AAMIR KHAN, BRAND APPEAL AND RULES OF THE GAME

First November, then January and now February – and in between a demanding, damning December – life has been difficult for Aamir Khan – since he decided to speak his mind about the ongoing ‘tolerance Vs intolerance’ row/debate.

While we can count valid reasons on why the government should have retained Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador for the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, the Snapdeal decision that was reported today sounds a regular fallout of the controversy.

That is simple, straight formula for celebrity brand endorsements. If some company pays a hefty amount for an Amitabh Bachchan or an Aamir Khan, it has every right to ensure everything goes right with its brand – with no probability of that ‘write-off’ scenario when the brand ambassador would start hurting the brand.

Yes, like the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, here, too, nothing is in absolute ‘black and white’ and there is much – like the rough financials of Snapdeal, an e-commerce retailer, and Aamir Khan’s high annual endorsement fee (reportedly Rs. 15 crore) – to read for (in between the lines).

It would have made sense for the government to retain Aamir Khan as the ‘Incredible India’ ambassador because it would have sent a positive message that we, as a nation, were resilient enough to decipher and discern about a viewpoint about something that was threatening to rupture the social weaving of the society.

Yes, we as a nation are resiliently tolerant – and that is why we all are stakeholders into any such development – and that is why we need to speak our minds – and Aamir Khan’s views on ‘rising intolerance’ should be seen in that context.

Yes, being a sensible celebrity with a mass appeal, Aamir Khan did cross the limits here – but given the nature of the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, promoting and selling India as a wholesome package – continuing with Aamir Khan could have proved, in fact, a boon. People would love the concept that India (and its government) was transparent enough to differing views – and was a tolerant society.

But that appeal is limited to campaigns like the ‘Incredible India’ series.

The same cannot be expected from profit driven corporate entities – like Snapdeal – or any other company.

Snapdeal, though illogical, was forced to distance from Aamir Khan’s intolerance remark in November and had to discontinue its advertising campaign. Aamir’s observation that his wife had discussed the possibility of leaving India after a raging debate on the growing incidents of intolerance made her concerned for their child’s security infuriated many and Snapdeal faced the brunt in the social media space with many uninstalling the Snapdeal app.

Though some reports say Snapdeal registered a surge in its app rankings in the period, still, any for-profit entity cannot afford a controversy-hit brand ambassador. The business of ‘corporate brand management’ that believes in ‘playing it safe’ doesn’t believe in that.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NOW THAT IS NOT AT ALL ‘INCREDIBLE’!

He is a good actor, in fact, one of the finest India has ever produced. He is known for choosing his roles sensibly and he has consciously created an image for himself that conveys the feeling of a self-made identity with some gravity.

That is for masses and he, no doubt, is a mass hero.

What he does in his personal life and what are his beliefs are things strictly falling in his private domain. Yes, like all human beings, he is susceptible to err, and we should not make a fuss about it, if it does not infringe on rights of others and if it does not speak for something that stirs the social pot.

And, in his public life, he has not done anything like that. Yes, the row over his intolerance remarks was something that he could have avoided given the sensitivity of the subject and the mass outreach of his words. We can say that in speaking so he didn’t consider many things but that doesn’t give us right to blame him or question his patriotism.

We may agree or disagree with his viewpoint but his worries were right even if he overreacted – because it happens. It is in human nature – to react and overreact on social developments with potential to disturb your personal life – at a time when we are facing very real danger of disturbed social balances on religious lines in different pockets of the country.

His fans love him. And his fans are from every religion. And every religion in India has made him a mass hero. And he has curated a self-conscious, clean image around it.

And that makes him a good face for the ‘Incredible India’ campaign – the award winning advertisement series that really impresses you with its everything – from concepts to storyboards to shooting to fine tuning to finished products.

So it was quite a letdown to hear yesterday that the government had removed him as the ‘Incredible India campaign ambassador’. Though the government today denied doing so (removing) saying the contract with the agency that was running the campaign had ended and as Aamir Khan was contracted to the agency, his association with the campaign came to an end.

Well, if that is so, that is so wrongly timed – especially immediately after the row over his ‘intolerance remarks’ and his virulent criticism by some BJP leaders – the party running the Government of India. And some of them did it even today.

The Government, instead, could have avoided this controversy. In fact doing so would have sent a positive message that the Government was open to different opinions (and difference of opinion) and was working holistically on concerns of everyone (including Aamir Khan’s) – even if it felt the concern was misplaced. It is the government’s duty to make its citizens believe so (that such concerns are misplaced).

