By Venkata Susmita Biswas
Akshay Kumar dutifully serving biryani to his wife Twinkle Khanna in a TVC for Fortune Rice; Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma reminiscing about one year of their married life in the latest Manyavar/Mohey ad; or take Shah Rukh Khan doting on wife Gauri in the ads for D’Decor furnishing — celebrity couples are a package deal in the advertising world these days, but does roping them in make business sense?
Consider the statistics: the past decade has seen celebrity-led endorsements increase from 650 in 2007 to 1,660 in 2017, according to a study by ESP Properties. In 2018, 23% of all ads in India featured a celebrity, revealed a study by Kantar Millward Brown. By signing on a celebrity pair, brands hope for double the impact with double the star power.
Having real-life celebrity couples, such as Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor Khan and Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma, brings a sensational angle to an otherwise banal advertising narrative. Garima Khandelwal, CCO, Mullen Lintas, says, “Having celebrities play themselves in ads gives more juice to the story; because today, more than ever, there is a thirst to know about their lives.”
For some brands, it helps speak to a larger demographic, particularly families. Take Lloyd, for example. The consumer durables company has roped in actor couple Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh as brand ambassadors. Amit Tiwari, VP-Marketing, Havells says that with the tagline Khayal Rakhenge, Khush Rakhenge, Lloyd hopes to appeal to “not just the male audience, but also women who are increasingly becoming decision makers in the consumer durables category”.
But is the mere presence of the celebrity couple enough?
Brands that hire celeb couples have to walk the tightrope between style and substance. While employing them increases buzz around the brand, the larger concern is “whether or not the couple is used simply for the glamour quotient,” says Ronita Mitra, founder and chief strategist,
Usually, celebrity pairs are cast in formulaic narratives — the spouse caring for the other in a typical household setting. An insipid storyline that does not tap into the personas of the celebs, says Priti Nair, director, Curry Nation, can be effectively communicated by a pair of models. “Brands need to own the celebrities in their ads, like Ching’s does with Ranveer.”
Nair cites the Tanishq ad featuring Amitabh-Jaya Bachchan having a tiff as a fine example of portraying the celebrities in a ‘true to life’ fashion. “In contrast, the Aishwarya-Abhishek Bachchan ad for Prestige pressure cookers could have featured any couple,” she says.
To Saurabh Uboweja, CEO, Brands of Desire, ads featuring celebrity couples lack creativity. “Using star power is a lazy way out for brands,” he points out.
Money well spent?
As per industry estimates, the fee for a pair of A-list celebrity endorsers could range from `8-12 crore per day — this could, therefore, be a tad more economical for brands, than roping in two separate celebrities. However, the difference is only marginal, considering that these deals are often still negotiated separately by the respective agents of the celebrity duo.
To position itself as a ‘companion’ for family vacations, VIP Bags has roped in celeb couple Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan. Anirudh Pandharkar, CMO, VIP Industries, says that although the investment is much higher when a couple is roped in, the ad reaches three different target groups — “Kareena fans, Saif fans and fans of the family unit”.
In an environment where media cost is escalating, having a celebrity couple on board could help increase recall, while keeping the media frequency low. “After all, the money is coming from the same budget; the brand is trading media cost for the endorsement cost,” Nair observes.