Celebrity advertising – No, this is different!

We all know how brands are made or broken with celebrity advertising. But of late, Yahoo and Google have chosen the new way to use celebrities as a way to popularize their products.

Yahoo first came up with this idea for its Yahoo answers website. For this, they roped in the Indian President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, popular IPS officer Ms. Kiran Bedi and other celebrities like the tennis star Leander Paes. The idea was to make these popular celebrities use this medium to reach out to the people. It is a way to show that even celebrities as these have come to know the ability of Yahoo answers to reach out to the common man.

However, the logic behind the scenes are entirely different. This campaign was well supplemented by countrywide advertising along with ‘cool gifts’ to those participating in the discussion. The President may not have actually endorsed the product. But the purpose is served. Yahoo Answers is now a huge Yahoo product in India.

Taking cues from this, Yahoo’s rival Google has tried to exploit the Cricket World Cup season to strengthen its social networking site, Orkut. Orkut has invited Kris Srikanth, former captain of the Indian cricket team as a guest contributor to one of the newly formed communities. The advertising intentions are indeed clear. This community with only around 1000 members is the first such community or Orkut with a personalized link: http://www.orkut.com/worldcupwithkrish

The success of this community will no matter depend on the success of the Indian team in this world cup, but nevertheless Google too has announced its intentions to go the celebrity way to popularize its products.

Will this pay?

This question has to be answered assuming that each of these celebrities were indeed paid to participate. I believe the Yahoo campaign has been successful since it was well backed up by mainstream ads and also it is a sustaining model of advertising as we see in the way new social celebrities like Shashi Tharoor being roped in to ask questions.

Google might not have started off too well since there are still hardly 1000 members on the community. Also, unlike in Yahoo answers, orkut requires repetitive participation which might not be okayed by all celebrities. However for events as the world cup which last for one or two months, celebrities may be roped in for that specific period.