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Omega makes shift in ad strategy

April 03, 2006 15:06 IST

Swiss watch maker Omega has decided to make a vital shift in its advertising by experimenting with brand ambassadors that are not famous faces but pack in a message, an experiment slated to kick off in India in three to four weeks.

For decades, Omega, like many other luxury watch makers, has relied on stars as brand ambassadors.

Its global constellation includes Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman, Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher, top golfer Ernie Els, swimming superstar Ian Thorpe and former supermodel and entrepreneur Cindy Crawford. It is also celluloid spy James Bond's watch.

"We will rely on it (the personality cult) a bit less," Omega's president Stephen Urquhart told Business Standard at the Basel world watch and jewellery show.

Now the company wants to look at people who may share the perceived qualities of its watches without necessarily being famous. The advertisements featuring them will also carry a message that the personalities will endorse.

"To judge the value of the brand on the basis of ambassadors is the direction in which the watch industry is going. It is a big mistake," said Urquhart.

India lends itself to the new experiment since Omega's brand ambassador in India is Sonali Bendre, a one-time Bollywood starlet who flickered only in brief patches and has settled down to matrimony and occasional appearances in plays.

Of late, speculation has been rife that Omega is taking on another brand ambassador for India, most likely Abhishek Bachchan, who has turned top draw over the past year after delivering a string of flops. Urquhart was non-committal about the move, but said Omega's brand ambassador "could be somebody unknown, though it is easier if (the person is) known".

That will mark a radical departure for luxury watches. India already has internationally acknowledged Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai endorsing Longines, and Shah Rukh Khan and former Miss Universe and actress Sushmita Sen endorsing Tag Heuer.

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Suveen K Sinha in Basel