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Hrithik Roshan: The New One-man Industry

** Beverages giant, Coca Cola India, found that the recall of its television commercial among TV viewers across the country scaled from 20 per cent to a high 31 per cent with the launch of its Hrithik Roshan campaign. Better still, the recall among the brand's target audience-teeny-boppers and the youth-was a staggering 40 per cent.

** Textiles major, S Kumar's, which has roped in Hrithik Roshan for its new menswear brand 'Tamarind', has calculated that it will need to spend at least 40 per cent to 50 per cent less on advertising because Hrithik makes a deeper impact on the consumers.

** Home Trade, a financial services portal, was pleasantly surprised to see that the number of hits on its portal has gone up 700,000 a day after the release of its ad campaign featuring Hrithik Roshan apart from Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar.

Hrithik is, undoubtedly, the hottest icon of the advertising industry in the year 2001. With companies lining up to sign him as their brand ambassador despite his ever-increasing price, advertising industry estimates that the Bollywood heartthrob has already rustled up
over Rs 200 million in endorsement contracts and events.

Besides signing up with Hero Honda, Coke, S Kumar's and Home Trade, negotiations are also on with the Sahara group as well as a well-known cellular services company.

Film industry sources say that the superstar has already made more money from advertising contracts than from films.

According to the industry, Hrithik is the highest paid advertising icon next only to the Big B, Amitabh Bachchan, who is believed to be charging more.

While companies are tightlipped about divulging figures on celebrity endorsements, industry sources say that Hrithik charges between Rs 20 million and Rs 30 million for a year compared to Rs 15 million charged by Shah Rukh Khan.

Amitabh Bachchan, however, is priced between Rs 30 million and Rs 35 million for a year, but does not take more than two to three ad campaigns a year. Says a senior advertising agency executive: "The demand for Hrithik is much more than any of his other competitors."

The price, of course, varies as the star uses three parameters to set his rate-the size of the campaign, the number of days of his involvement and the brand and the value of its image.

So what makes him the new sensation in the world of advertising? Shailendra Singh, managing director for Percept D'Mark which has struck deals with the superstar for its clients, says, "Hrithik is an unusual case of overnight success which neither he nor the industry expected."

Adds Nitin Kasliwal, managing director, S Kumar's Nationwide: "He has instant recall, so brand identification is also instant."

Talking about Tamarind, he says: "He is young and trendy which fits in with our brand image meant to provide the Indian male with a complete wardrobe solution-from casuals to formals. Hrithik fits the bill in these categories."

Kasliwal's endorsement of Hrithik is also based on the company's research which found that the ad recall for Tamarind was as high as 70 per cent among the target audience-a no mean achievement.

Kasliwal points out that the ad has also helped in getting the trade interested in the product and he is getting calls from dealers all across the country to stack the brand in their stores.

For instance, according to market sources, it takes at least 8 to 10 months for a new brand to find space in big chains like Shoppers' Stop-the popular chain store-but Tamarind has been accepted within 20 days of the launch.

Coke, for instance, found the brand identification of Hrithik with its brand growing in strength. Says Shripad Nadkarni, vice-president at Coca-Cola India: "Amitabh was the icon of a rebellious generation. This generation has changed and Hrithik is its icon. His values are the same that are associated with Coke -- warmth, and genuine."

For Home Trade, a financial services portal, the challenge of its ad campaign was to transform what is a considered a dull business to a product which could be exciting.

"We were looking at people who have had success in their field at a very young age and were constantly striving to achieve. They would also enjoy mass appeal among the Indian population cutting across all age groups. Hrithik fitted the bill," said the official spokesperson of Home Trade.

But not everyone agrees that companies are getting value for their money by using Hrithik to endorse their products. Says Preet Bedi, director of Lowe Lintas & Partners: "I think it is the beginning of the end for Hrithik. He is overexposed. He is on 200 hoardings in Bombay in various avatars and will increasingly lose impact. Yes, clients ask for him but if you ask me whether they are getting value, my answer is no."

Avers a multinational company which was confronted with a similar problem with cricket star Sachin Tendulkar endorsing a whole host of products: "Its a tricky situation. It all depends on how well you have been able to use the celebrity so that people can identify it with your product. A mismatch could prove disastrous."

But with reports that Hrithik has already increased his brand endorsement rates in the market and companies still scrambling to make him their brand ambassadors, the Roshans are undoubtedly laughing their way to the bank.

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