Alas! It was again an opportunity missed!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TEAM PK THANKS VOLUNTEERS OF HINDU OUTFITS FOR THEIR TIMELY SUPPORT

Though it was a tough day, with important news developments like the court decision on discharge plea of Amit Shah, BJP’s national president, Narendra Modi’s Number 2, second most powerful figure of the political establishment running India now, from charges in Sohrabuddin and Tulsi Prajapati fake encounters; the ongoing India-Australia test match; and the ongoing developments in missing AirAsia flight incident, that was bound to take the airwaves time away, the team behind PK, the movie, expressed its gratitude to the round of much needed publicity that accrued to it in past few days.

Their spirit of recognizing self-motivated and selfless efforts remained undaunted, when, in the end, even the reduced coverage that was expected, didn’t come after the shocking news of unexpected resignation’ of Mahendra Singh Dhoni from test cricket swept the agenda of the day.

The Team PK sent praising notes of their heartfelt thanks to the top leadership and members of outfits like Hindu Yuva Vahini, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Mahasabha and many others who have been working relentlessly making outreach of PK even wider, when the movie was fading in appeal. Also, the team has sent specially packaged messages to express its feelings to Ramdev and Subramanian Swamy, the two stalwarts of the pack.

After all, because of their efforts, the movie is again in news, is registering more footfalls and is headed for more views.

Though PK, the movie, was an ‘inspired’ production with less of original elements, including the idea, the narrative was developed well around a subject of mass-importance and thus mass-appeal – religion and its quirky and ostentatious elements – and the Team PK hoped to cash on Aamir Khan’s star-power, Rajkumar Hirani’s track-record and a well-crafted marketing strategy to enter the big league, the super-blockbuster league of Indian Cinema, with earning ranging in hundreds of crores.

It worked well, initially, with the star-power, the narrative and the hype keeping the cash stacking up. But, being not the first time, with ample gyaan and slow pace in the 2nd half, it soon became clear that the narrative was not expected to get to the ‘super-blockbuster’ status – until the push to its 2nd life arrived.

As expected, after the days of hype and marketing influence were over, the cash inflow started flattening out and was well on the way to get into the stagnation zone.

And then, it happened. The 2nd life arrived, and in style, keeping the nation and the audiences hooked to the TV screens with intensely debated discourses on the movie.

The Good Samaritans, from the evergreen, overworking Hindu fundamentalist outfits, jumped in the fray, carefully picking elements from the movie to enlighten the nation, pushing more to watch the movie, to know about the elements they were highlighting. There are even the sort of viewers who had watched it earlier but are going to watch it again as they could not notice the element(s) in the context these ‘Good Samaritan publicists’ are presenting.

And there could not be a better timing. It is perfectly opportune, maximizing the resource utilization.

After all, had it coincided with the release, it would have wasted the resources used in marketing and promotion of the movie. Coming after the days that could be attributed to the ‘influence of marketers’, the well crafted, coordinated and increasingly synchronized move is a brilliant exercise in exercising the Public Relations tools.

After the first wave lost its appeal, fully exhausting its capacity levels, the second wave, that was voluntary in nature and had no official access and took time to research and study the finer elements of the PK content to be used as the central themes of their campaigns, had found the opportunity to chip in and they did it with full commitment, and too, without informing the production house and commercial stakeholders of the movie. Such exemplary selflessness is rare and is to be given due notice as has been happening.

Now, it is certainly debatable that how much the movie has earned so far, with differing figures putting the movie in different leagues – from Rs. 200 crore to over Rs. 400 crore clubs (hyped up box-office collections, that is again an increasingly used brilliant film marketing tool) – but it is clearly visible that its cash-pile is adding more stacks now, and at a handsome pace.

And the team that has produced a sensible cinema in PK, the movie, cannot be expected to act insensibly, by not saying thanks to these altruistic well-wishers.

And it also came with perfect timing. The ‘tomorrow’ could not have been better than the ‘today’ to say thanks as it was a frustrating day for the volunteers with Dhoni’s resignation stealing the show and the airwaves even if they worked harder and launched the campaign in many other cities.

The words of recognition, appreciation and gratitude by the Team PK will certainly lift their mood and morale up from today’s frustration and would recharge them for a more action-packed tomorrow.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/