Celebrity Marketing and Music’s Biggest Night: What the Oscars Can Learn from the Grammys


A clear message and a celebrity might not be enough.

Though its ambitions may look more like the Super Bowl, the Oscars would be foolish not to learn from the successes and failures of its fellow award show titan, the Grammys. The show featured some of the most groundbreaking ad campaigns ever aired, and though some may have polarized the public, they left a lasting impression on the 25 million viewers.

After singer David Bowie passed away on January 10th, Lady Gaga teamed up with Intel to celebrate, not only the life of the legendary singer, but also the power of music as it entwines with the potential of technology. Her performance was considered a highlight of the show for many people, but having an Intel ad immediately following it drew criticism for capitalizing on a tragedy. Controversy aside, the campaign’s powerful message won it widespread attention, and with over 56 million followers on Twitter, Lady Gaga appears to have been the perfect partner.

Target took an even bigger gamble when they also sponsored a unique performance with a blonde pop star. To promote her latest single, Gwen Stefani appeared in an unprecedented four minute commercial in which she filmed her music video live. The entire campaign reportedly cost Target $12 million dollars, forcing the question of why they chose her for such a massive event. It has been ten years since she has released a hit single, and initial forecasts for her current effort do not appear very promising. With her Target-exclusive album due in March, only time will tell if the gamble pays off.

Sometimes, it is best to let the message take the foreground. In a collaborative new campaign titled “Music Makes it Home,” Apple and Sonos sought to inspire people with testimonials from the lead performers of St. Vincent, the National, and Run the Jewels. The ad did everything it needed to and nothing more, proving that simplicity often rings the loudest.

With music taking a supporting role to the stars of the big screen on February 28th, it will be fascinating to see which brands take advantage of the opportunity. Hyundai and Coca-Cola, former centerpieces of the Oscars’ commercial breaks, have both decided to sit out on the show this year, but even still the ads are sold out. With each 30-second spot costing nearly $2 million and 62% of viewers being women, the mission for those participating is clear. With a defined message and a relevant celebrity to get it across, the commercials themselves can feel like part of the show.

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Celebrity Marketing: How Much Should You Pay a Celebrity?

Fair Market Value

Fair market value for celebrity endorsement is like the weather: it will be different tomorrow than today.

It would be great if you could research the price of celebrity endorsements online. For example, Celebrity Endorsement Ads is a great resource of endorsement deals in the entertainment world.

With this type of online research, you can often find some pricing information but it will lack important details such as a varying list of services and usages.

Unfortunately, the detailed information is guarded by agents.

Understanding the nuances of fair market value enables you to make the right offer which is a win for both your brand and the celebrity. An offer that is high enough not to embarrass the celebrity, yet low enough not to wildly overpay.

Here are five things you should know:

1. Agent’s Perception of Fair Market Value

Agents have the most access to celebrity endorsement contract information and pool it to use against brands in negotiations.

2. Celebrity’s Perception of Fair Market Value

A celebrity’s perception of their market value is based on what they’ve been paid for similar endorsements in the past, but can be more emotional. Their self-worth rises or falls based on their future career opportunities, personal finances, ego as well as what they’ve been paid for similar endorsements.

3. A Brand’s Perception of Fair Market Value

Brands often lack the necessary information to negotiate a fair endorsement contract. Naively, they will make a ludicrous low-ball offer which could backfire and greatly increase their cost. To get their celebrity of choice, they may even initially offer their entire marketing budget.

4. Brand Categories Pay Different Prices

Categories which are heavy users of celebrity endorsers pay more. Why? An agent’s nightmare is to reach an agreement, but then receive another offer that is much higher before the original deal is finalized.

Agents hold out for more services and money because of supply and demand. Less celebrities available for brands drives up the cost of endorsement contracts.

5. Over Paying Brands Skew Fair Market Value

I was meeting with one of the largest food companies in the world on a celebrity project when they announced the signing of a high profile golf celebrity. I asked them, how did you decide what to pay? The answer blew me away. Their budget was $800,000 so they decided to offer it all. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t have enough information to know that they could have easily gotten the deal for almost half that price.

So, the asking price for the next endorsement deal just became $300,000 more than it should be.This is how fair market value gets skewed.

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Make Celebrity Marketing Affordable by Using Twitter

Celebrity Marketing with Twitter

A Twitter-only campaign is a cost effective way to associate your brand with a celebrity and reach thousands of engaged consumers.

Compared to buying digital or televised ad time, a paid tweet campaign carries a relatively low cost and reaches your target audience through a credible, third-party celebrity endorsement.

Here are six tips to reduce and control the costs of a Twitter campaign:

1. Hire a Celebrity with Highly Engaged Followers

Quality over quantity.

Some celebrities might have a smaller Twitter following (maybe only 80,000-150,000, which for some brands may seem low). However, if their followers are active and engaged with the celebrity, it can make for a more meaningful campaign, as opposed to using a celebrity that has over a million followers who are not as actively engaged.

2. Twitter Account Activity Guides the Celebrity Selection

You want a celebrity who is an active Twitter user and someone who has posted recently.

If a celebrity is inactive, their followers won’t be as engaged and most will likely miss a branded tweet.

3. Connecting to Your Brand

Select a celebrity who strongly appeals to your target audience. This will ensure credibility and will greatly increase their connection with your brand.

It is crucial to the campaign’s success that the tweet(s) are believable.

