NEW DELHI: The relationship between brands and celebrities in India appears to be entering a new, more cautious phase although observers are divided as to the reasons why.

BARC data shows that, during the second quarter, only one brand among the top ten brands, as measured by TV ad insertions, used a brand endorser consistently.

This marks a significant shift from 2016, according to the Business Standard, when a few sports and film stars were enthusiastically promoting “everything from realty projects, face wash, noodles and sauces to mobile phones and laptops”.

That very ubiquity is one of the reasons for the current lull, argued brand consultant Harish Bijoor, who suggested that the frequent use of a small number of celebrities has led to a lack of differentiation and a degree of boredom.

“I think they [brands] are looking for new, fresh faces,” he said. “It is not that brands do not want celebrity endorsers. I think they just don’t want the same old faces.”

Further, celebrities are becoming more accountable for their endorsements with the Advertising Standards Council of India demanding they do due diligence to ensure they do not make misleading claims and the government considering fines and bans for those who transgress.

“One could say that the whole process (of signing a brand or celebrity) has become much more cumbersome,” Bijoor added.

Faced with these constraints, the nature of the association between brand and celebrities is starting to change, as the latter explore greater levels of involvement by signing on as partners and investors.

And relying on BARC data as a guide may be just plain wrong: “Many brands are now going for tactical and cost-effective ways to communicate,” explained Ramakrishnan R, co- founder and director at sports marketing agency Baseline Ventures. “There are no TVCs, just digital videos.”

Other observers have also pointed to demonetisation and the introduction of the GST as reasons for the current slowdown in celebrity endorsement, as brands’ attentions have been focused elsewhere.

Data sourced from Business Standard, Economic Times; additional content by WARC staff