Brands Keep in Sync With Celebrities

NEW YORK A celebrity spokesperson can provide a powerful face for a brand’s advertising, but how can clients make certain they get the right fit? A panel discussed the complexities of signing superstars during the final day of Advertising Week here today.

Jae Goodman, co-executive creative director at Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, and his client, Brad Davis Fogel, chief marketing officer of the 24 Hour Fitness chain of gyms, along with Danielle Korn, evp and director of broadcast operations at McCann Erickson in New York, and Peter Hess, an agent at Creative Artists Agency, each offered his or her perspective.

A relationship between a celebrity and a brand can only work if the celebrity truly fits into the message the marketer is trying to convey, Goodman noted.

“It sounds obvious, but it starts with the brand,” he said. “Many agencies make the mistake of starting with the celebrity.”

Fogel and Goodman discussed their ads for 24 Hour Fitness, which feature superstar athletes Magic Johnson, Andre Agassi and Lance Armstrong. In their case, they said, the relationship worked because they go into business with the athletes, putting their name on gyms in their home markets.

Hess noted that his role in the process was to keep agency staffers abreast of new and upcoming stars and artists, who might not otherwise be on their radar. But because so many agents do this (agencies are flooded with promo material), it boils down to relationships: if people know him and trust him, they’ll trust what he says about new talent.

Korn noted that celebrity partnerships are the easiest when the personality gets something in return, especially when an agency or client is asking the star to poke fun at him or herself. When McCann signed Pamela Anderson to do an ad for Verizon Wireless’ V-cast service, she did so in part because she was able to promote her TV show Stacked in the ad.

The panel closed by discussing how new technology such as broadcasting via mobile phones will affect contracts with celebrities. Hess argued that celebrities should be paid more because they would be on more screens, while Korn said the price should stay the same. There are more screens, Korn said, but the same number of eyeballs because people are watching TV less than in the past.