A South film star as a brand’s face for a campaign in Uttar Pradesh?

This ad by Frooti is from March 26, 2019. From the Bengaluru edition of The Times of India.

It features Alia Bhatt, a Hindi star, known nationally, and with her is not Frooti’s ‘North Indian’ brand face, Varun Dhawan. Giving her company is Telugu star Allu Arjun.

Allu Arjun, for a 2-page spread in Bengaluru!

I love this cross-cultural mix. The four southern states are already a melting pot of languages and cultures. More on this, from my article in The Ken, “Playlists vs borders: Music streaming brings South India closer“.

Allu Arjun is well-known in the southern states. Besides AP and Telangana, his movies do very well in Kerala, dubbed in Malayalam.

Do you know how popular ‘South Indian dubbed movies’ are on TV? They are HUGELY popular in the non-South regions. One, you just to look at the Hindi movie channels on TV. Almost any channel would showing at least 5-6 South-dubbed films every single day.

Here are some more articles about this phenomenon:

  1. Amid Bollywood gloom, dubbed South Indian films taste success on TV too.
  2. Sony Max rides on dubbed south Indian films to top charts.

So, here’s a thought: why shouldn’t big (national) brands rope in an Allu Arjun, Ravi Teja or Ram Pothineni for a campaign meant for Uttar Pradesh or Bihar? It’s one thing to rope in expensive Hindi stars for national-level campaigns, and completely another to rope in Southern stars that the Hindi-belt watches almost every single day (compared to occasionally, in theaters, for Hindi stars), at a lesser price.

In fact, from a script point of view, they can even get a Allu Arjun to enact a scene from Duvvada Jagannadham (DJ) for a brand campaign, to help it strongly resonate with the local audience!

Another parallel to this thought is TV serial stars becoming brand ambassadors. If brands rope in TV stars because of their everyday visibility and familiarity amongst audiences, why not South stars who feature in Hindi movie channels everyday?

To be sure, the use of celebrities in advertising has evolved since the mainstream explosion of social media.

Earlier they held the narrative with their star power and built long associations with brands. Now, they merely act as traffic-stoppers – they make people stop at ads because of the familiarity and instant recognition. But that stopping is only for a few fleeting seconds… after that, the communication has to be interesting on its own. Else, we all have way too many things calling for attention from multiple apps and screens.

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