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Paisa, kapda aur makaan

Celebrities charge Rs. 1.5 cr to Rs. 6 cr for endorsing realty projects and set rules for everything from number of shooting days to change of clothes

realestate Updated: Nov 16, 2013 20:30 IST

When Shahrukh Khan was contacted by Mahagun Developers for the endorsement of its real estate projects, the superstar carried out a series of checks before signing on the dotted line. He checked the developer’s projects on the internet, took feedback on the company’s past performance from the advertising agency that mediated the deal and did some background verification through his own sources.

With more and more realty firms, especially new players, trying to engage big stars to endorse their brands, analysing the risk of associating with a builder has emerged as one of the major concerns of celebrities.

“Big celebrities like Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor don’t endorse real estate companies just for the sake of money. They take a lot of time to find out more about the financial health and past performances of these companies,” says Vikas Khurana, managing director, Essence Communication, an agency involved with real-estate advertising.

Khurana, who claims to be a game-changer where real estate advertising is concerned, says it all started in 2009 when he helped a real estate company rope in Bollywood actors Prachi Desai and Rajeev Khandelwal as its brand ambassadors. Since then almost every endorsement deal, be it Kareena Kapoor for JM Housing, Deepika Padukone for Ace Developers, Shahrukh Khan for Mahagun or Rishi and Neetu Kapoor for Gaursons, has been facilitated by him.

Initially, he says, Bollywood stars weren’t very keen to endorse real estate projects, which for them is very different from endorsing a tooth-paste or a cold drink brand. They understand what buying a home means for a person who has invested all his life’s savings. “It was my consistent effort to convince them though various channels that there are reliable people in real estate who are doing good work.”

Now the 34-year-old works as a link between real estate developers and Bollywood and sports stars and also conceptualises the advertising strategy; takes a call on the casting, the shoot and the entire campaign.

“The first step is to find out whether a particular star is ideal for the theme of the real estate project. For instance, when Oasis, which has projects along the Yamuna Expressway, contacted us, we advised them to hire someone associated with F1 motor sports because the USP of the area is the F1 track at the Buddh International Circuit. That’s when Indian racing ace Narain Karthikeyan was taken on board,” says Khurana.

The next step is to approach the celebrity through the right channels to get his or her consent for the deal. “It’s a transparent deal. All celebrities take money in advance through cheques. Normally it’s an annual tripartite contract between the developer, ad-agency and the celebrity.

The celebrity only charges for a day of still shooting for eight hours, prices for which vary from Rs. 50 lakh to Rs. 2 crore. The usual practise is that in eight hours a star agrees to about six or seven changes of clothing. The company can use these stills in as many newspapers, magazines, posters as it wants but only for one year,” Khurana reveals.

The package deals signed by the stars include two or three days of mandatory shooting. “So if the star is charging Rs. 2 crore for one day’s shooting and if the hiring company goes for a three-day shooting package, it ends up paying Rs. 6 crore for an annual contract.”

According to Khurana, most celebrities choose their own stylists, photographers, fashion designers and studios for shooting as they are not comfortable with others. “Most of the shootings take place in studios with different backdrops.”

On spending lakhs and even crores on a celebrity, Khurana says, “It’s the cheapest way to get visibility among the homebuyers. Lots of people say that homebuyers don’t get swayed by big stars while taking a decision to buy a flat. I agree with them, but if I am a new player in real estate sector and I know I can deliver a quality product, I would want to pull potential buyers to my project? If you look at real estate advertising, every developer is using smart elevations, good publicity pictures, promising taglines etc. So can I look different from others? That’s what celebs do for me.”

Though still at a nascent stage, Khurana thinks buyers need to be more cautious. “I don’t advise homebuyers to buy a flat just because their favourite celebrity is endorsing it. It’s a decision of a lifetime so do your due diligence before taking any decision,” he adds.