While there are heated debates on who qualifies as an “influencer” in a market where every Jaya and Jerry believes they are an influencer, many brands are taking web-born personalities to the telly. Marketers are deploying strategies that subtly indicate future influencer marketing trends. According to media reports, spends on influencers could go up by 70-100% this year, and interestingly it’s not restricted to the internet world. Today, there is a good chance that a popular face from a viral video may also appear on your TV screen during a commercial break. And, it has nothing to do with any ‘freaky’ algorithm.

The Relatability Factor

Dhruv Sehgal is the boy next door. Veer Rajwant Singh is the young entrepreneur. Akashdeep Arora is the millennial man. Kriti Vij is not someone you want to mess with. Then there’s Shayan Roy’s “innocent vibes”. Ayush Mehra comes off as a man with a mission to make a difference. These influencers have played roles which are an extension of their web personalities in many brands’ telly spots.

For instance, Roy features with Yuvraj Singh and Rishabh Pant in Cadbury Fuse’s currently on-air TV campaign, as a young cricket enthusiast who surprises professionals with a quick and funny comeback. That’s a type similar to Roy’s real-life personality. According to Anil Viswanathan, director – marketing (chocolates), Mondelez India, “Actors on the web have built unique personalities for themselves and using a relatively known face aids recall for the brand. Also, web stars have a strong relatable persona in their followers’ mind and engage with them consistently. They bring a good mix of freshness, authenticity, and fame for the brand.”

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According to marketers that BE spoke to, relatability is the biggest advantage that these internet celebrities bring to the table. Besides, now instead of looking at portfolios presented by casting directors, they just hit search in Google.

Quick Ride, a carpooling app, is another brand that has rolled out a mega TV campaign featuring just web stars. Vikash Singh, vice president (operations and marketing) at the company says, “Web stars, in particular, add more affinity to a brand. They also have the potential to influence customer opinions, increase brand loyalty, and boost conversions. The presence of influencers in almost all social media channels enables larger visibility for the brand. With them in TV spots, it adds more reach.”

Arora, Vij, and Mehra were chosen for the Quick Ride ads to target a wide variety of audiences covering different demographics, Singh tells us.

In the recent past, Uber Eats, Amazon Pay, Sharp TV, Godrej Aer and QuickBooks among others, have featured web-born influencers in their TV ads.

Lights. Camera. Click.

While bringing the web stars to TV ads may seem an easy extension for brands, experts think there are a few more layers to that move.

Aditi Shrivastava, co-founder, Pocket Aces, is of the opinion that influencers have the added advantage of a large user base, that not only becomes a new distribution channel but also creates an environment where brands can experiment with various content formats. “By using influencers for a mass campaign brands can create solid teasers. The engagement and reactions can be tracked in real time. The numbers are authentic and they know how to integrate all of this. They know the content business in and out.”

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Industry experts also say that roping in influencers for a TV campaign is cost effective too. “They charge less than a B-list Bollywood actor, throw fewer tantrums, and they know what they are doing for the business of brands,” says an agency insider who works closely with influencers.

However, according to Rajiv Rao, director, Nirvana Films, marketers won’t be rushing to make web stars regulars in their communication strategy. He adds, “It’s good to see a community of content creators and actors taken seriously by social media users. Having said that, for many brands they are just models with the added advantage of familiarity.”

For now, these web stars are happily extending their area of influence to the original tube.

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The Accidental Influencer

Shayan Roy about his first commercial break and desi ads.

The first time 27-year-old Shayan Roy got a call from a casting agency, the first question that popped in his mind was, “Dude, how did he get my number? Am I really famous?” Roy, who is a video producer at BuzzFeed India, is an accidental actor. He tells us the word “influencer” makes him uncomfortable, “The thought that there are twenty-somethings and younger people following you is crazy sometimes. I am still learning. There are so many mistakes that I make every day, and then you have people calling you “influencer”. It’s a tad too much,” he says candidly.

First TV ad moment

When Roy got the offer from Mondelez for a Cadbury Fuse ad he was thrilled because his co-star was his childhood sports idol, Yuvraj Singh. However, the pressure of working with the cricketer got the better of Roy. He tells us, “While I was super thrilled to meet ‘The Yuvraj Singh’, the moment I saw him I was starstruck. I wasn’t even able to strike up a proper conversation. I read my lines and kept looking at things around me.”

Golden Spot

Roy, who is a 90s kid, tells us that when he was younger, he never skipped commercial breaks, particularly when he watched cricket matches on the telly. “I really think advertising was treated as an art form; the commercial value wasn’t this evident.” He also points to how there are some really offbeat faces that got famous because of ads. His favourite among them is the famous “MDH Masala’s Dadaji” who happens to be Dharampal Gulati, the CEO of the company, and one of the richest consumer product bosses.





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