How powerful is Bollywood in advertising?

Narayan Devanathan, the executive vice president and national planning head for Dentsu India, talks about the strategy of using film stars in advertising.

Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra. Ajit Solanki / AP Photo
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Narayan Devanathan, the executive vice president and national planning head for Dentsu India, an advertising and marketing agency, talks about the strategy of using film stars in advertising campaigns.

What is the power of using Bollywood stars in marketing?

Often it is a lazy option that brand managers and ad agencies use to attempt to gain some attention. Given most Bollywood stars – with a few exceptions such as Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan – have a limited shelf life, over-exposure is the rule. And in their drive to post a Facebook status update or profile photo with a star’s arm around their shoulder, brand managers end up chasing and using Bollywood stars for all the wrong reasons. There is a lesson to be learnt for advertisers from the world of fashion. While designers get models and supermodels to be their clotheshorses for their ramp shows, today’s fashion shows inevitably have the big Bollywood stars as their showstoppers. Rather than blindly use any available star to walk the ramp for them, designers exercise some prudence in matching the star’s personality to the theme of the collection, and the credibility the star might bring to the theme.

How can advertisers learn from this when associating with Bollywood actors and actresses in endorsement deals?

Marketers or advertisers would do well to learn from them, and cast them, if at all, in their marketing campaigns, based on whether the stars can be their “showstoppers” given the clutter that abounds, can credibly get across the brand’s message and maximise their media investment rather than deplete them. Above all of this, they must evaluate if the star will overshadow or add to the brand’s lustre.

Do you think Bollywood stars have a global reach or is the impact really limited to India?

The right answer to this one is, it depends. Priyanka Chopra is a global brand ambassador for Guess. That’s not because she is a Bollywood star. That is because she has spread her wings to gain a little more global stature with her singing career. Likewise, Aishwarya Rai and Sonam Kapoor have global relevance as L’Oréal’s brand ambassadors, because they fit the bill for what the brand stands for. But that does not mean a Parineeti Chopra will work in Kazakhstan or an Anil Kapoor, even for a Mont Blanc, in the US. Horses for courses is still the best strategy.

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