From the NRL’s night of nights, The Dally M Awards, to the ASTRA Awards and Oprah’s trip down under, Karen Eck has seen it all.
As the founder of public relations agency eckfactor and celebrity manager, Eck has pulled together large scale red carpet events, and she has plenty of stories up her sleeve.
She shares the marketing lessons learned in the process.
1. Be different
It’s a lesson that applies to multiple stakeholders involved with the red carpet, from the stars to the organisers of the event; it pays to step away from the norm.
For the talent and stylists, it’s a case of selecting an unusual gown that will catch the eye of photographers. And for photographers, there’s little value in being among 30 snappers who all captured the exact same image; it’s going to make it much harder to monetise.
The director of one photo agency tells the tale of a red carpet event resulting in 400,000 photos of Angelina Jolie. On the red carpet as in marketing, it pays to find ways for everyone to get something a little unique. The result will be much better cut through.
2. Prepare for the unexpected – and go with it
No matter how much trouble you go to in order to get all your ducks in a row, things invariably can and do go wrong.
How do you prepare, for example, for a former footballer to accidentally take out a chunk of a media wall with his knee (without noticing), or a gust of wind that blows up the dress of one of the stars on the red carpet to reveal she’s not wearing underwear?
When exactly that happened to Kerri-Anne Kennerley at this year’s ASTRA Awards, she took it in her stride with a smile as long as the split in her dress. Only one photographer was in the perfect position to capture the shot and it was the most talked about image from the night.
It was a win-win, mainly because of Kerri-Anne’s unflappable professionalism. With the help of a great stylist, hair and makeup, a pro publicist and manager in the wings, she came to the red carpet with the right attitude – look great, feel fabulous and have some fun.
The end result was stealing the show. Without that flexible attitude, it could easily have gone another way. Marketers take note.
3. Looking pretty isn’t enough
While the stylists responsible for the talent and the event styling of the red carpet know it’s vital to putting on a good show, looks aren’t everything.
In the case of the stars, photographers are interested in animated talent. They want something different and surprising. Knowing how to work the red carpet beyond stock standard poses has the potential to boost a star’s star power.
The lesson applies to marketing in general – a glossy ad campaign or stylish product packaging will only get you so far. It’s that extra something on top that will help people to remember you. Just ask Aussie actress Rebel Wilson who made headlines at the premiere of her film Night at the Museum: Secrets of the Tomb when her co-star – a monkey – decided to climb on her shoulder.
Forget the other big name talent involved with the film such as Ben Stiller and Ricky Gervais, it was Rebel everyone was talking about.
4. Invest in social
You should be able to follow any red carpet based purely on a hashtag. In order to achieve that, the size of your social team needs to be on par with that of the staff handling the logistics. Today, red carpets are at the forefront of social technology.
When the Twitter Mirror – a selfie taking handheld mirror that posts straight to the social news platform – first burst onto the scene, we used it on our red carpets. Ditto personal video streaming app Periscope and Instagram’s Gravity Room. The Dally M’s employed a similar approach backstage at this year’s event.
There are a lot of moving parts to think about when it comes to a red carpet, much like any marketing campaign. You can’t afford to scrimp on social in either case and your audience will get a kick out of the latest advances in technology, so it pays to keep up to date on the latest trends.
5. Choose your audience
In 2012, eckfactor was tasked with taking rugby league’s night of nights, the Dally M Awards, to a new level. We used the red carpet to raise the look, feel and reputation to one of high glamour and style. In order to achieve this, we sought out A-List celebrities who are genuine fans of the game.
While respected personalities such as Andrew Denton and Russell Crowe aren’t necessarily going to make the best-dressed lists (no offence Andrew and Rusty), they added serious cachet to the event. Yes, they are both immensely popular Australian stars, a drawcard on any guest list, but the key to having them involved was their genuine love of rugby league.
It’s not dissimilar to marketers seeking an ambassador for their brand, product or cause. You can’t simply pick someone because they’re famous – there needs to be a true connection if you want to be authentic.
6. Gather your A-Team
At the 2012 Dally M’s we pulled together a team of designer stylists, hair and makeup artists to help the wives and girlfriends of the players feel comfortable and excited about the event. Our A-team took the guesswork out of the big night and allowed everyone invited to relax and have fun.
Today the Dally M’s red carpet is one of the most talked about red carpets of the year – for all the right reasons. Much of that success is a direct result of what our team was able to accomplish three years ago. We set the bar then and the event continues to exceed it today. Go A-team!
7. Smile, it won’t kill you
To the casual observer, red carpets look like the most fun you could have in heels but anyone that’s ever worked one – from the stars strutting their stuff to the important looking person with a clipboard – will tell you it isn’t always a laugh a minute.
But if you can go out of your way to make people comfortable, often they walk away from the experience surprised by how much they enjoyed it. People like to work with positive people and that’s true in any business. I once asked a photographer to leave a red carpet because he could not have looked less pleased to be there.
He later apologised for his behaviour. It doesn’t cost a thing to have a positive attitude and the return on your investment will always be enormous.