Aishwarya Rai still rides high on international endorsements

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) She may no longer be the the face of brands like Coca-Cola and Nakshatra diamond jewellery in India, but Aishwarya Rai is still riding high on successful and long-standing international endorsements.

Aishwarya has completed nearly a decade of endorsing Swiss luxury watch brand Longines and international soap Lux. She has also been the brand ambassador of global haircare brand L'Oreal since 2003.

Noted ad-man Prahlad Kakkar says Aishwarya is sought by well-known brands because she is more than just an actress and is often perceived as an ambassador of India.

"Aishwarya was never a big or major endorser of Indian products. She has an impressive list of international brands to her name and that's because she is not just an actress who can be judged on hits and flops, but the fact that she is a representative of the Indian woman and is an ambassador of the country," Kakkar, who made her famous as Sanju in a 1993 TV commercial for Pepsi, told IANS on phone from Mumbai.

Even representatives of the brands that Aishwarya endorses feel she adds a new dimension to their products.

"Aishwarya has been associated with us since 1999 and it is a big help. Not only in this country but also globally," Charles Villoz, vice president (sales) of Longines International, had earlier said.

"People across the world love Bollywood films and they go housefull. Wherever we have travelled (with Aishwarya) the response has been overwhelming. She is a global face and we would like to continue this association as long as possible," Villoz said.

For Aishwarya, who has made her presence felt internationally through English language films like "Bride and Prejudice", "Mistress of Spices", "Provoked" and "Pink Panther 2", signing films and endorsements has been a very selective affair.

When she was approached to promote L'Oreal's skin whitening cream, the beauty queen-turned-actress refused as she didn't want to endorse such a product especially in India, where one's skin colour is an issue, said a source close to Aishwarya.

"Whether it is films or endorsements, I am - and have been - very selective about my work. I take up work which suits me and fits in my schedule," Aishwarya had told IANS.

"I don't take projects that I cannot handle because I believe in totally fulfilling the commitments made by me," she added.

A lot had been said about Aishwarya's dipping popularity as Bollywood's reigning endorsement queen when 24-year-old Katrina Kaif replaced her as the face of Nakshatra jewellery last year.

And speculation was rife about the reason behind the replacement, with some saying that Katrina was roped in to add more youthfullness to the brand. But it was apparently Aishwarya who decided to dissociate herself from the brand.

"There was a lot of buzz when Katrina stepped in as the brand ambassador for Nakshatra. But it wasn't that Aishwarya was dethroned, because the brand was branching out into different accessories," the source close to the former Miss World said.

"Ash had earlier signed De Beers for their brand Nakshatra. Later De Beers sold this brand to the Gitanjali group and they started branching out into accessories like hairbands, clips, etc. That's when she decided to disassociate herself from the brand and later it went to Katrina," the source told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Aishwarya, who celebrated her second wedding anniversary with actor husband Abhishek Bachchan Monday, also had personal reasons to withdraw her association with Coca-Cola, one of the biggest brands she was endorsing in India.

"Aishwarya was never asked to leave endorsing a product, it was always her own decision. When she left Coca-Cola, it was a decision taken only after she was going to marry Abhishek because the Bachchans no longer believe in promoting and endorsing aerated drinks," the source added.

According to industry insiders, Aishwarya takes home nearly Rs.1 billion from advertising assignments annually.

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