Will online stardom dazzle the digital marketer?

By Shweta Mulki , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital
Published : October 07, 2016
The online star is outshining the Bollywood star. Will digital marketers ride the wave?

Two years ago, at a YouTube Fanfest, an event where netizens meet their favourite YouTube stars, there were reports that the applause and cheers for popular Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan were much less than that for online stars who followed him on the dais.

Will online stardom dazzle the digital marketer?

Shraddha Sharma, a singer who rose to fame thanks to YouTube, endorsed Colgate's Visible White campaign and got the brand much more visibility than the one with Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor. So, while faces from brands like All India Bakchod (AIB) and The Viral Fever (TVF) can now be called mainstream, have we also 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? Experts tell afaqs! what they think.

Pooja Jauhari, chief executive officer, The Glitch

Pooja Jauhari

Online stars or talent is another category of celebrity that has grown out of a predominantly digital world which consumes most of its content online. In fact, not only have movie stars shown interest in digital, they seem to have the mindset, too, to truly capture this audience. Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt are two examples of Bollywood stars turning towards the digital medium.

As for celebrities, if they are popular, fit with the personality of the brand, and talk to the right target group, they are a definite choice. So, the larger point really is which celebrity - film or online, works for the brand in terms of its objective, larger strategy, communication, and budget. For us, we have more to choose from and that's always a great thing.

Ajay Nair, co-founder, Only Much Louder

Ajay Nair

There are two parts to this - online ads created specifically for an online audience where online stars feature more than film stars since brands clearly identify that in the online medium, online stars are equally, if not more relevant.

Secondly, television, too, is slowly beginning to move - though it's still three-four years away, as Bollywood still has a massive outsized influence on television and online, too, for that matter. But, it is beginning to happen. We now get a lot more inquiries for our talent for mainstream campaigns, probably five more compared to a year ago. The safe trend to look at is the data that YouTube puts out annually. If you look at the top 10 influential US celebrities for young audiences, the first seven are YouTube stars - Kanye West is number 8! This is a secular trend, and it may take some years, but it's a matter of time.

However, online stars may never fully catch up. There's no Shah Rukh Khan coming out of that. But yes, they are complementary especially for content or ads targetted at younger audiences that have grown up with them. There are quite a few online faces starring alongside film stars, but honestly, it's not their priority as they are out almost every day online, with many having significant reach.

Devendra Deshpande, head, content+ division, Mindshare

Devendra Deshpande

Depending on the TG and the medium, influencers are used to either drive awareness or relevance. So, if it's a mobile phone launch targetting the youth -- where you have to play up its tech features -- I'd take some tech influencer who can talk specifics than 'shout' that X phone has launched, since phones are governed by word-of-mouth in terms of credibility. If it's a mass product, I need a good mix - the online influencer for the details, and a Bollywood celebrity to say that the phone has arrived.

Television overshadows digital reach by three times. If it's about a housewife in Uttar Pradesh under SEC B that I'm targetting, a star will be chosen. So, Kajol can make people aware of Kellogs, while an online celebrity chef like Ajay Chopra can help create 50 recipes from it. In well established brands, there is a halo effect where there is no awareness creation required. Everyone knows it is a toothpaste. Let's take the word 'Crispy' - it doesn't mean anything. But, get Aamir Khan to endorse 'Crispy Shirts', and then there's awareness that it's a shirt. You can then complement that with an online fashion influencer who can speak about the fabric and other features. So, the credibility of online influencers complements the mass influencers' credibility, and one is not a substitute for the other.

Subrat Kar, chief executive officer, and co-founder, Vidooly

Subrat Kar

There was a time when entertainment celebrities used to influence the purchasing decisions of consumers with their names alone. But, for today's consumers, online stars are far more influential than traditional celebrities. Unlike movie stars or sports celebrities, most digital stars still work regular jobs and do 'regular' things that their followers can relate to. While celebs have a large, yet detached fan base, online stars have a dedicated audience. Also, the sole purpose of their online presence is to share their life with their fans and that's why brand endorsements seem like a natural fit in their content. It helps that most online influencers charge far less than a movie or a sports star. Measurement of the RoI for such influencer campaigns is easier too, when compared to a celebrity endorsement.

Some recent examples include Ola's series of short Facebook videos with VJ José - his Facebook page has over 150 thousand likes; Apoorv Sood is a popular Twitter personality who has endorsed brands like Snapdeal and Good Day Cookies through his tweets, and TVF has done endorsements and product placements for Common Floor and Ola in its YouTube series.

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