Celebrity endorsement in India: Death of the celebrity god

Aditya Kanthy
DDB Mudra

Celebrities in India, borne out of Bollywood, had god-like status. Now, popular interest in their personal lives and their real selves means that celebrities are portrayed as mortal, with imperfections.

The centennial year of Indian cinema is an apt time to reflect on celebrity advertising in India. Our popular movies (more than politics, music or sport) shaped our collective imagination of celebrity. Movie stars continue to be the darlings of India's marketers, accounting for a majority of endorsements. They have influenced the fundamental nature of the relationship we have with our heroes. But is the god-like celebrity in India finally dead?

Traditionally, Bollywood movies were an escape, their heroes, untouchable gods. Their worlds were very separate from ours. At the heart of our idea of celebrity was the notion of distance. They had to be distanced from our lives. Then, at the turn of the Millennium, came a new order in the production and consumption of celebrity in India, and with it came the death of distance between celebrities and us. A series of macro-features have influenced this shift; reality TV, celebrity talk shows, 24-hour news, the publicity and star machine, the celebrity gossip industry, multiplexes, younger audiences, the rise of the small town, the immediacy of the internet and the enthusiasm with which celebrities took to social media – each in their own way contributed to a new idea of celebrity.