Use of celebrities has mixed results in India

04 February 2010

NEW DELHI: A majority of TV ads in India currently feature at least one celebrity, but this strategy does not appear to be delivering the results hoped for by marketers.

A well-known "endorser" appeared in 25% of all spots broadcast on television in the Asian nation in 2001, a share that had increased to 62% by 2008.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, two of India's leading cricketers, were among the figures most regularly playing such a role last year.

Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Priyanka Chopra, all Bollywood stars, joined these sportsmen in the top five "brand ambassadors" for 2009, with this group promoting more than 70 products overall.

Dhoni had the most individual deals, on 26, including agreements with Pepsi and Dabur in the FMCG sector, with Khan in second, on 21, according to AdEx India, the research firm.

However, a study from MEC MediaLab suggested that the near-saturation of the market means this tactic may not actually have the impact intended by brands.

The company surveyed 1,000 people in the fast-growing economy, and discovered that 66% of respondents found it difficult to identify which goods were linked to different celebrities.

Moreover, just 35% of participants agreed that the presence of a familiar face would lead them to trust a product more than was previously the case.

A further 32% of contributors said it would heighten their expectations that a brand would work well, while 31% were more likely to recommend the offering concerned to someone else.

VS Sitaram, coo of Dabur, warned that using popular spokespeople in advertising would only be effective if the overall approach was sound.

 "It helps in creating top-of-the-mind recall, but celebrity endorsements are a means to an end and not an end in itself," he stated.

"What's most important is how a brand uses a celebrity. It's only then that the connect happens better.”

Anand Singh, director of marketing at Coca-Cola's Indian arm, similarly thought the overall idea behind a campaign must take precedence.

"It really depends on the creative and the message one is trying to communicate. For example, a creative in line with the brand values of optimism and connections may work better with multiple celebrities," he said.

Coke was one of the ten brands that made the most use of celebrities in 2009, a list that also included Lux, the personal care brand owned by Unilever, AdEx India reported.

Data sourced froM Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff