For better communication and brand building needs, companies feel none could be better models than their employees, writes Prabalika M. Borah

They are not models. Nor do they look at you with their perfectly done hair and make-up. But one cannot miss their smiling faces. Especially when a 65-year-old father proudly announces that ‘he is proud of his son's workplace.” A commercial for a hospital features another senior citizen who is trying to spread the message of a knee replacement surgery. The models could have been anyone from the small or big screen but these companies decided otherwise. “Use of a celebrity can at times create a sense of distrust,” says Head of Office at Ogilvy.

Doesn't a celebrity endorsement of a certain water proof pen that costs nothing more than Rs. 50 raise the ‘will he be actually walking around with a pen like that in his pocket' doubt? While celebrity endorsements increase the glam factor and the purchasing power of the brand, it can at times defeat the purpose of a campaign. B. Ramanathan, Vice president at Ogilvy and Mather says, “during the times of downturn or economic slowdown, companies tried the option especially in the real estate. Instead of putting words in the mouth of an actor or a sports celebrity to do the marketing, they thought of putting the faces and thoughts of real people, the existing buyers or owners. For a celebrity, the purchasing power isn't an issue at all. It is the working class that needs continuous assurance while getting into a high value deal. And in such a case who can testify better than the owners themselves about where their gharonda is. Real people sending out happy and contended messages create credibility, removes uncertainty from the minds of prospective clients.”

While we might not think twice about spending a few tens to purchase a chocolate which a film star says he/she loves will we believe a company's claim about being the best workplace with the image of a foreigner? Not really. “To focus on the health and strength of a company, people must see real people. What is said outside should resonate inside. After intense research and interviews we have decided to use genuine people for my two clients ADP and Broadridge. It is very easy to do a website or an ad with foreign images. They come for less and are easily available on the Internet. But can they inspire a fresh graduate to seek a job in the company? Chances are less, because they will not be able to connect. Similarly, to show the feelings of a child about his/her school we used school students,” explains Santha John, managing director, JWT Mindset.

But there are instances Santha say where models are a must. “Mostly for a new company or a new school and I am totally against the use of foreign images without context,” she says.

But does that mean that we should de-glamorous the ads or the hoardings. “It is about the message. Can a mother's smiling face with her new-born baby be less glamorous or less thought-provoking? Especially, when the mother had to deliver the baby in an emergency situation. The point of our hoardings is to explain what can be done inside an 108, EMRI van by our teams. Our beneficiaries are our best models, says Venkat Changavalli, CEO of GVK, 108, EMRI. Taking this to another level, 108, EMRI is planning a coffee table book with their beneficiaries. However, the idea of using ‘real people' is not just restricted to hoardings, the Hyderabad Novotel and Convention Centre's 2010 calendar had the smiling faces of their staffers from the various restaurants. “It is like an incentive for the staffers. It boosts their morale,” says the head of communication at the Hotel.

Keywords: brandingadvertising