The Celebrity Management Coup Of 2016 – Views From Prabhakar

Most people were aghast to see the Prime Minister in the Reliance Jio ad last Friday September 2, 2016. The shock was no doubt because while we have seen our Prime Minister in the newspapers several times, it has traditionally been for the inauguration of an event, or for the announcement of some public sector project. But to see him in an ad for a private sector brand was both unexpected and unusual.

While advertising and celebrity management professionals argued on the appropriateness of the usage of the Prime Minister, others wondered if it was legal quoting the Emblems and Names Act of 1950 ( Prevention of Improper Use ). The common man was quizzical, but unaware of appropriateness or inappropriateness although they too found it unusual.



Some people argued that this was an indirect usage, since it only referred to the Prime Minister’s Digital India vision for 1.2 billion Indians and did not have any direct reference to the Reliance Jio product. Others argued that a Head of State had never appeared before in a private sector brand advertising campaign, even if the reference was indirect. It therefore gave the impression that the Prime Minister was endorsing the brand. Advertising professionals searched the global archives for possible uses of a Head of State in advertising and found none.

Some dismissed this only as a announcement ad and were willing to forgive the appropriateness or inappropriateness, only to be given youtube links to the TV films that also used the Prime Minister with an indirect reference by quoting his vision for Digital India. Therefore suggesting that this was not just an announcement ad but a continuing campaign with some amount of longevity.



In some ways the film was reminiscent of the approach used by Bharti Airtel about 8 years ago when they featured famous people in history as their inspiration. The ad used Mahatma Gandhi’s footage in the ad which is not uncommon.


Whatever the judgement to be made on this one, there is no doubt that this is the celebrity management coup of the year. Look at Mr Modi’s accomplishments as a celebrity, besides being a popular head of state.

  1. He is second only to Obama in followers on Twitter amongst heads of state
  2. He has the largest number of followers on Twitter in India
  3. Modi ranked no 15 in the Forbes World’s Most Powerful List on becoming Prime Minister of India
  4. Modi was voted 7th most popular leader in a global survey of political leaders in January 2016
  5. Very little doubt that besides his popularity in India, he is increasingly a highly visible global figure.
  6. The Indian masses adore him
  7. One celebrity management effort that did not cost any money

So in many ways, it was a coup that was pulled off in the celebrity management and advertising fields. A first of its kind that is unlikely perhaps to be repeated for a long time. We may have to hold the judgement on whether it is criticism or pure envy that flooded social media with comments on the Prime Ministers usage in the Jio ad.




About the Author:

Prabhakar Mundkur is an ad veteran with over 35 years of experience in Advertising and Marketing. He works as an independent consultant and is also Chief Mentor with Percept H. All previous posts of Prabhakar can be found here.