5 Ways Brands Use Pop Culture Icons in Cross-Platform Campaigns

How to promote multi-tasking talent...

Sesame Street Big Birdman Video Image

‘Celebrity Row’ at New York Knicks games is a longtime tradition featuring courtside appearances by well-known personalities who attend to (in most cases) watch the team lose.

Of course, sports teams aren’t the only “brands” supported by celebrities and other pop culture icons: personalities with healthy followings now wield more social influence on an ever-expanding number of digital platforms. In response, brands have enlisted them to work on a wider range of projects from charities to parodies.

At the recent Media Summit New York, media and marketing executives discussed the merits of such cross-platform initiatives and called on case studies to show those that had achieved diverse objectives. These examples could be helpful to PRs when developing their own multi-tiered programs for brands.

The panelists included:
Melissa Palazzo-Hart, president, Ant Farm (creative entertainment agency)
• Harvey Schwartz, SVP of talent, WhoSay (celebrity social publishing platform)
Paul Kelly, VP music brand sales, Viacom Music and Logo Group
• Nick Mehra, head of global media and entertainment sponsorships, Spotify
Jennifer Perry, VP worldwide publishing, Sesame Workshop

1. Leveraging celebrity personalities (Palazzo-Hart, Ant Farm)

“Celebrities are brands in human form. We partnered with Kevin Spacey on Call of Duty, a video game with the theme ‘power changes everything.’ One wouldn’t typically think of the actor as a gamer, but he was able to transfer his tough guy image as Frank Underwood on the Netflix series House of Cards. He was also quite willing to promote the game at events he attended.”

2. Encouraging charity involvement (Schwartz, WhoSay)

“We’re empowering our celebrity content creators. For #justgotjingled, JC Penney‘s charity campaign, John Stamos appeared in disguise in a store to buy gifts for holiday shoppers. It was the actor’s idea, and at WhoSay we’ve found it works better when the talent has the freedom to develop their own creative. That way it’s not scripted, and will perhaps even go viral.”

3. Releasing awards announcements (Kelly, Viacom)

“Now social is part of our core strategy and digital is part of our early stage development when dealing with our big music talent. For the VMAs/Video Music Awards this year, MTV piloted with SnapChat and announced some of the winners on the platform. We’ve seen huge audience growth on SnapChat and Facebook video that’s driven by live televised events.”

4. Mobilizing awards voters (Mehra, Spofify)

“We enable media and entertainment companies to leverage music, and we have a global audience. Sometimes that means curation as content, like when the talent selects playlists. We partnered with Sam Smith on a ‘stream to vote’ campaign for the Grammy Awards’ Artist of the Year. This was a way of using our platform for amplifying our audience’s views.”

5. Creating parodies to increase sharing (Perry, Sesame Workshop)

“We want deeper engagement to build depth around an audience that will stick with us past age 4. We want people coming to our site to see viral videos, since that leads to multigenerational sharing. Our video parody of the film Birdman using Big Bird was released prior to the Academy Awards, for viewers’ consideration, and generated some pre-Oscar buzz.”

Maybe Big Bird will appear next at Madison Square Garden’s Celebrity Row – or better still, given his height, even be drafted for next year’s team.

(Image courtesy of Sesame Street Workshop)