Just a few weeks ago, we went on a spiral down actor Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Instagram profile. In one she’s recommending what plants to choose for your homes (My Bageecha), in another she’s explaining motherhood as she pours thick white milk into a glass (Pride of Cows) and in another, she’s introducing her “bundle of joy” Leo, a pug (Drools). There’s also one in which she’s joined by husband and actor Saif Ali Khan, promoting products such as Naturamore, a protein supplement, and LG television.
From pet foods to pure cow ghee, the actor, who is now pregnant, seems busier than ever and making the most even during the coronavirus pandemic. Interestingly, Bebo, as she’s also known, only joined Instagram recently. What’s even more interesting about these ads is that they don’t seem like the usual commercials we’re used to seeing on TV. In the advertisement for My Bageecha, Kareena is seen without any makeup, looking very comfortable in what could possibly be her own house. So is the ad with Drools.
South Indian star Samantha Akkineni is also part of many such endorsements, from Samsung India’s Curd Maestro Challenge to Kurkure India. She can be seen tending to her kitchen garden, supporting Urban Kissan, a farm to door initiative, and also promoting commercial brands. The fact that the actor is also endorsing her own clothing line, Saaki, only makes her other advertisements sound more credible and personal.
With television commercials (TVC), cinema stars seemed more human. Now with Instagram ads, they seem even more accessible and friendly. Instagram advertisements are instant-made to suit the platform, targeting a specific set of audience, the millennials and the Gen Zs. While most local, smaller brands depend on influencers, the bigger brands are roping in celebrities to put out a quick ad on the social media platform.
Actor Allu Sirish in a video for Bumble India, a dating platform, talks about how a man can present himself with an edge on an app where the woman has to make the first move. Then there’s actor Hansika endorsing Tata Q Quick Quisine whilst discussing her craving for biriyani. The list goes on, with actors like Yash, Anupama Parameswaran and Kajal Aggarwal joining the bandwagon. Others like Sameera Reddy, who are no longer acting, are still sought after by brands because of the influence they have on Instagram.
Unlike regular television commercials, these advertisements are more direct, a quality that is inherent to the platform itself. They are also of shorter duration and less elaborate. Independent filmmaker Sudharshan Narayanan who has also directed TVCs, says, "Since celebrities are also sharing it from their personal account, it just sounds more personal.” And there are more reasons why this paradigm shift has taken place.
According to a recently published study by the smartphone brand Vivo, daily time spent by Indians on smartphones has increased by 25% on average during the pandemic. Therefore, many top brands who experienced a major slump in their business, began looking at other avenues to rebound. With offline stores closed for a major part of the year, the brands had to encourage online buying practices with their customers.
Darshana Balagopal, Country Head (offline) of a major electronics brand, tells TNM that the purpose of making such ads is to seek immediate gains. “Ours is a well established brand that does not depend on creating awareness. Therefore, what we need is immediate sales and the ads we now make for Instagram come with a link to a landing page, where the customer can make a purchase,” she explains.
Making these ads too come at a fraction of a cost when compared to producing television advertisements. “We now make do with just three to four people, from what we once did with 10 people. This has changed the way in which we operate surely,” Sudharshan adds.
But with the production costs coming down, Sudharshan says, there may be other catches. “The budget for making an Instagram ad is definitely lesser than that of television ads, by about 40 to 50%. Celebrities too charge less than what they might for a regular television commercial, since this takes very little of their time and the settings too are simpler. The only underside is that it may limit one’s creative vision,” he says.
There are many advantages to these ads, besides the budget. Darshana says that online sales conversion peaked especially during the lockdown. Online sales conversion is a measure that is used to define the success of an online ad campaign. The online conversion rate is calculated by the percentage of buyers who make a purchase after having visited the site or the landing page.
“To understand better, ours is not an impulse buy product. In most cases, people choose to evaluate the product in person before buying. But with the lockdown and pandemic, people are now okay to make the purchase online. It is a definite shift in tendencies, especially since the offline consumer segment is quite huge in India,” Darshana says. Online conversion has increased, from being 60% before lockdown to 80% now.
While television commercials continue to be made, spends on that front are significantly being cut by many brands. “Sure, TV audiences are a different segment and they will continue to exist. But Gen Z is a different category and Instagram ads make more sense now," says Darshana.
But even on Instagram, advertisements are not made with Influencers. More so because they tend to lack credibility, points out Darshana. “Instagram influencers tend to endorse multiple brands at the same time even across the same segments and exclusivity is not possible. So we are moving on to different kinds of influencer based marketing, where we see that the individual is involved with us throughout the year,” she says.