Does Ranveer Singh even know what afaqs! is, we wonder, as we make our way to Mumbai's Yash Raj Studios for a rather atypical interview. Our doubts are put to rest when he answers the question with, "Of course, I know what it is... I was a copywriter with O&M and JWT!" He also reminds us that he has worked on brands like Mattel, Pond's, Goodnight and the Right to Information Act.
Of course, that was the proverbial lifetime ago. Today, the 29-year-old actor is much sought after not only in Bollywood, but also in the world of brands. And his choice of brands is markedly outlandish.
He broke what he famously calls his "brand virginity" with Durex; we're still not over his naughty 'Do The Rex' dance number. We then saw him dance to a far tamer yet immensely entertaining song called 'My name is Ranveer Ching', which is a branded music video by food brand Ching's.
Cheeky creatives by Myntra's private label Roadster followed. And most recently, he played a suited-booted office-goer in an ad for Ciaz, a car from the house of Maruti Suzuki. Seen the shot in which he smiles into the rear-view mirror? It's almost like he's sharing a private joke with the viewer. In 'real life', he drives a Jaguar, by the way.
Liquor brand Royal Stag has roped him (along with his colleague Arjun Kapoor) in for an upcoming VFX-heavy campaign titled 'Ab mein sab daal do'.
In a recent interview - a delightful flight from tradition - we spoke to the verbose actor to understand the way in which he approaches brand endorsements. Edited Excerpts:
Maybe I was waiting for something as disruptive as Durex to happen. I wanted my first foray into the ad space to make a big noise. I didn't want to make conventional choices. After Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) there was a flood of endorsement offers - wrong brands at the right prices, right brands at the wrong prices. Something wasn't fitting.
Finally, after the success of Lootera (2013), Ram-Leela (2013) and Gunday (2014), I started getting better endorsement offers. As much as talent management agencies try and sell talent into the market, it is successful films that lead to better endorsement offers.
Having waited for so long, I decided to start on my own terms. And a thought struck - why has a mainstream actor never endorsed a condom? And why are these ads made in such a lusty, seductive way - they're all the same! Indian society has come a long way from treating sex as a taboo subject. Sex is a beautiful thing that needs to be celebrated and safe sex needs to be promoted.
I told my team I wanted to do this. Some thought it was cool idea; others thought I'd lost the plot. I said, 'Call Durex.' And when my team went to Durex, they jumped at the idea. We collaborated and came up with the idea of making a dance to celebrate sex. Reckitt Benckiser said, 'But we don't have spends.' I said, 'Fine, put all the money into the production of the film and we'll release it online, not TV.'
Some of my peers view endorsements as the 'place where you make your money'. You don't charge that much for your films because you try and do the 'best' films... and the best films don't pay the best money. The films you probably don't want to do are the ones that are going to pay you good money.
But I don't look at endorsements that way. For me, it's never about the money. Fortunately, my father was well off enough to never put that kind of pressure on me.
I view endorsements as a part of my equity. It is a 30-45 second short film that's going to feature me, my pictures are going to be blown up around 80 feet and put on the road. For me, it's an avatar in which I'll be seen.
I take endorsements very seriously. What I've managed to acquire so far is an enviable equity of advertising.
That was my idea! We were shooting Ladies vs Ricky Bahl (2011) at the time. And she said, 'You know, there's this offer....' I said, 'Why don't you just do it?'
We have come a long way from being cagey about these things. Today we can talk about normal health issues in an open manner. We need to break away from a regressive mindset.
Given my copywriting background, I take immense pride in the fact that I am able to give creative inputs when asked. For instance, Ching's came to me with a very unique problem. They said their unit sales were doing just fine; in fact, they're a leading brand. Everyone buys it but nobody recognises the name. The consumers are buying a sauce, but don't know the name.
What will happen when they start making soups and noodles? Where is the brand value? They wanted the name to have a ring to it. That's when I suggested - why not attach the brand name to my name and create this character (Ranveer Ching)? Now we have big plans for 'The Return of Ranveer Ching'.
Yes. I want to know the creatives and the campaign. I am very involved. It keeps the copywriter in me happy. And I am happy that whenever I have given creative inputs, the ad has worked.
It's not that I interfere. Much to my dismay, rival talent management agencies are spreading rumours about me, saying I'm difficult to work with because I interfere with creatives.
I can't just go in, service the brand and come out. I take my craft seriously.
Okay, so I won't do Pulse Polio. What else?
I think I'm balancing it well. See the Ciaz ad. It's about a straight-laced, suited-booted, young corporate vibe. It's a clean campaign, cut and dried, nothing quirky about it. It appeals to serious guys.
If my ads are highly anticipated, it means there is something right in what I am doing. That's how I want it to be too. It will keep me on my toes, make sure I don't make any wrong decision, and keep some amount of quality control.
I would like to make a splash in the marquee categories - beverages, telecommunication service providers, two-wheelers and electronics.
I am not an expert on the trade side of things so I don't know why this difference exists.
Sure, I understand that it's a capitalist game. But if a brand has married itself to a face, I think it should stick by the person through thick and thin. For me, it's a relationship that extends beyond a monetary exchange.
Home page picture courtesy: Rohan Shrestha