Now celebrities need influencers to bring them to life, writes Naresh Gupta

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

Yet things seem to be changing; movie stars seem to be losing some of their luster and are unable to create the same impact they did a few years ago.

About a year ago, De’Longhi Coffee signed actor Brad Pitt and released a rather indulgent one-minute commercial about Pitt’s love for De’Longhi Coffee. The ad’s takedown was brutal—the advertising press was not at all impressed with the effort, and the criticism the ad faced cost millions of dollars in bad press. Even Brad Pitt’s reputation wasn’t enough to save the ad.

REPUTATION COUNTS

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

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

When a brand partners with a movie star, it seeks to capitalize on the star’s popularity and status. By association, the brand seeks to become greater than its competition, add a layer of invincibility to its appeal, and stimulate an irrational desire to consume the brand.

That’s even more relevant when the celebrity ambassador lacks an obvious fit. There’s the celebrity, there’s the brand, and by association, the celebrity delivers more than the brand as an overall impact.

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

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

What has started to change and where could the problem be?

The first thing that happened was that big stars are no longer box office champions. Their own ability to build a following is now suspect. Over the past one year, almost every major movie star has seen their films underperform at the box office.

It’s the second rise of the small screen. Earlier, there was a clear division between the small and the big screen. The whole gamut of cinema and television has merged to create what we call OTT, and this has changed the way we perceive stars. Suddenly the big ones are losing the battle to the little ones. Brands that have built their strategy on the back of big stars literally see stars!

The biggest change, in fact, is the rise of new stars—a hybrid of big- and small-screen personalities who provide far greater recognition, following, and creative breakthroughs for 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 a Ryan Reynolds and his Aviation Gin. We’ve seen the rise of Slurp Farm, Epigamia and others, we’ve also seen the change in the following and the appeal of big stars.

i suspect even a big hit on the silver screen can slow change, but change is bound to happen.

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

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