Ubaid Zargar

In search for authenticity, are brands swinging towards real people?

With the growth of 'cause-vertisements', brands are bringing more and more real life stories to light. But has this caused a shift in brands' choice of faces for their campaigns? Here is our analysis.

Brands have often flaunted a diverse array of celebrity faces to make themselves known to consumers. Endorsements, as we know them, have seen some significant transitions over the years – from being exclusively restricted to celebs to now being infiltrated by digital influencers.

However, there is another side to brand campaigning. A side that emphasises on authenticity and consumer relevance. The new age advertisement has seen some relentless work in cause based advertising, now popularly known as 'causevertising'. Which is what? You ask. Well, considering how social issues now garner a lot of talk from different public spheres, it is important for brands to make their positions known. Or in some cases, take the lead and spark discussions.

So, to make this happen, brands have tried a plethora of recipes to get the message across. And what seems to be a growing trend these days, is featuring real people in campaigns, in a bid to be a tad more realistic. For instance, here is a recent ad film by Dhara edible oil brand for their campaign #WomanOfChange.

The ad film showcases some real life stories of women who, despite shouldering their daily routines, manage to find time for their passions. The protagonist (who is also the narrator) is seen sharing her story with the audience.

Bajaj Allianz's recent campaign titled #CareHeroes, featured a series of ad films that brought to light some real life stories of people who have gone out of their way to help others. The campaign comprised four ad films, all depicting different stories. Here is one.

Here is Nykaa's take on causevertisement, highlighting the growing menace of acid attacks in the country – all the while insinuating that beauty has nothing to do with how you look. The brand managed to get Laxmi Agarwal, an activist who has survived an acid attack, to share her views on what makes a person beautiful.

These are just a few examples to back our analysis. Major brands across categories like Nestle (#100AndRunning), Ford (#WhatDrivesYou), HP (#BendTheRules), Lenovo (#GoodWeird), Mountain Dew (#NaamBAnteHainRiskSe), have all been there, done it.

But what can be easily made out of these campaigns is that brands have chosen at least two separate ways to push their name down the consumer barrel. One, when it comes to brand recognition and product promotion, brands manage to get some big time celebrities for their advertisements and campaigns. However, when it comes to cause based initiatives or campaigns, brands tend to bring real people on board to get the word out. And this shift in leverage appears to be a clear attempt by brands to look more authentic. But, we'll let industry experts deduce that for you.

Experts speak:

Shan Jain, chief strategy officer, Madison Media, to get her perspective on this. Here is her point of view.

In search for authenticity, are brands swinging towards real people?

It is important to understand the difference in the impact caused by Celebrities, on one hand, and Digital Influencers and Real life people (or micro influencers), on the other hand. One side delivers scale, the other delivers results when it comes to impacting consumer decision.

In a world with fake news, product placements and paid celebrity endorsements, the distinction between truth and fiction has become extremely murky. When consumers experience a crisis of faith, they turn to the opinion of digital and real life influencers - the power of the internet permits unprecedented fact checking!

Social media, a marketing minefield whose end goal is to connect, is enabling the evolution of micro influencers in the form of third party recommendations from those you trust. And while the marketplace and rules of engagement with social media micro influencers are still evolving, they will continue to play a crucial role in a marketer's play in driving authenticity.

Kumar Deb Sinha, executive vice president, Dentsu Aegis Network and country head, The Story Lab India

In search for authenticity, are brands swinging towards real people?

The journey of advertising is a true reflection of the journey of Indian society. If you look at the evolution of India in the last three decades ( post 90’s) after liberalisation, there are three distinct changes:

The first change is globalisation. Suddenly we had exposure to the best of global brands and products. From lack of choices, we faced abundant options. However, we needed someone who is exposed to global brands and lifestyle to help us navigate the Eco-system. And who could do it better than high flying celebrities, with their mass appeal and flashy lifestyle. They were super inspirational, and we as their fans and followers trusted them blindly. So if Shah Rukh drives a Hyundai and drinks Pepsi, it has to be the “right choice”.

Second change came with social media. From distant celebrities living a dream life, we could touch and listen to them, albeit virtually. And we started following these celebrities in hordes, and they became mass influencers. Marketers saw an opportunity to drive their brand message at scale through these “influencers” or social media amplifiers. This is the age of influencers and influencer marketing.

The third change came with the growth of young millennials and GenZ as consumers. They reflect new India which is confident and privileged. They rightfully believe they are no less than anybody else in the world. They have all the information they need on their fingers in less than a second. And today they know the difference between real and unreal. They can’t be swayed by “make-believe”. They want their role model to be real. And that’s why today you see more real and authentic achievers as part of advertising heroism. If you tell a lie, you will get caught in minutes and lose your authenticity and trust forever. Hence even celebrities and influencers have to have a real and authentic voice to be followed and believed by the new age consumers.

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