TVCs emerge favourite, followed by Santro (Hyundai Motors) and Bajaj.

So there you have it. When the going gets tough, rope in celebrities. The more the merrier. If nothing else, they will help you stand out amid clutter. Of course, there is a subtle change in the agency and advertiser mindset. They are not satisfied if the celebrity simply stands up for their brand. At least some of them are looking for a meaningful representation of the celebrity endorser.

The likes of Airtel and Dominos have made a good beginning. Lets just say, well begun is half done.