Home > home-page > Baba Ramdev: The monk who loves ad spots

The most visible brand ambassador on Indian television these days isn’t a Bollywood star or cricketer—he is a monk.

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has become the most visible face in TV commercials with just one brand to endorse—his own Patanjali Ayurved Ltd.

In the process, he has put in the shade celebrity endorsers from movie stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan to cricketers Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Between January and March, Patanjali Ayurved doubled the number of advertisements it airs on TV channels, according to data from television viewership measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India.

Patanjali’s weekly ad insertions on television jumped 102% from 11,897 in the first week of January to 24,050 times in the week ended 25 March, according to BARC.

An aspiring consumer products giant, Patanjali makes and markets everything from shampoo and toothpaste to biscuits and noodles, juices and sweets, rice and wheat, honey and ghee.

Footage of Ramdev, or at least his image, accompanies every ad insertion on television. He even does the voice-overs for some of the ads, endorsing the “natural goodness" of Patanjali products.

In the past three months, Ramdev appeared 234,934 times during commercial breaks across TV channels to endorse Patanjali products, according to BARC India. That works out to an ad aired every 30 seconds on one channel or another.

Two media agencies, Vermillion Communication and Combined Advertising, were signed on to buy media space for Patanjali Ayurved. DDB Mudra is the creative agency for Patanjali.

For advertising between November and March, Patanjali had set aside 360 crore, Mint reported on 3 December. Most of the budget was allocated for advertising on TV.

“The way Patanjali is advertising currently, the company is likely to exceed its initial advertising budget. It is here to stay," said a media-buying executive at one of the two agencies mentioned above, asking not to be named.

An email, text message and multiple calls to a Patanjali spokesperson for a comment on its advertising strategy went unanswered.

For advertising on TV, Ramdev initially picked seven of Patanjali’s 30 products. While wrestler and Olympic medal winner Sushil Kumar is the brand ambassador for ghee, Patanjali biscuits are endorsed by Bollywood star and member of Parliament Hema Malini.

Advertising campaigns for Patanjali products are now playing on all prominent entertainment channels on TV.

Ad insertions by Patanjali are 20% higher than those by the next most advertised brand on TV—Cadbury, a chocolate brand owned by Mondelez India Foods Pvt. Ltd.

Patanjali topped BARC India’s weekly list of total ad insertions in nine of the 12 weeks in January-March. The third slot has been variously occupied by brands such as Fair & Lovely (a fairness cream brand of Hindustan Unilever Ltd, or HUL), dental cream brand Colgate and telecom services brand Vodafone in the BARC weekly ratings for the past three months.

Patanjali, a consumer goods and personal care products company founded in 2006, started advertising on television in November, seeking to establish itself as a serious contender in the country’s estimated 3.2 trillion packaged goods market.

It has been seen as a potential challenger to established packaged goods companies such as HUL, Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd and Nestlé India Ltd.

Even if Patanjali sticks to the ad budget it earmarked initially, its advertising expenditure will be higher than that of companies like Emami Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd, Marico Ltd, Nestlé India and Godrej Consumer Products Ltd, on an annualized basis.

As a company, however, it would be spending less than HUL, the largest spender on ads in the packaged consumer goods sector.

HUL spent 3,874.94 crore on advertising and promotions in the fiscal year ended March 2015.

“Initially, when Patanjali had limited reach, it did not invest in ad campaigns. Over time, it widened distribution to reach a larger audience. Looking at its targets, it seems important that the company spend this much on advertising as a part of its brand-building process," said Kaizad Pardiwalla, chief operating officer at Orchard Advertising Ltd.

According to Anuja Chauhan, creative consultant at advertising agency JWT India and a writer, “Patanjali is riding on Ramdev’s huge fan following. The company got two things right—one, the whole India-Ayurveda connection and, second, the MNC style of advertising."

Ramdev has made no secret of his ambition to build Patanjali into a consumer goods giant that would be bigger than HUL.

“Colgate will be below Patanjali by this year, and in three years, we will overtake Unilever," Ramdev said at a press conference in Bengaluru in March.

In October, announcing Patanjali’s partnership with Kishore Biyani-led Future Retail Ltd, Ramdev said Patanjali would close fiscal year 2016 with 5,000 crore in revenue, up from 2,000 crore a year ago.

An IIFL Institutional Equities report estimated that Patanjali’s sales will increase to 20,000 crore by FY20, Mint reported on 12 January.

sounak.m@livemint.com

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