A Different Tune

The comments on these columns often say the same thing: the columnist has simply repeated what everyone already knows. Well, unless you’re in the music or talent business, here’s an inside track you haven’t read before and I candidly doubt you already know. I give you the top 10 list of things you probably don’t know but need to about celebrity and popular-song usage and negotiations.

1. Don’t plead poverty: Saying your client is poor to lower a spokesperson’s fee will most likely cause the celeb to doubt the financial viability of your client and cause them to stay away. Conversely, I have ad clients who ask us to tell celebrities how rich and successful their company is. They think this will make the celeb want to be “part of their team” and that it will somehow lower the celeb’s fee. Interestingly narcissistic, but wrong.

2. Nail down specifics: Do not include in your contract with talent everything conceivable your client may need, only include what it definitely needs. The reality is that you are unlikely to utilize many of the services you thought should be included. Some personal appearance days will go unused; the direct-mail piece and employee video won’t be produced; and the all-important golf game with the client CEO will never get played. Almost every contract we do now includes Web site use, but few advertisers really put their commercials on their own Web site. But do include banner ads if you really use them.

3. Don’t count on a band being hungry: Because some unknown bands and singers want exposure on commercials, you’ve convinced yourself that even the high-ticket band you want in your ad should be cheap. They won’t be.

4. Be real — celebrities are just people: They range from insecure to egomaniacal and from brilliant to stupid. Each has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. And if you think you already knew this one, yours is a false bravado. I’ve watched lots of you toughies fold into cream puffs the moment a celebrity challenges you. I’ve also watched the opposite, as you act macho to prove how unaffected by celebrity status you are that you blow deals with your combative attitude. Try being real and telling the truth — it’ll be refreshing.

5. Legislating morality: A standard, well-written morals clause is fine. Don’t reinvent the wheel into a three-page dissertation because of OJ, Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps. The following will sound like hindsight in
light of the Tiger and Dad commercial, but the advice I’ve been giving for years is to not try to rehab a spokesperson if they embarrass themselves. In my experience the public doesn’t stop buying Nike products and corn flakes or renting Hertz cars when their respective spokesperson heads south on the Ten Commandments. Relax. Get some money back, change spokespeople, move on.

6. Don’t believe partnership promises: The promotional fliers and e-mails you get from talent agents, music publishers and record companies about how they’ll “partner” with you and be part of the “team” working toward common goals is warm and fuzzy, but a complete non-reality. They’ll start negotiating against you and your client the moment you show interest in their wares.
7. Celebrities are not all rich and fabulous: Not all celebrities are wealthy and live in fantasy homes, drive perfect cars and have mostly celebrity friends. Nor do they work past the age of 60 because they love what they do and don’t need the money. So don’t base your negotiation
tactics on these misconceptions.

8. Be realistic about your creative: The creative you submit for your potential spokesperson is often not a tour de force of creative genius no matter how you try to sell it, so don’t expect talent to leap at participating because of it.