From Bhuvan Bham to Mithila Palkar, brands are roping in celebrities for endorsements

YouTube influencers, including Bhuvan Bam (BB ki Vines), Mumbiker Nikhil, Prajakta Koli (MostlySane) and Sejal Kumar, are becoming mini TV channels and a brand partnership with them doesn’t look like a blatant brand promotion or an ad .

Actors and content creators who have become popular through YouTube videos and web series are landing endorsement deals with national brands. Some have even been featured in TVCs. Bhuvan Bam, the creator of BBKiVines, endorses a clutch of brands including Pizza Hut, Lenskart, Beardo, Arctic Fox, Mivi, Tasty Treats and Tissot. Likewise, Mithila Palkar, who starred in the web series Little Things which is now streaming on Netflix, has become the face of Joy Personal Care and Livon.

Other digital media stars, the likes of Prajakta Koli, Sumeet Vyas and Kenny Sebastian, too, have caught brands’ fancy. Koli has appeared in ads for WhatsApp; Vyas has been featured by Policy Bazaar and Ola in their TVCs; while Sebastian was part of a Gillette campaign recently.

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They click

Pizza Hut’s association with Bam was a first for the brand, which has otherwise featured Bollywood actors in ads. “Using Bhuvan was integral to our strategy to position the brand in a more fresh and relevant manner that appeals to millennials and Gen Z,” says Yashodhara Lal, marketing director, Pizza Hut India. The QSR chain is using Bam’s appeal to promote its pizza offerings in the Rs. 99-199 range.

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Joy Personal Care has roped in Palkar for its face wash range targeted at young women. The ad is scripted around Palkar’s character in Little Things.

Brands that work with digital stars for TVCs say they are easier to work with than established cricket and Bollywood celebrities. “Younger stars with lower stakes tend to be more experimental in nature,” says Poulomi Roy, CMO, RSH Global, that owns the Joy Personal Care brand.

Besides, driving social media conversations for brands becomes easier with content creators. Rohit Raj, Bam’s manager and business partner, says over and above the TVC collaboration, Bam also works out ways to integrate the brand into the content he creates. “This works in favour of the brand, because it does not have to pay for the propagation of content.”

Furthermore, digital faces often also double up as hosts for events such as luxury fashion shows, awards nights, store launches, etc.

Bright future?

“YouTubers are becoming mini TV channels and the brand partnership with them will get bigger as their content is real and doesn’t look like a blatant brand promotion or an ad. It will definitely be the next big thing in influencer marketing,” said Vijay Subramaniam, co-chief executive at entertainment marketplace Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions.

Although digital media stars connect with the millennial audiences, their appeal is not pervasive, unlike that of mainstream brand ambassadors. This is, perhaps, why brands are not signing them on as long-term endorsers yet. Most deals with digital media stars are limited to single campaigns, with the scope of turning them long term if the brand deems fit. For instance, Pizza Hut’s association with Bam will run for around three months.

Another challenge, Roy says, is the lack of exclusivity. Marketers often engage several digital media influencers for campaigns, paying little attention to whether the influencer has promoted a competing brand in the past. This results in influencers promoting multiple brands in the same category.

For some like Dhruv Seth, COO, OML, the agency that manages most of India’s leading stand-up comedians, content integration wins over brand endorsement deals. He is of the opinion that brands stand to gain more from the storytelling that comedians can bring by creating their own content, rather than follow a script that may not match the tone of the celebrity.

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