A central goal of today's advertising strategy is the persuasion of customers, who are becoming increasingly educated, sophisticated and selective. Obviously, the changes in markets and lifestyle are driving marketers to focus on more persuasive ways of promoting their products. In today's media driven markers, creative television advertising can promote not only products, but also attractive lifestyles and dreams that are highly valued by consumers. Very often, advertising makers use various advertising styles to influence consumers’ brand choice behavior. Among the different styles available, celebrity endorsement is becoming a popular choice in the advertising industry. Advertisers try to establish a link between their brands and a desirable image or lifestyle of a celebrity.

Research and experience show that consumers are most comfortable, and highly ready to spend, when celebrities endorse things that relate to their desired image. The perceived image of celebrities is likely to have a positive impact on product choice behavior (Goldsmith, Lafferty, and Newell, 2000; Mathur, Mathur, and Rangan, 1997). Consumers are likely to take more notice of celebrity advertisements and improve their level of product recall.

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In fact, the special influence of celebrity endorsement is further enhanced by the obvious features of television advertising. Television provides daily access to thousands of sport athletes, film and television stars, and other celebrities. This makes celebrity-based television advertising (CBTA) an attractive choice by advertising makers. The term CBTA will be used throughout this study to mean television advertising that depends primarily on celebrity endorsement to influence consumer brand choice behavior.

The objective of this research is to explore the Indian consumers’ attitudes towards celebrity based television advertising (CBTA) to understand how consumers respond to celebrity endorsement in television commercials. In particular, the study seeks to examine the influence of CBTA on consumers’ brand choice behavior and also whether consumer attitudes towards CBTA with respect to brand choice behavior vary with demographic variables (sex and income).

The celebrity concept

In today’s dynamic and highly competitive business environment, customers are becoming more demanding. Their expectations are continuously rising, with marketers continuing their efforts to meet them. In their creative advertising efforts, marketers turn to celebrity endorsement to influence consumer brand choice behaviour. A celebrity is a well known personality who enjoys public recognition by a large share of a certain group of people. Celebrities (example models, actors, artists and sports athletes) are known to the public for their accomplishments in areas other than product class endorsed.

They usually enjoy high public recognition, and often have powerful influence upon endorsing products. They appear on television as spokespersons on behalf of the advertised brand, or ordinary users of such brand. In either way they often deliver a convincing message. They help increase the awareness of advertised brands and create positive feelings towards them. Eventually, this will positively affect consumers’ brand choice behaviour.

Brand Choice

The decision to select a particular brand of product from the array of all brands with similar composition and cost/performance characteristics capable of satisfying the consumers' felt need.

Consumer Attitudes

Attitude means enduring favorable or unfavorable feelings, emotions and action tendencies towards an issue or subject. It is the amount of affect or feeling for or against a stimulus.

Indian Context

Celebrities are involved in endorsing activities since late nineteenth century. The advent of celebrity endorsements in advertising in India began when Hindi film and TV stars as well as sportspersons began encroaching on a territory that was, until then, the exclusive domain of models. One of the first sports endorsements in India was when Farokh Engineer became the first Indian cricketer to model for Bryl cream. The Indian cricket team now earns roughly Rs. 100 crore through endorsements. There was a spurt of advertising, featuring stars like Tabassum (Prestige Pressure Cookers), Jalal Agha (Pan Parag), Kapil Dev (Palmolive Shaving Cream) and Sunil Gavaskar (Dinesh Suitings).

Pepsi Co. has used a variety of celebrities including Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Rahul Khanna, Fardeen Khan, Sachin Tendulkar etc. Amongst advertisements featuring celebrities, Pepsi tops the heap with the highest recall of 70%, while arch rival Coke is lower across all markets with 52% recall. This proves that Pepsi has really exploited the use of celebrities in their advertisements and has worked. Hindustan Lever's 'Lux' soap in India has been using popular film actresses to endorse the soap since its launch four decades ago implying that they owe their stunning looks to the brand. This consistent message hence reinforces the brand values and has been successfully able to position the soap rightly as the 'beauty soap’.

It would be difficult to judge the direct effect of celebrity endorsement on the sales or profits of the company. On Amitabh Bachchan endorsing RIN, an HLL spokesperson says that it was too early to gauge the success of 'Rin' in terms of sales and that though Dabur healthcare products' sales had improved, the increase could not be solely attributed to him10. Similarly, there are also cases wherein there was a dramatic change in the sales figure after the endorsements. For example Rahul Malhotra, Associate Director Marketing, P&G India quotes "Certainly, it has helped us promote our brand 'Head & Shoulders'. Last year, we were ranked as No. 2 and this year we are market leaders in this segment with over 45% market share".

Superstar Amitabh Bachchan endorses multiple brands like Pepsi, Mirinda, ICICI, BPL, Parker pens, Nerolac, Dabur, Reid & Taylor, Maruti Versa, Hajmola, Tide, Cadbury and a few social messages. It has worked in some cases, while in some cases it has not. Incase of Nerolac Paints, which was endorsed by Amitabh Bachchan, around 80% of the respondents when asked to associate Bachchan with any paint, did so with Asian Paints, which is the biggest competitor of Nerolac.