I would not have believed it to be true ever. Because cricketers almost always have played cricketers, in fact themselves, in almost all brand endorsements. Therefore, seeing MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya play village bumpkins in an ad for Star TV’s #StarValuePack was #SachMein both surprising and intriguing. The ad garnered over 6 million views on YouTube within a week, beating its predecessor ad featuring Aamir Khan for the same value pack, which has so far managed only 4.6 million views.
Both Dhoni and Pandya put in an outstanding performance as actors, perched atop a tree, and conversing in a Bhojpuri like dialect. They look the part, act the part, voice their dialogues with ease and right diction and expressions. They actually do give the veteran Aamir Khan a run for his money and his theatrics. For me, the usage of Dhoni and Pandya as actors, rather than the usual cricketers, is a revelation. Our traditional understanding is that cricket being a performance sport, the use of cricketers as brand endorsers emanates from their strength on-the-field and the goodness of their fours and sixes determines their goodness for becoming, and continuing, as the face of the brands they represent and sell.
The sterling acting performance of Dhoni and Pandya turns this entire supposition on its head. It proves that cricketers as the face of a brand can be used much like their Bollywood brethren across a range of roles, provided of course the script is well written and then well enacted. In the past, the likes of Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and even Rahul Dravid showed very little ability on the histrionics front. Virat has been a wee shade better but even with him brands have stayed within the narrow confines of showing him to be who he is: cricketer, captain and little else. Dhoni himself has not shown much range in his acting in most of his past endorsements but the new Star commercial unveils a new Dhoni. In fact, Pandya is even more convincing and realistic as an actor, opening up new vistas of promise.
Kudos must also go to the in-house creative team at Star TV for daring to experiment with an off-beat script and for getting Dhoni and Pandya to step out of their comfort zone. Well, it is such experimentation and derring-do that makes great ads. Well done guys!Dhoni, however, misses the mark almost entirely in the LivFast campaign, which also went live in the past few days. He does the floss, skips and claps fast, but not fast enough as a younger partner/competitor. The ad actually says nothing much about either the brand or why it is the fastest. A wasted piece of advertising, and a wasted endorsement. Dhoni must really be careful not only about who he endorses, but how he endorses.
Dhoni can perhaps learn a trick or two on scripts to choose from, from Kevin McCallister of the famous Home Alone series, who featured on the last working Friday of the last year in a film for Google Assistant. Created by Arts & Letters Creative Co for Google, the ad shows what happens when McCallister finds that he has the house all to himself, but with the Google Assistant by his side.
There is a certain sense of fun, of playfulness and a few laughs too as technology redefines what McCallister can now do at Home Alone. The beauty of the ad lies in the imaginative scripting that weaves in situations and scenes that build on the power and prowess of the Google Assistant while using fully the franchise of the Home Alone series and McCallister’s presence. A commercial really well-produced.
There have been new campaigns in the past couple of weeks from Seagram’s 100 Pipers looking to spread ‘goodness’ with Rahul Khanna; from Swiggy to change stereotypes around Santa, and to pay tribute to women; there has been a year-end message from Ola on New Year’s Eve urging #PeekeMatChala. All fairly mundane. The only one with some promise was the new Saregama Carvaan commercial that endeavours to unite two cultures and add celebrations to the rituals at a two-states wedding. Well, let us see how the new year shapes up on the advertising front.
(The author is an advertising veteran)