VIP was the first brand in India to launch micro underwear and they launched Frenchie with an ad. The ad was an instant hit. The plot of the ad that made VIP synonymous with underwear had a subtle touch of Superman iconography. A woman was being harassed on road by a ruffian and to her rescue came a man in Frenchie underwear under his bathrobe. He makes a grand entry, jumping from a balcony, his bathrobe flying showing glimpses of the Frenchie underwear. He lands on the road, grabs the woman in distress and fights with the bad guy. But it was all a dream sequence of that woman. The ad ends with the guy waking up the woman inside a car and asks, ‘Dreaming about me?’
But surprisingly, consumers thought it was meant for women. Women started buying the product actually targeted at males. It took some time for people to realise that it was quite okay for men to wear something like this.
Advent of celebrity endorsement
Rupa underwear came as the first serious threat to VIP’s undisputed leadership. Rupa started roping in mainstream celebrities such as Govinda and Sanjay Dutt as brand ambassadors for impact.
Explaining the advent of celebrity endorsement in the category, Vipin Dhyani, Founder, Thoughtshop Advertising, said, “Since it was an ‘Andar ka mamla’, nobody would pay emphasis to what brand one is wearing inside. A person might be wearing a branded shirt with a logo but if one is wearing Rupa or Lux innerwear, nobody will actually pay any attention. So, with realisation in the mid-80s, people started hiring celebrities for endorsement to transform their product into a brand, the way it was done in the west.”
Gradually Salman came into picture with Dollar Club with a very simple punch line of ‘Jazba andar toh dikhta hai bahar’ showcasing himself as a guy who helps and saves a puppy for a girl.
Dhyani had earlier worked on Salman Khan and Dollar’s first ad while he was with DDB Mudra. The tagline ‘Jazba andar toh dikhta hai bahar’ was given by him. Dhyani said, “Salman is a person with good body and biceps and for us it was very easy to portray him as a manly guy who has his heart in the right place and that would further the image of Dollar.”
Then Lux entered the picture and the communication took a ‘macho line’ with Sunny Deol in the Lux Cozy ad campaigns. Lux has been banking on ‘macho men’ Sunny Deol and Sunil Shetty to peddle its products. Of course, its ‘Yeh andar ki baat hai’ line has been the source of much mirth and double-meanings for some years now.
Abhijit Avasthi, Founder, Sideways, feels though there is presence of celebrity endorsement in the category, but it is not the case with every brand. For example brands such as Jockey, which is surely a big player in the category, do not use celebrities for its advertisements.
Need for a celebrity
Brands use celebrities for insecurity, fear of competition and to connect to the masses. Celebrities also bring a recall value and mass appeal for the brand. Uneducated people do remember their heroes’ names and go to shops to buy the ‘Saif wali banyan’, ‘Shah Rukh wala undergarment’. Such is the kind of relevance the celebrity endorser brings to the brand.
Rajnish Agarwal, Euro Brand President, finds it a matter of perception. He said, “Right now, all the major categories are exploring celebrity endorsement for the simple reason that celebrities have wider acceptability and popularity among the masses, who are basically the end consumers. For a brand, it is easier to convey its message with a brand ambassador than otherwise; and hence, the association.”
Elaborating on the need for celebrities in such commercials, Dhyani said, “By using non-celebrity actors in the advertisement, you can still connect to your target audience. With the presence of a good creative team, a brand can come up with really good numbers even without the presence of celebrities. But the fear of losing their audience compels them to do so, knowing that Saif Ali Khan is equal to Amul Macho and Akshay Kumar reminds of Dollar Club.”
When it comes to lifestyle products, it is more of catalogue advertising. Models are showcased wearing or using the products. Psychologically, one would like to wear if you see someone wearing it, as it helps in visualising. More and more people are getting into lifestyle advertising as India is a developing country and people have lot of aspirations. Manish Bhatt, Founder Director, Scarecrow Communications, said, “People use this kind of advertising where there is physicality of things, for example, lipsticks, clothing and phones. Physicality can be settled in two ways: One is that choose a model or an endorser. It depends on the advertisers what they intend to choose. If they think that the awareness quotient has gone down and they need shortcut for awareness, then they need endorsers.”
Avasthi further said,” This is just a mindset. People hire celebrity endorsers for different reasons and not only for breaking the communication clutter in television, but many a time a celebrity is used to catch attention of the audience. It has also been seen that many a time a celebrity is used on the packaging of the brand and when one goes to a store or some other area, there the celebrity face will pop out more than a regular model face. Using celebrities to endorse the innerwear brand is just a phase, they come and go. I can also say that the mobile brands these days are facing the similar phase of using celebrities in order to reach out to the audience.”
