Brand aid turn- off
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.