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CEOs turn models to sell credibility

Some of India's top CEOs are now getting into the ad game, often as brand ambassadors for their own ware, reports Vivek Shukla.

business Updated: Sep 05, 2007 20:15 IST
Vivek Shukla
Vivek Shukla
Hindustan Times

So you thought only Bollywood stars and cricketers turned models to advertise products? Some of the country’s respected chief executives and other honchos are now getting into the game, often as brand ambassadors for their own ware.

Pawan Goenka, the president of auto maker Mahindra & Mahindra’s automotive unit, turned a model himself to promote the multi-utility vehicle Scorpio from his stable. It perhaps helps that his own credentials as a PhD-toting IIT-an comes in handy to drive home the image of the arch-engineered product that he wants to advertise – apart from possible cost savings in not hiring a professional model.

But not all CEOs are high-tech.

Dharam Pal Gulati, the 70-something, turbaned and bespectacled chairman of spice brand MDH, short for the quaint Mahashayan Di Hatti, has chosen to appear on the television commercials.

"I was told by various senior officials of our group and friends that if I act in the ad campaigns of MDH, it would go a long way in establishing the image of our products. I accepted their suggestion. Since then the demand for MDH masalas has gone up manifold,” Gulati told Hindustan Times.

Ad Guru Prasoon Joshi, creative chief at McCann Erickson, is all for CEOs as models because they often carry a much-needed credibility and assurance to the consumers.

“If Ratan Tata campaigns for Indica or Sunil Mittal campaigns for Airtel mobile phones, it would definitely make huge inroads. After all they are very respected among even the masses of the country,” Joshi said.

“If Harish Mahindra modeled for Scorpio, it would have been even better. He is a suave and very well-known face in urban India,” he added.

A few months ago, Rajeev Bakshi, the former CEO of PepsiCo India, was also spotted in Pepsi ads after the cola maker faced charges from voluntary groups that the company’s soft drink products contained harmful pesticide residue.

"It was a conscious decision. I sipped Pepsi in that particular ad so that that the nation should get the message that it is safe to drink it,” Bakshi said.

Dinesh Gupta, Chairman of Rashtriya Ad agency, says that Vijaypat Singhania was the first corporate personality in recent memory to figure as a model, when he appeared in Raymonds suiting ad campaigns a few years ago. As he was known for his love of aviation, it fitted in.

In the recent months, liquor baron Vijay Mallya also turned model for his Kingfisher Airlines. Earlier, the colourful chairman had campaigned for safe driving – something that went with the head of a liquor company.

Rohtas Goyal, the youthful, goateed chairman of the Omaxe group, can be seen endorsing the premium real estate that his company sells. But he has restricted himself to print campaigns.

“So far, my ad agency has given my pictures in a few campaigns. I do not think that I would ever act as a model in the ad campaigns of Omaxe in future,” Goyal said, without elaborating.

Sometimes, CEOs endorse products that have no link with their work. CK Ranganathan, chairman of cosmetics and toilet goods firm CavinKare, modelled for garment brand Karlsburg.

Ad man Gupta said CEOs like Anand Mahindra, Wipro’s Azim Premji and ITC’s Yogi Deveshwar can make a big difference to any campaign and could be used not only for their own companies, but also for public awareness campaigns on issues like family planning and AIDS awareness.

First Published: Sep 05, 2007 17:29 IST