Dhyani talked about a situation when Salman was brought on board for Dollar. The moment the campaign featuring him was revealed, the demand for the vests increased to an extent that the company had to shut its smaller unit and open a bigger one to meet the needs.
Are celebrities sometimes hindrance in creativity
Sometimes it is felt that the celebrity becomes bigger than the client and even try to mould creative decisions. The creatives have to re-write the campaigns, and ultimately creativity is diluted.
Even if you come up with a great creative, chances are very high that the client would ask you to prepare a regular mundane act that the celebrity might be choosing or agreeing to a story as per their demand. Like if Hrithik Roshan is doing an advertisement for Microman, he would not like to go off the style quotient. And in the end, it’s the celebrity who takes a greater seat,” added Dhyani.
Dhyani also said, “As a creative person I would obviously push the client and would further like to do something completely out-of-the-box. And even if celebrity is used in an ad, it will be better to make the script stronger than the star itself.”
Is advertising not possible without celebrities?
It’s not that there are no campaigns without celebrities, in fact there is good work done in the category. For example, Rupa Frontline took up a social cause like elections.
Another campaign that has tried to mould advertising in the category is the one done by Hanes when it entered India. It created a very funny ad for the Indian market consumer.
Saket Todi, Director, Lux Industries, said, “In our case, campaigns without celebrities won’t work because ours is a main mass market therefore celebrity endorsement is important. We have no option in underwear because we cannot advertise the product without a celebrity.”
Is creativity in the category evolved?
One rarely gets to see path-breaking advertising in the category. The ads are mostly celebrity endorsed and that’s it. But there are people who feel advertising in the category has evolved.
Agarwal said, “The category by nature is low-involvement, with most me-too brands together creating a cluster.
Bhatt says there is a fair amount of shortcuts. In innerwear advertising, most of the stars avoid appearing in innerwear, apart from vests. “Personally, I think it is a shortcut to advertising and there much better ways of communicating.”
Todi said, “The communication medium in the category has changed in the last two years. Three to four years back, we were showing more machismo and muscles. In the last two years, it has changed to more lively ones.”
In the past, Avasthi worked on Amul Macho ads and through his advertisements and work with Saif Ali Khan was able to build intelligent ads. Avasthi does not agree that there is lack of decent advertisements in the innerwear category. In the last six to seven years, Amul Macho has become a solid brand in this category with the tagline ‘Bade aaram se’. It is basically Saif doing things effortlessly using his intelligence. And all the advertisements are funny, intelligent and no show of ‘machismo.
Talking about the use of emotion and social storytelling in advertisements Avasthi said, “Bulk of such advertisements showing masculinity used to be the case many years back but the current trends have changed. And work done by Macho is definitely not in that genre, even some work done by Ranveer Singh in the Rupa innerwear advertisements is cool and has nothing to do with ‘over machismo’.”
Talking about the past four to six years’ work, he added,” whether it is Ranveer in Rupa, Saif in Macho, Varun in Lux and Salman in Dixcy Scott, none of them will reflect the cliché ‘machismo’ through the ads.
Is it difficult to persuade clients to use good story ideas instead of just using celebrities?
Bhatt answered, “Most of the time there is peer pressure. At times, media agencies also ask clients to use celebrities. Nowadays celebrities are associated with various talent houses, which are in turn related to production houses. In fact, media planning agencies have their own celebrity endorsement wings and all of them use a little bit of calibre to influence clients to use celebrities. Personally I am not a believer of using a star. I believe that they should be taken according to the appropriateness of the brand. General endorsement is like riding the wave and a short-term phase.”
Bhatt also said, “Advertisers are not creative people. They technically believe in something which is tangible. If they know a celebrity is in demand then they will put their money in the celebrity rather than the storyline which is intangible.”
Talking about branding and marketing in the category, Prabhakar Mundkur, HGS Interactive Solutions, said, “I think the local brands are dominated by smaller local companies that are talking to the masses. The advertising is not aspirational. The brand names are pretty bad and don't mean much. Hosiery I think is still a small scale sector in the country with regional players. And these brands are not creating a distinct image for themselves in spite of using celebrities. Innerwear needs to takes a cue from deodorants, fashion, perfumes and similar lifestyle categories -- innerwear makes you feel attractive.”
Agarwal said, “We can see so many brands coming up with new commercials. So many celebrity endorsements are happening. The category is surely exploring newer ways of advertising than it did couple of years ago.”
Avasthi concludes by putting the point well. He said, “There is opportunity in any category to stand out by doing something against what the category actually does. The opportunity is always to buck the trend and go as a refreshing piece of communication.”