Byline

Big Bucks Calling!

Posted in Cinema, Social by Suganth on July 16, 2009

Senior actors in Kollywood seem to have been bitten by the ad bug. CT finds out why…

If you’re an avid telly watcher, especially Tamil television, you’d have noticed an increasing number of yesteryear heroes appearing in ads endorsing products ranging from textiles to jewellery and even, cooking oil!

But that was not the case until a few years ago. For long, Kollywood stars, actors in particular, were wary of associating themselves with brands. Says film historian Film News Anandhan, “Right from the days of Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, actors have avoided appearing in ads and the main reason for their decision was they felt that it was cheap publicity. Actors like Sivaji Ganesan flatly refused to endorse brands. In fact, there used to be a separate category of advertisement actors for that purpose.”

It was actor Madhavan, who was one of the earliest to endorse brands, a soft drink commercial in this case. Gradually, the younger crop of actors – Vijay, Ajith, Suriya and Vikram – started endorsing a few brands. Meanwhile, the senior heroes, the superstars of the 80s, continued to stay out.

So, what has caused the sudden change in this mindset? “It is simply the hefty pay cheque that you get for doing an ad today. Added to that, audience today have accepted these heroes for endorsing brands,” Anandhan reasons.

Actor Sathyaraj, who recently created a buzz by appearing in a textile commercial, agrees, “We do these ads primarily to make money. They’re just a part of our profession.”

But actor Prabhu offers a different take. “I don’t think senior actors doing commercials is new. Senior actors like Kamal sir have appeared in ads earlier. But the reason why I did the ads was because the owners were my family friends. However, I first learnt how true the product is since people will go and buy it based on my words.” He also adds that shooting for an ad is fun and a break from films.

But what makes ad filmmakers go after these senior heroes? “Our popularity is the main reason why we’re sought after,” says Sathyaraj. Leading ad filmmakers JD-Jery agree, “These actors have given many a silver jubilee hit during their heydays. Even if they lack that commercial potential today, they’re still stars. When you use a model, an ad needs at least 20 airings to be recognised, but when you use a celebrity, it takes just one airing to create a recall value among viewers.”

“Actors in their mid 40s and 50s bring in credibility. That’s the reason why Amitabh Bachchan is much sought after. Moreover, the target audience for the ads that these actors appear in, say dhoti ads, relate to them better,” they further explain.

“From the days of Chinna Thambi, people have identified me as a boy from their own family. And, they know what sort of a person I’m and trust me,” reasons Prabhu.

However, brand guru Ramanujam Sridhar offers a different take. “It is basically the cost-benefit factor that makes ad filmmakers approach these heroes. When compared to Vijay, Prakashraj is definitely cost-effective. But, since he too is a celebrity, your product gets the recall value that you desire,” he says.

So, do these ads serve as a means to increase their visibility for these actors? “I don’t think so. We’re already popular and we do act in films,” says Sathyaraj and Prabhu too seconds his opinion rather strongly. “I don’t know what you mean by visibility. People have been seeing us for a long time. In fact, next year will be my 30th year in the industry.”

JD-Jery opine that ads do increase the visibility of actors. “But they should be wary of over-exposing themselves. That might even hurt their film careers at some point of time,” they caution.

With many senior heroes jumping the gun, what will it take for a particular ad to be noticed? Sathyaraj sums up the situation. “While there are many successful heroes in the film industry, there are very few trendsetters. If ad filmmakers cast these trendsetters and exploit their style, their ads are bound to have an impact,” he says.

The ‘Big’ List

Sathyaraj – Textile

Prabhu – Jewellery and cooking oil

Jayaram – Textile

Prakash Raj – Curd rice & wood polish

Vijayakumar – Dhoti

Sivachandran – Dhoti

Fun Fact!

A few years ago, Kamal Haasan acted in a public service ad urging people to file their IT returns. Interestingly, the ad was directed by Shankar!

Copyright ©2009 Chennai Times

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