Remember a time when celebrity endorsement was simply a case of choosing a popular face that has a loose commonality with a brand? No? You probably won’t remember licking stamps and posting press releases by snail mail either then.
Times have inevitably changed and these days you wouldn’t put a bet on the fact that the latest ‘hot’ footballer or actor will propel a product or service positively into the limelight. In fact, an accumulator on Ashley Cole, Tiger Woods and Kerry Catona could kill off a brand altogether.
In addition to celebrities’ own misdemeanors, it is the enormity of the online world that is responsible for the increasingly risky tactic of using celebrities for endorsement. As the web is largely in the hands of the consumer and misbehaviour makes great reading and is shared instantly, reputations are harder to protect. The masses also have the ability to control celebrity content in the media, by submitting images of celebrities, or themselves with celebrities, to websites like celebsafari.com and the likes of Heat magazine.
Any agency advising clients on celebrity endorsement now must be engaged with the channels the target markets use. Only by being in tune with consumers’ conversations can an agency have the power to influence, but there is still an element of luck required.
For example, Golley Slater Manchester recently organised Hilton Rocks, a launch party to mark Hilton’s first 2010 hotel, in Liverpool. We knew the media would cover the event if we managed to entice celebrities – on a local level namely WAGs and the Hollyoaks cast. Our dreams were realised – and so were the paps’ – as Coleen Rooney, Alex Curran and Claudine Keane graced the black carpet, as did almost the entire cast from Channel 4’s teen soap, plus Sugababes were performing at the event.
The event attracted over £1m of positive media coverage, including front pages of OK! and Hello! magazines – the media wanted to capture Coleen on her first official night out after having baby Kai and photographers clamoured to get her best pose in front of our branded interview wall. These celeb-focused shots were teamed with wonderful write-ups about the party and also the hotel itself. Needless to say, the client was ecstatic.
However, if Hilton Rocks had been a week either side it could have been a different story altogether. Prior to the event there was much speculation about the newly formed Sugababes retaining their name, and post-event the Rooneys became embroiled in a royalties’ scandal. I empathise with any brand having a Pussycat Dolls tie-up this week…
So, as much as we can adopt best practice and advise clients on choosing a celebrity, we also need to be transparent about the risks involved. In my twelve years of experience, clients don’t like surprises and the best approach is to be open and honest.
Despite not being able to guarantee a positive outcome, here are some best practice steps agencies can adopt when establishing celebrity links:
- Have a collaborative approach – agencies need to be advising brands that it’s all about being networked, consistent messaging communicated on all available channels – given the current plethora of communications channels – blogs, forums, social media, broadcast and print, to name a few – it is impossible to spark a celebrity conversation on one while ignoring the rest.
- Be ahead of the trend – ensure you know the broadcast schedules, a regular call to production companies can keep you a step ahead of the game. Consumer-generated celebrities (X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Big Brother etc) can go from ‘hot’ to ‘cold’ and vice-versa in a flash so it’s imperative to be a step ahead.
- Stay close to the news agenda – as celebrity news changes in seconds it’s important to keep abreast of how stories progress – monitor key sites not just in the morning, but throughout the day too.
- Have a strong positive story, not just a face – despite the importance of image in the media, it’s important to hook in journalists with a good angle too. This will improve the likelihood of them covering your story rather than another related to that particular celebrity. For example, when Golley Slater held an event to launch the Northwest’s 2012 training camps on behalf of Sport England, the biggest challenge was to divert the media’s attention away from Andy Burnham MP’s involvement in the region’s lost casino bid and onto the improved sporting facilities which the region was going to benefit from.
- Be transparent with the client – agency life is full of obstacles and it is how we deal with these that matters. Clients don’t expect every campaign to run smoothly and they’re fully aware of the volatility of the news agenda, but they do need to be kept up to date of any hurdles and how the agency intends to approach these to achieve the best possible outcome.
- Read the small print – on booking any celebrity ensure the agreement clarifies the media remit. Chat to the agent/management about any planned embargoes/exclusives that could conflict with your requirements.