Celebrities are still hugely successful for brand campaigns and creative agencies should work with their talent counterparts to secure the talent far earlier in a pitch says Lauren Miller Cilento, CEO of HMMG (formerly known as the Harry M Miller Group).
Cilento naturally has a bias towards brands using celebrities in campaigns (after all, she runs a talent agency) and says the extra money required to secure a personality as a face of a brand pays back in spades, ROI and products sold when compared with, what she calls, using a “zero person”.
“Sure, you pay celebs big bucks (to front a brand) but it can build in so many elements into that campaign,” Cilento told B&T.
“You start with the TVC, go into social, it might go to outdoor or print or radio. That fully-integrated campaign is going to get far more bang for (a client’s) buck in my view, with a big name that’s going to cut through on every element of content, over some zero person.
“The ideal campaign for us (is having HMMG talent) in a big, highly visible TVC that’s the hero piece in the campaign and then everything filters down from that, it’s just as important. From the 30-second TVC we want cut downs, billboards, broadcast TV.
“We’ll pitch our talent to creative agencies and some of them don’t like that but the good ones do,” she said.
Cilento cites one of HMMG’s chief talents, former Olympian swimmer Elka Whalan (nee: Graham), who’s in hot demand from brands due to her good, wholesome, sports-star-turned-mum appeal.
“Brands love the wholesome mum, we do. And no one does it better then Elka. The wholesome mum is talking directly to that grocery buyer mum. There’s zero risk with the wholesome mum because they’re trusted, they’re cleanskins. Take Elka, she’s clean, she’s scandal-fee and that’s because of the way she’s conducted herself her entire life; she’s open, she’s honest and she’s now had three kids and she talks directly to that mummy audience.”
Nor is Cilento a fan of the influencer or blogger who, she argues, are often “nobodies who are just in it for the dough”.
“These people will promote anything and everything for money. I think people can see through that, there’s no sincerity,” she said. “What’s the thing that fuels the marketing budget? It’s sales and the bottom line. That’s the thing with these influencers and bloggers, what they do isn’t measurable. The brand never knows if there’s a huge spike in return for their investment.”
Rather a celebrity, Cilento argues, brings with them, quite often, a large audience or fan base. “It’s about matching the brand with the (celebrities’) attitude. And, yes, some celebrities do carry more risk than say your Elka Whalans. But a lot of brands want that, they want that risk and they want them to explode, do something that will attract attention. Look at the number of brands attracted to a guy like Shane Warne. You think they don’t know the risks with him? They want him to end up on the front page of the newspaper.”
But Cilento agrees celebrity can, on occasions, go wrong and backfire on brands. The recent antics of Grant Hackett a case in point. “It can happen but it’s an exception not the rule, though. Not every celebrity campaign ends with someone getting nipple-crippled on an airplane. That’s unusual behaviour. However, if you’re dealing with trusted management they should’ve done all the due diligence. If I’m pitching my talent for a campaign it’s my responsibility as their agent to be putting a robust pitch to those media agencies.”
But what it’s really about is “moving the needle and selling the widgets”, Cilento said. “Having a large Twitter following is only part of the story not the story. You still need your high profile spends like TV or magazines or whatever. But yes, brands will get greater bang for their buck if they spread the spend over a number of channels.”
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