I need a model with a well-built, solid body like that of a wrestler. He could be an unknown face, but his age should be between 40 and 50 years.”
This was the brief Sushma Puri got from an advertising agency that wanted a boxer for one of their upcoming advertising campaigns.
Puri is the CEO of Elite Model Management, a Mumbai-based model placement agency. While Elite mainly caters to the regular demands of advertising agencies for models, she also runs a separate agency called The Fat Cat, which specializes in servicing the “odd” needs of clients. Such needs comprise people who don’t conform to the much-accepted definition of beauty and glamour. And the demand for such people, say modelling experts, is on the rise.
Indeed, advertisers try to capitalize on beauty and glitz to charm consumers, but sometimes the scripts run on the ordinary, and even the weird, to make a selling point. The much-feted Perfetti Van Melle India Pvt. Ltd’s Happydent White ad is a case in point. Shot by Ram Madhvani and created by McCann Erickson, it has won the agency more than nine national awards, and fetched a silver and bronze, both in the films category, at the 54th Cannes Lions International Advertising festival 2007. But the ad features neither a star nor beautiful people. It shows a man, dressed as a part of a chandelier, running to take his place amid others like him, and it’s the Happydent smile that completes the light effect.
“The advertisement was about the idea and not the models,” said the creative brain behind the film, Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann Erickson India. “Using a famous face in this advertisement would not fit the script, but take away from it.”
“The character of the model will have to complement the idea behind the ad,” says Bobby Pawar, national creative director, Mudra Communications. “Sometimes, using celebrities does not work for the brand. The brand is forgotten and only the face remains in the mind.”
Mudra’s campaign for client Paras Pharmaceuticals Ltd’s D’Cold Total tablets is an example of what he means. It features four men with specific characteristics—one overweight, one ultra thin, one bald and the last, a frail man with frizzy hair in a superman T-shirt.
The script of some of the most successful ads at times dictate a role for the odd one out. The script for Radio City 91.1 FM radio channel’s “Bal Bal Bach Gaye” commercial demands a fat, bald man playing a convict on the run. The national creative director of Meridian CommunicationsN. Ramesh says: “The idea was just about having a good time and a good laugh. It’s pure entertainment.”
In the ad for simplymarry.com, a matrimonial portal takes viewers through various suitors; each with something amiss and in the end, the character that meets all the “tall, macho with dimples” specifications of the daughter is a body builder with oversized moustache and muscles alike.
Whether it’s the scrawny postman called Rocket Raja in the new campaign for Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd (a Reliance-ADAG gaming firm), or the bulky dishevelled dacoit in ABN Amro’s One Card commercial, ad makers believe that in selling products or services, the endorser need not always be pretty.
Many a time, it takes “real people”, a term model placement services use to describe the unattractive, disproportionate and comical-looking models, to get the message across. “Models who are not good to look at are chosen for quirky scripts. Such characters enhance the impact of the script,” says Emmanuel Upputuru, creative director, O&M.
It is, however, not always easy to find the quirky. Many agencies have started setting up dedicated divisions to cater to such demands. “Ordinary people of all ages and all characteristics come register with us, and when we find a brief that suits their looks, we call them,” Puri said. Requests from her clients range from “sumo wrestlers” to “a person with a crooked nose”. “These models get paid less than half of what an average model gets. But sometimes, their faces become a brand by themselves, and?the?rate?goes?up,” she adds.
Getting “real people”, however, is relatively easy. Some online agencies, such as GlamourHunt Communications, offer registration on their site and charge Rs1,500-3,500 for a seven-year placement service, though there is no guarantee that it will result in any paid assignments.
Model placement agency Dreamcast Entertainment says their character models could charge from Rs1,000 and up, “depending on the role and the model’s experience”, said its director Kartik Srinivasan. The agency gets anywhere between 15% and 20% commission on a model, irrespective of whether they are a famous face or not.
Quirky faces form an essential element in the world of advertising. “The world is full of freaky people and not portraying the freaky side would be telling only one side of the story,” says Mudra’s Pawar.