Campaigns emerge as critical safety nets

The new multitasking Hollywood actress needs a smart, innovative business model. She must constantly shift gears as she goes from acting to directing/producing to hawking for advertisers and then back to acting. The ad campaign, in effect, serves as career insurance, sort of a guarantee that she won’t be forgotten if her movie tanks. Auds may not recall when they last saw a Scarlett Johansson film, but chances are they’ll remember her in that sexy Dolce and Gabbana ad campaign.

“Celebs are a viable option for brands from a lot of standpoints,” says John Eckel, president and CEO of Alliance, the branded entertainment and marketing arm of Grey Advertising. “For the same reason that the consumer would purchase a brand that’s led by a celebrity, brands are leveraging that credibility, that celeb hip factor, that works for their brand.” 

It goes both ways.

“If the celebs get that exposure, that also increases their value when they do a film or TV project, as they just increased their audience through something that wasn’t even an acting gig,” says Maria Conti, VP of Matter, the branded content and entertainment marketing division of Edelman.

“And sometimes when you have a product that hasn’t really reached its capacity, celebs will be offered a percentage of the profit,” she adds. “That’s when it really becomes lucrative for them.”

Even in a poor economy, money continues to flow into the star actresses’ larders.

“Celebs are expensive,” Eckel adds. “And the brands right now are looking for surer things. So if you’re going to book with a celeb, you’ve got to be very sure that it’s going to click with the consumer.”

The celeb and the ad have to be a perfect match. A major mistake: Angelina Jolie hawking St. John. The conservative clothing manufacturer apparently thought Jolie could sell anything. But it was a lousy fit from the get-go since Palm Beach socialites weren’t buying into the tattooed Jolie’s message.

Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire magazine, thinks there’s an over-reliance by advertisers on big-name actresses. “Advertisers got sucked down the route of needing a celebrity,” she observes. “I’m not always sure that it’s necessary. Scarlett Johansson seems like a good match for Dolce and Gabbana, but I don’t know how effective Gwyneth Paltrow has been for the handbag company Tod’s. Paltrow has a very specific look: It’s much more vegetarian, organic and raw foods than Tod’s is. There’s an assumption among some fashion brands that all you need to do is get a big celeb and it will move the merch. I don’t think that’s true anymore.”

Advertisers are getting more and more creative with their marketing. Take Ellen DeGeneres, who is not your typical runway beauty. “The CoverGirl TV commercial was very offbeat,” Eckel says. “A great campaign. People like Oprah and DeGeneres — those types of people have that real star power.”

And advertisers have given celebs permission to get older. “You’ll find way more older celebrities on covers than you did five, 10 years ago,” Coles adds. “We have Cameron Diaz on July’s cover of Marie Claire. As the nation gets older we want our celebs to age with us — take Sally Field, Andie McDowell. Baby boomers are demanding that the celebs grow alongside them.”

And their advertising appeal grows with them.

“I think it’s a product of who’s out there buying now. The consumer is slightly older,” says fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. “Suddenly you can be Sarah Jessica Parker doing hair commercials. She’s not 25 anymore. All ad execs have recognized that it’s the baby boomer who’s buying everything.”

Also on the increase are celebs using their star power in “cause marketing.”

“The whole celeb trend in being involved in organizations and projects in which they really believe also helps build their brand,” Conti says. “For some of them, it’s about the money, but mostly it’s working with the cause that really aligns with their own concern. They’re really very, very savvy about not limiting it to acting.”

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