Ashee Sharma

Can an overweight comedian sell a beauty cream?

The new TVC for Joy Honey and Almond Body Lotion features Bharti Singh of Comedy Nights Bachao fame as brand ambassador.

There was a time when excellence in every sphere of life, be it personal or professional, was achieved only if one was 'fair and lovely'... in Indian advertising, of course. But beauty and personal care brands, have for quite some time now, been trying to break such stereotypes, or should we say they have been compelled to do so because the consumer wants them to be real.

However, if you came across an ad where the beginning shot is that of hands dangling in the air in slow motion while applying a moisturiser, "would you still imagine a glamourous model with perfect curves as the face of the brand," asks popular comedian Bharti Singh in Joy Honey and Almond Body Lotion's new TVC.

In a category where conventions of beauty are so strictly defined that even product designs mimic the 'ideal' body shape and size, Joy - the personal care brand from the house of Ratnasagar Herbals decided to bring on board a clearly overweight ambassador, (Bharti) Singh of Comedy Nights Bachao fame to endorse its crème and moisturiser.

Can an overweight comedian sell a beauty cream?
The ad begins with Singh narrating her story, how she accepted and took in her stride the many names such as 'moti', 'haathi', 'laddu' that people gave her. While they appreciated her talent, no one ever called her beautiful. But of late, this perception has changed, she says as she asserts that she was always beautiful otherwise why would Joy chose her to endorse their moisturiser.
Can an overweight comedian sell a beauty cream?
The TVC, which will go on air on November 6, has been conceptualised and scripted in-house by Poulomi Roy, head of brand and communication, Joy Cosmetics. Roy informs that after the strategic revamp in 2015, the mother brand Joy wanted to reposition itself. To this effect a qualitative research was undertaken in markets including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to understand the concerns of women between the ages 16-35. The results showed that consciously or subconsciously they were under tremendous pressure to look a certain way on all occasions, even if it is a simple chore of dropping their kids to school. External gratification mattered a lot, and that made them resort to harmful chemicals.
Can an overweight comedian sell a beauty cream?
After some thought was put into it, the brand came up with the philosophy of 'beautiful by nature' to help women overcome the uneasiness they feel about their looks. Subsequently the hunt for an influential face and a simple yet strong story began. Commenting on the need for an ambassador, Roy says, "Services, for instance, Amazon, don't have a product to showcase. It's all about thoughts and beautiful stories for them. But we have a tangible product. To communicate what it stands for we need someone who can influence people."

On the choice of Singh, she adds, "To convey our message without sounding preachy, it was important for us to break the convention first and then ask customers to do so. Singh is popular, she has beautiful skin and hair, so there was nothing holding us back on this decision."

True that Singh is an unconventional choice for a beauty product, not only because she is overweight, but also because she is a television celebrity. That said, instances of brands looking towards a medium other than films for celebrity endorsers may not be rare anymore. Few days back, we wrote about the phenomenon and asked a question - whether we have reached that tipping point when singers, chefs, and tech nerds, who have gained massive online stardom be considered at par with film actors when it comes to being the face of brands? The same holds for television stars.

According to Roy, the entire ecosystem including the marketer, agencies, viewers and consumers are in a state of flux right now. While it's good to sound aspirational, customers no more appreciate brands that are preachy or unreal.

"Many people from small towns have made it big in the television industry. The medium is more relatable and personal. This is also true because unlike cinema it is available throughout the year, almost every day, and the same goes for digital. So, a woman would aspire to look like 'Ishi ma' (Divyanka Tripathi) as much as she would want to emulate Deepika Padukone. In that way, the quest for celebs has become media-neutral. It depends mainly on the influencing power of the star. (Bharti) Singh is a household name; she rules prime time," shares Roy.

A new trend...

Can an overweight comedian sell a beauty cream?
Pooja Rawat, associate vice-president, Lowe Lintas, finds the ad interesting for two reasons, the choice of an unusual celebrity and the unusual use of the celebrity.

"Bharti Singh doesn't fit a stereotype. She is a chubby female, a stand-up comedian with a distinct imagery most visible on prime-time television. These are the reasons why she has become a popular household name. For a brand looking to create relevance and not just attention with this audience, she seems like a good choice," she states.

About the way Singh has been used in the commercial, Rawat points out that what is well-known and in the public eye is her performance as a stand-up comedian, but the ad gives a glimpse into her real life in a manner that is believable and unheard of. This lends the brand an aura of being authentic and different.

"The final message that the brand leaves behind about the change in the perspective of the society is also different and delivered in a passive, non-rebellious manner in contrast with Singh's personality on TV. All these aspects combined give the brand good cut-through and appeal in a time when Bollywood celebrities are endorsing many products, and lacking credibility and influence for that reason," she notes.

However, Rawat thinks that the connection with the skin-care category could have been much stronger. "The product is about nourishment, but the ad talks about feeling beautiful. You can hardly imagine a lotion making you feel beautiful. Also, the celeb message does overpower the product message to an extent," she says adding, "nevertheless, the celebrity choice and the message give brownie points to the brand and lend it far more persuasion and relevance than the use of a Bollywood celebrity for the sake of using one."