Brand Advertisement, Endorsement and Ambassador

Yesterday I wrote some thoughts on Brands and mentioned that I’ll follow up with a post on Advertisement. So here we go…

I was a kid in late 80’s and early 90’s when some of the best and most memorable TV commercials were made. One always cherishes memories of childhood and that could be the reason why I feel so about those Ads. However the ads really stayed on with you. Can it be said about today’s commercials? Which two recent ads have top of the mind recall value? And when I say two ads, those are Ad campaigns, not just one isolated ad, but a series of ad.

I can recall two. One is Airtel ads – be it the Zoo Zoo ad series or the recent one featuring this girl.

The second ad is by Trivago where an anonymous, not-so-handsome guy with annoying voice introduced us to Trivago. Here is one of the ads.


In both ads there was no celebrity and the person doing ad, mostly did only one ad (actually the Airtel girl was seen in another anti-virus ad too, but she is mostly recognized as Airtel girl).

Both became well-known and celebrity in their own right – but in significantly different ways. Trivago ad was totally ridiculed, trolled. There were many funny memes on the ad. And yet it succeeded in making Trivago brand known.

But there is more fundamental difference between the two ads.

But before that…what’s your perception of “modelling” for an advertisement vs “endorsing” a brand vs being a brand ambassador?

Modelling is not new. Vinod Khanna used to feature in Cinthol soap ad. Few other movie stars and cricketers etc featured in ads in those days. But modelling for ad means just acting in front of camera. There is no other commitment. And same person can do multiple ads. The relationship is purely transactional.

Endorsing a brand is more serious. It is about associating your identity with the brand. If Shah Rukh Khan is endorsing Pepsi, he has to make sure that he is not seen with a Diet Coke tin. At least that’s the expectation. It may not be true always. For example, take case of various Men’s undergarment brands such as Rupa, Jockey, Lux Cozi, Dixcy, Dollar, Macroman, Amul Macho. Many of these brands have A-list Bollywood stars in their ads – be it Salman (Dixcy Scot), Shah Rukh (Lux Cozi), Dollar (Akshay), Ranbir Kapoor (Macroman), Ranvir Singh (Rupa), Varun Dhawan (Luz Cozi).

But there is no guarantee that they would use the same brand. In fact none of them would use such underrated brands which demean their status and stardom. This, usually, is not considered as brand endorsement. Hrithik might have done an ad for Oppo phone, but I don’t think he is using one.

Being brand ambassador is one step further. It is stronger than endorsement. It is actually canvassing for the brand. Warren Buffett used to drink Pepsi in his youth. Then he bought Coke shares (he now owns more than 8% of Coca-Cola) and switched to Coke. He became an unofficial brand ambassador of Coke! If you see any of his interviews, or AGMs he would prominently keep a Coke tin and talk about it. That’s being a brand ambassador! You must feel strongly about the brand and commit to it wholeheartedly.

So let’s go back to the two ads. Airtel girl mostly did Airtel ads. She did feature in at least one other ad (anti-virus), but that was less noticeable. But still she cannot be said to be “endorsing” Airtel. It was just acting for that ad – a whole series, but still.

What about Trivago ad? Well, until few days ago I would have said the same thing about him. That he is just a model for Trivago. But then my curiosity didn’t allow me to sit idle. I tried searching more info about him and got to know interesting story about the man!

His name is Abhinav Kumar and he is actually Country head of Trivago, India. Not just that, he comes from a very humble background and belongs to a small town in Bihar.

Here is a short video about his story:

If you want to know more detailed story, here is another long-ish interview:

Do watch both interviews. It’s an interesting story.

So, with this knowledge what would you call him? Just a model? Or is he endorsing Trivago? Well, he is a brand ambassador. He works with Trivago and has significant skin in the game to propagate brand Trivago. And he has taken it upon himself to do so – without relying on any fancy ad or a celebrity/star.

Do you have any other such names who can be considered true brand ambassadors?

Before signing off here is another trivia (goes well with Trivago, isn’t it?).

We know Rajkumar Hirani as one of the top directors in Hindi film industry (Director of Munna Bhai series, 3 Idiots, PK, and Sanju). But do you know that he was/is also one of the best known ad directors before he became a film director? He has directed several hugely successful TV commercials. But the one I like most is also where he acted himself! I’m sure most of you would not have noticed him. It was icon Fevicol ad. Do check it and see if you can recognize him now:

P.S: Though he acted in this ad, he cannot be considered as either an endorser or a brand ambassador of Fevicol. Hope the difference it clear now.

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