Amitabh Mantra in the Ad World

Reid & Taylor suits, Pepsi drink, ICICI bank, Reliance ADA group, Maruthi Versa car, Parker pen, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate, Navaratna oil. Let me stop with the list now, otherwise the whole post will be full of some brand names. Are you able to relate any two of these brands given here? It’s quite difficult, right? But the question is not that tough for Admen, as for selling all these diverse brands, they relied on the magic of a single powerful man – Amitabh Bachchan, who very well be the person endorsing for maximum number of brands in India.

Well we have seen the Big B in his film career, spanning more than three decades, performing multitude of roles – as an angry young man fighting against injustice, as a romantic hero, as a cop fighting against Don, as a Don himself, as a comedian entertaining us, as a doting father, as a caring teacher and so on. So you might think what the fuss is all about now, if he is able to carry himself elegantly in any role in a movie, then why not in an ad? But then Ad Films and Cine Films are not the same.

Cinema vs Ads:

Cinema is all about entertaining the audiences and taking them to a different world where they can dance around the trees with a beautiful girl or fight against a gang without a sweat and make them forget the real world issues and problems for three hours, never minding any logic. However, ad is all about communicating the brand message deep into the subconscious mind of consumers within 30 or 60 seconds and make it last as long as possible. As the consumers are wary of all the sales talk in the ad and has the option in their hand (remote) to stop seeing at any moment they wish, the job gets even more difficult. That is why creative concepts and powerful ideas should rule the ad world and not the film heroes.

Amitabh advantage:

Well, it is no doubt that the talent and charisma of an actor like Amitabh will help some ad to a great extent. Cadbury’s Diary Milk ad, where he comes as a proud owner of the cow Radha, winner of Miss Palampur / Miss Manaparai is an excellent example for that. Amitabh’s persona and voice added the extra zing to that ad without which, it would not have been such a hit. Also it is better to go with established heroes like Amitabh than relying on Ad Industry’s another favorite choice, cricket stars. Atleast here the marketers don’t have to keep their fingers crossed and worry whether he’ll be in form this season or not, as the veteran actor had crossed all these stages and established a strong bond with the masses.

It is this power to persuade people of all ages across cities thru villages, makes Big B a big boon to the advertisers. In the recent pesticide controversy too, Pepsi would have convinced more people, had it decided to go with Amitabh Bachchan instead of putting their CEO Rajiv Bakshi in the TV commercials, as a commoner would easily identify with the actor and listen to him rather listening to a lecture from a CEO.

Ads – Brand or Big B:

The problem here is, Big B himself is a Big Brand in his own right. So when you see him in the screen even for a second there is a possibility that you might start thinking about the hit films he has given from Sholay in the 80’s to Sarkar in the recent past, or wondering what role will he be playing in his next film, or you might think about his KBC program that revived the fortune of his ABC.Ltd, or you might start giving your opinion about his political journey from the Congress to the Samajwadi party, or waiting for his words about the Abishek – Aish marriage. So it is more important for his ads to be on the creative side and with some powerful idea than the other ads, otherwise the viewers could very well step into their own Amitabh world and thus could miss the brand communication altogether.

Unless the ad relates to the actor in some way or comes with a great idea, it will mostly fail to communicate the message to the consumer. A Reid & Taylor suit may fit his image without a powerful idea, but not some plain, paint or biscuit ad. As these products will not suit the actor without a creative concept, many people won’t even be able to recollect the brand name itself.

Well, the Amitabh Mantra will continue to be chanted for even more brands in the Ad temples, as there are not much popular and powerful personalities in India, but then the brand association needs to be properly matched for the mantra to produce its magic.


  1. Actually, when Amitabh comes on the screen and he’s got a beard, I pick up the remote and change the channel. People used to say that Amjad Khan had to stoop so low due to being typecast that he was doing biscuit ads in the early 90s.
    But you’re right about AB being a brand. Ad agencies seem to think that hiring him is better than coming up with a fresh idea, or cultivating a brand image of their own. I can remember a lot of ads from back in the day, but nowadays its just amitabh hawking pens and biscuits, no jingle and no catchy tagline.

  2. an interesting argument. well written.

  3. Any popular person BigB or Rajinikanth.If they come appear for many times then their popularity/image will go..

    Like rajini giving too many voices..

  4. Siva Rajendran says:

    Anangbhai, Ganesha, Anon – Thanks for your comments.

  5. Most brands have all of 30 secs of air time or lesser to entice their cutomer and what better way to do it than using Big B himself… You want to see the Ad for Big B but no ofcourse hes seen in ar too many..Some of the ads have no concept only Mr Bachchan, his ovewhelming prsence does works even though it may not be the actual brand personality …thats the case with most celebrity ads…but the dairy milk campaign is great Big B is not a hero but a protagonist in the ad – a common villager..his larger than life personality doesn’t come in the way of brand communication..

  6. Siva Rajendran says:

    Thanks for your comments, Dhivya.
    Reg Dairy Milk campaign, just imagine – Will a common man appearing in Fevicol Ad or the ‘wah Sunil Babu kind’ of persona would have made this much impact to this Ad as Big B does? I don’t think so. That’s why I said it’s his charisma and voice helped the campaign to be a great success.

  7. Very well analyzed and written!

    I would also like to point out the relevance of this essay in this context

    (It is the India Poised campaign for the Times of India group rendered by Amitabh Bachchan)
    I cannot think of any other person who could’ve been a better anchor for this campaign.

Speak Your Mind