Now, celebrities need influencers to revive them, writes Naresh Gupta


Finding the right star for advertising a brand is often the most debated issue among brand managers. This debate is bigger than any other element of brand strategy. The movie star sometimes is the strategy. Yes, there are more familiar faces that consumers know, but nothing works like a name from the silver screen for our nation.

Yet, things seem to be changing; the cine stars seem to be losing some of their sheen and they aren’t able to create the same impact as they did a few years back.

About a year back, De’Longhi Coffee signed up actor Brad Pitt and released a rather indulgent one-minute long commercial about Pitt’s love for De’Longhi Coffee. The take-down of the commercial was brutal – the advertising press was not impressed by the effort at all, and the criticism the commercial faced was worth millions of dollars in bad press. Even the reputation of Brad Pitt was not enough to save the commercial.

THE REPUTATION COUNTS

We are witnessing similar things now in the Indian advertising industry. Earlier, using a celebrity allowed the brands to carefully build a series of gushing positive stories around them. This seems to be changing now, with the reputation of the actor adding or subtracting from the brand’s appeal.

What we are seeing is the decline of big stars and rise of small names, plus a host of influencers who have a massive social currency. Combine this with the fact that of late, Hindi cinema has not reaped a rich harvest at the box office, making the big stars seem smaller and devoid of their earlier sheen.

When a brand partners with the cinema star, it is looking at leveraging the popularity and status of the star. By association, the brand looks at becoming bigger than its competition, add a layer of invincibility to its appeal and drive an irrational desire to consume the brand.

this is even more relevant when the celebrity ambassador doesn’t have an obvious fit. There is celebrity, there is the brand and by association, the celebrity delivers more than the brand as its overall impact.

The second reason to sign a big cinema star is to cut through the clutter. There is a sense of recognition that only a cine star can deliver to a brand. The recognition is important when the brand measures the creative cut-through recall of its communications.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

What has started to change and where may the issue lie?

The first thing that has happened is that the big stars are no longer the champions of the box office. Their own ability to create a following for themselves is now suspect. In the last one year, almost every big cine star has seen his/her films not do well at the box office.

The second is the rise of the small screen. Earlier, there was a clear divide between small screen and big screen. The whole gamut of cinema and TV have merged to create what we call OTT, and that has changed the way we consume the stars. Suddenly, the big ones are losing the battle to the small ones. The brands that built their strategy on the back of big stars are literally seeing stars!

The biggest change, actually, is the rise of new stars – a hybrid of big and small screen personalities, who deliver a far greater recognition, following and creative cut-through to brands. Brands are experimenting with these new celebrities by calling them influencersbut how long before the new faces become the bigger names?

Remember for every Brad Pitt, there’s Ryan Reynolds and his Aviation Gin. We are witnessing the rise of Slurp Farm, Epigamia and more, we are also witnessing the change in big star following and appeals.

I suspect even one big hit on the silver screen may slow down the change, but the change is bound to happen.

(The author is Co-founder and CSO, Bang in the Middle)

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