afaqs!

How 'reel' can real life get?

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | November 06, 2008
Real life couple Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor has a lot more than their personal relationship and films going for them. afaqs! explores what and for how long

Last & #BANNER1 & # year, in August, Hindi film actor Kareena Kapoor's personal graph raised quite a few eyebrows. She broke off a longstanding relationship with fellow actor Shahid Kapur and established a much discussed bonding with Saif Ali Khan, also a popular actor.

Now, Khan and Kapoor have gone beyond films and their personal relationship to heat up the brand and advertising circuit together. The couple is endorsing Head & Shoulders (H&S, P&G's dandruff shampoo brand), Airtel digital TV and Airtel mobility services.

To add to the list, PepsiCo Snack Foods has recently signed Kapoor to endorse its snack brand, Kurkure, say sources. Khan already endorses Lay's, the company's bestseller snack brand. Though the two are evidently not endorsing the same brand, Vishal Bhatia, vice-president, Kurkure, PepsiCo Snack Foods, says they employ their brand ambassadors across brands. So, an ad featuring the two cannot be ruled out, though Bhatia denies that as of now.

Individually, both Khan and Kapoor endorse several brands. Khan has Provogue, Royal Stag Seagrams, Taj Mahal Tea, General Motors, Lenovo, Asian Paints and Colgate. Kapoor has Globus, ITC Vivel and Damas; in the past, she has endorsed Citizen watches, Emami and Lux.

Khan and Kapoor have also been a part of P&G's initiative with Shiksha, of the CRY Foundation, but till H&S happened, they had never endorsed any P&G brand. Kapoor has been associated with Airtel and Pepsi in the past.

Market estimates reveal that Khan gets Rs 3.5 crore for every endorsement. Kapoor charges Rs 1.5-2 crore per endorsement. She used to charge around Rs 70 lakh, but pushed up her rates after last year's superhit, Jab We Met.

Limited shelf life
Reshma Shetty, director, Matrix Models, the talent management company that manages Kapoor, believes that there are few actors in the endorsing space.

Agreeing with her, Anirban Das Blah, chief executive officer, Globosport, the company that handles Khan's endorsements, says that there are only a handful of male and female actors who walk away with the cream of the endorsement deals.

Film actors sooner or later reach a saturation point in their careers. The same holds true for actors in the brand endorsement space.

"More than male actors, I see the trend of female faces being phased out as quickly as in three to four years. This could be due to the fact that some brands sign on endorsers on the basis of beauty and glamour, rather than strong personality traits. One still sees actors such as Kajol and Juhi (Chawla) around because they have been brought in by brands for their personality traits. Male actors have a longer shelf life - as long as 15-20 years," says Blah.

Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and film actor Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) are among the handful of celebrities who have enjoyed almost 20 years as brand endorsers.

Shetty of Matrix says, "I don't know if there really is a saturation point, as one calls it. As long as the actor works for the brand, and the brand works for the actor, the relationship could go on."

Brand talk

Chandrashekhar Radhakrishnan (Chandru), head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel, has a similar point of view as Shetty. "It's more about the way you make people play the role you wish to see them in. It depends on the idea of the brand and the creative brief."

He can't help but cite the Airtel voice SMS commercial as an example, which features Khan, SRK and Kapoor and is currently on air. It was a script written independent of actors.

"Initially, we thought of using SRK and Khan for the 'friends' sequence, looking at the roles they have played together in movies and as VJs. Subsequently, the thought of bringing in the real life chemistry of Khan and Kapoor on screen struck us, which was definitely not possible with any other female actor," he says.

Bhatia reveals that Kapoor has been signed to endorse all of PepsiCo's food brands, just like all its other brand endorsers. He confirms that they do not have any plans to feature Khan and Kapoor in the same communication. So, it does seem that Kapoor has been brought on only for Kurkure.

Quoting the example of Khan, Bhatia says that PepsiCo signs on endorsers in their individual capacity. The association has been beneficial for both the brand and the actor.

For H&S, Kapoor replaced fellow actor Preity Zinta, who had endorsed the brand for five years. A P&G source tells afaqs!, "P&G usually has long term associations in terms of brand ambassadorships, but not permanent ones."

The source says that P&G conducts surveys amongst its target segment in terms of appointing a brand ambassador - it tries to find out which actors are aspirational, believable, who's in, who's out, etc.

"Individually, they are strong ambassadors, but because they are together in their personal life, it gives the brand an opportunity to make the communication more engaging and enhances the drama," the source continues.

The source further says that usually, endorsements are about brand values. When a celebrity endorser is replaced, it's not necessarily because of the celebrity, it could also be that the brand wants a makeover. The association with a celebrity takes time to gain recognition and register in the minds of consumers. A brand might wish to change before a celebrity gets really known for endorsing it.

H&S replaced Zinta with Kapoor when it revamped itself, packaging and all. Kapoor was thought to be more trendy and youthful and was looked upon as a youth icon - the flavour of the time, says the source.

What the experts make of it

afaqs! spoke to a few consultants on the matter. Francis Xavier of Francis Kanoi Marketing and Planning Services, and R Sridhar, founder, IDEAS-RS, a brand consulting firm, are of the opinion that brands are only trying to capitalise on the ripples in the gossip circuit that Khan and Kapoor are creating. Both of them say that there are other couples in the film industry, but almost all brands choose to hire those who are most in the news.

"It's difficult to gauge a brand endorser's life cycle, considering the turbulence in the economy. The doubts are likely to be manifested in various ways and one doesn't know if endorsements and brand endorsers will be what they are. Some brands might want to reduce or increase advertising, considering the situation," he says.

Both Sridhar and Xavier would not comment on the life cycle of Khan and Kapoor as an endorser couple. They feel that it is more about the kind of roles that the actors choose to play as brand endorsers. It's difficult to predict, they say, as it's beyond looks and fashion. They say that individually, Khan and Kapoor are very desirable as brand endorsers, and some brands might wish to leverage them together to use that desirability to its highest point.

Sridhar says, "Both of them don't represent the same core values. The common factor that binds them is the fact that they are attractive, energetic and stylish. They have a point of view for themselves and they put that across very well."

Sridhar also says that not all celebrity couple brand endorsements are used intelligently. He cites the example of real life couple Ajay Devgan and Kajol endorsing Tata Indicom and Whirlpool. The ads did not convey anything about the brands, he says.

"It's about the appeal versus relevance factor. A brand needs to make sure that what it stands for is in correlation with the attributes of the endorser," he says.

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