The celebrity machine took hold in advertising decades ago, and as Ad Men and Joe Public we’ve been pushing, pulling and undressing celebs to capture a sneak peak into the brands they live with. But, the influx of semi-celebrity, the invention of zelebrity’s and the see and forget nature of the media means that at any one time there are a huge number of people looking to cash-in on their 15 minutes of fame.
To the media industry it’s heaven, always a personality, always a story. But to the advertising industry this can pose a problem. Largely due to the inflated expectations from celebrity endorsed organisations that if you hire them, business will come, and when it doesn’t there’s rarely enough budget to do anything else. However, when you get it right it can be the brand’s difference between relevant abruption and total oblivion. We have found over the past few years that if we stick to these golden rules for celebrity endorsement you can still go awfully wrong, but here goes.
1. Choose someone relevant. Crazy as it seems, some treat celebrity deals like shopping for clothes. It’s essential that the “face of” fits for the faces that are staring right back at you.
2. Cost will drive selection, of course, but the cheaper the celeb, the less brand equity they’re likely to have. There is a point where the celeb is so low profile you should hardly bother.
3. Avoid overnight sensations. Who knows where they’ll be tomorrow, or how they’re likely to behave.
4. Treat celeb endorsement exactly the same way as any other relationship. Start off casual, don’t over commit, see how you get on. After a few years it may form into something concrete, or not. But at least you have the choice.
5. Be clear, get your contracts in place, agree the remit and negotiate the price upfront. Make sure there are break clauses in place, it’s as important for you to get out as it is for their agent to get in.
6. Get an agency to negotiate on your behalf. It removes the emotional bind, it’s easier to negotiate when it’s not your money, and celebrity agents are usually seasoned. You need to know what you’re doing if you want to strike the right deal.
7. Pre-plan your exit. If it goes pear shaped you need to extract your brand with minimum collateral damage. Get a disaster recovery plan in place. Most PR agencies worth their salt will have a formula for disaster recovery.
8. Make sure you assign a suitably proportionate media budget, and avoid measuring the success of any celeb endorsement solely through column inches. Celebrity will drive coverage, but that’s not the only point. It’s about relevant coverage, brand awareness and ultimately at some stage, uplift in sales.
9. Social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, may seem like a volume game, but rarely pay back commercially. Remember that raising the brand profile is a numbers game, but it’s not. The value lies in targeting the right audience, not the only audience.
10. Last but not least, remember who pays the bill. You need a good and trusting working relationship. The most successful relationships turn into partnerships because they’re symbiotic, so you can both grow your brands together. They’re hard to establish, but worth the effort, just look at Homer Simpson and Domino’s Pizza.