Brand aid turn- off

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

Is it just me or am I a fully fledged grumpy old cynic? When emails de­liv­er­ing the breath­less news of the ap­point­ment of some celebrity as a “brand am­bas­sador” land in my in­box, my bulls… de­tec­tor swings around like a lazy Su­san in a wind­storm.

With­out even check­ing to see which celeb is am­bas­sador- ing what prod­uct, I hit “delete”.

I do so be­cause it is near im­pos­si­ble to write about a brand am­bas­sador with­out cross­ing the ed­i­to­rial line that sep­a­rates it from ad­ver­tis­ing.

Brand am­bas­sador- hood is brought in when a brand is ei­ther get­ting es­tab­lished, is es­tab­lished but needs an oomph, or is fad­ing.

To com­bat this sit­u­a­tion, the mar­keters come to the unin­spired de­ci­sion of: “What we need here is a big name to pro­mote our prod­uct.”

So they ap­proach some celeb, of­fer to dump a bucket of cash into their ac­count and a truck­ful of pro­duce to their home, to try to make us be­lieve the celeb in ques­tion has al­ways cho­sen this prod­uct of their own free will. Maybe they have, but I’m not buy­ing it.

Just last week on Me­dia Watch there were ac­cu­sa­tions of cer­tain pub­li­ca­tions tak­ing the brand am­bas­sador bait and run­ning free ad­ver­to­ri­als in the guise of ed­i­to­rial on their pages, which is ei­ther lazy jour­nal­ism, sucker- born- ev­eryminute- ism, or a com­bi­na­tion of both.

Iron­i­cally, it’s when a brand am­bas­sador­ship back­fires and an am­bas­sador’s true pref­er­ences are re­vealed that is far more en­light­en­ing.

Like when Pepsi brand am­bas­sador Brit­ney Spears was re­peat­edly spot­ted throw­ing back Cokes, or when soc­cer star Ronald­inho did the same in re­verse; spon­sored by Coke, he was dropped af­ter ap­pear­ing with a can of Pepsi at a press con­fer­ence, cost­ing him mil­lions.

I’d pre­fer a clever cam­paign that uses hu­mour and un­known faces to cap­ture my imag­i­na­tion, rather than pig­gy­back­ing on some sportsper­son’s suc­cess or some ge­net­i­cally blessed in­di­vid­ual’s looks to pro­mote a prod­uct that had noth­ing to do with their rise to fame.

This week we saw former Soc­ceroo star Harry Kewell get into hot wa­ter over his role as a brand am­bas­sador for a cer­tain car com­pany.

The al­le­ga­tions were con­fus­ing, but the upshot was that af­ter be­ing paid a lot of money to drive a cer­tain make of car, he paid some of that money to a former car com­pany boss for school fees and busi­ness class flights.

Which might just be a mate help­ing out a mate, who knows? What was far more in­ter­est­ing was the rev­e­la­tion the car com­pany has Kewell on a $ 3 mil­lion, three- year con­tract.

What does this ac­tu­ally say about a car other than they’ve paid some­one $ 3 mil­lion to drive it?

Even if that type of car is Kewell’s ve­hi­cle of choice, how would we know?

Wouldn’t it make a far bet­ter im­pres­sion if com­pa­nies paid big bucks to the celeb in ques­tion for rights to pa­parazzi shots: “Look at the car this celebrity is driv­ing – and they paid for it them­selves?”

But since that’s un­likely, I’ll just stick to my brand am­bas­sador an­ti­dote, which is when they start to speak about how fab­u­lous the prod­uct is, I do the old Top Gun- in­spired cough into the fist while mut­ter­ing, ‘ bulls…,’ combo, which never fails to give me a sat­is­fied glow.

Mois­turiser en­dorse­ment, any­one?

MIXED MES­SAGES: Brit­ney Spears as a brand am­bas­sador for Pepsi in 2004.

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