Example: You wouldn’t want a teenage pop singer posting about car tires, but you absolutely would want them posting about a new brand of clothing or maybe a teenage safe driving campaign.

There are various resources such as E-Scores that measure data and provide analytics on the potential reach and appeal a celebrity may hold amongst multiple demographic.

4. Determine the Number of Tweets

Once you choose the celebrity, determine how many tweets you want posted.

Keep in mind, a limited amount of tweets not only keeps cost down but actually increases the likelihood a celebrity will agree to participate.

Bundling multiple tweets (wrapping 2 or 3 together over a period of time) often creates a per tweet cost savings (i.e. one tweet might cost $5,000, but you could possibly get 3 tweets for $12,000).

Any more than 2-3 tweets is usually less attractive to celebrities as it becomes more like a spokesperson campaign.

5. Don’t Require Exclusivity

Most of the time, celebrities will not agree to exclusivity for Twitter-only campaigns because they don’t want to eliminate a potential product category down the road.

One of the real benefits of a Twitter-only campaign is taking advantage of the cost efficient opportunity to work with a celebrity that might normally be out of your budget range. Asking for exclusivity will drive your cost up significantly, eliminating any of those savings.

While it is not illegal for your nonexclusive celebrity to tweet about a competitor brand shortly after your campaign, it is however very unlikely.

6. Tweet Content

Crafting the Tweet(s) is the most important part of the campaign.

The key is to write it with the celebrity’s authentic voice in mind. This is harder than it seems so allow additional time for editing and input from the celebrity and/or the celebrity’s team.

Also remember the FTC guidelines: If a celebrity is accepting payment for the Tweet(s) they must include #ad or #sponsored at the end of each and every paid Tweet.

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4 Brand Building Benefits of Celebrity Marketing

Consumers are more likely to choose goods and services endorsed by celebrities, than those without such endorsements.

The use of product endorsers in American advertising dates back over a century, to 1870. In 1905, the cigarette industry was the first to use entertainment personalities, when Murad Cigarettes hired Fatty Arbuckle and Harry Bulger to appear in their ads.

The modern era of celebrity endorsement can be traced to 1934, when Wheaties signed Lou Gehrig as their spokesman, beginning the brand’s storied tradition of featuring athletes.

Today, the use of recognized personalities to sell brands has become an increased component of marketing communications, with approximately 20% of all television commercials now feature a famous person.

Practical sales-based evidence along with numerous commercial and academic studies demonstrate that celebrity-based advertising works:

  • Snoop Dogg’s $100 million 1-year positive impact on Tommy Hilfiger apparel
  • “Glow By J. Lo”, which generated $44 million in the first 4 months
  • Kirstie Alley drives up sales 120% over 18 months while losing 75 lbs. on Jenny Craig
  • Jamie Lee Curtis increased sales 50% year one and became synonymous with Activia

The four most important brand-building benefits of celebrity-based marketing are: instant credibility, ready-made likeability, easy-to-grasp product differentiation, and allows brands to cut through the clutter of advertising messages.

1. Credibility

A key to maximizing celebrity endorsements, is properly matching the endorser’s persona to the product’s attributes.

A trustworthy and well-liked celebrity, when matched to the right product (where the celebrity’s use of the product is believable), provides a powerful reason to believe claims made by the advertising (e.g., Jeff Gordon’s use of Quaker State Motor Oil).

In general, consumers are more likely to believe that an endorsed product is of higher quality than a parity item that is not endorsed.

2. Likeability

Purchase of the endorsed product allows the end-user/buyer to share the celebrity’s positive experience. This can have a dramatic effect with lower-priced items.

3. Product Differentiation

Well-known celebrities with high positive consumer ratings can act to coalesce the market around a particular product or brand (e.g., Michael Jordan’s impact for Nike, ESPN, Gatorade, etc.). This allows the execution of copy platforms with a “universal” appeal, thus reducing the need for message variations specific to the more parochial concerns of individual consumer groups.

4. Cut-through

Brand images built through celebrities achieve a higher degree of attention and recall for consumers. Famous people are significantly more likely to hold the viewer’s attention, and an especially important benefit in the current environment of channel-surfing and mass delivery of messages that demand consumers’ time.  

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Celebrity Marketing: The Danger of Negotiating with A Celebrity Directly

celebrities and brands

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client” – Abraham Lincoln

President Lincoln’s quote is true in a court of law, yet is it true in the marketing world with celebrities?

Many marketing executives believe it is as easy as calling an agent and negotiating a deal similar to any other project they might work on. Unfortunately, this mind set is hazardous to a marketing budget and hiring the celebrity a brand wants.

 If you or your brand is involved in litigation with thousands or millions of dollars at stake, do you represent yourself, or do you hire a litigation attorney who specializes? When your company seeks a new senior executive, does it scan the want ads or hire an executive search firm who specializes in your industry? 

Even when companies work on specific projects, expert consultants are frequently used.  With any celebrity endorsement, how many companies have essential inside information on competitive conflicts, other contract fees, and their fair market value?

The answers are obvious, so why do brand marketers continue to personally negotiate celebrity contracts? 

In many cases, the lure to negotiate and ultimately befriend a star is irresistible.  Sometimes this “star-blinded” marketer assumes negotiating with an agent should be straight forward and even is some cases, easy.

Negotiating directly with celebrity agents without knowing the fair market value and estimated fees for other current contracts grossly exposes marketers to serious problems, especially overpaying. The money issue then turns into the question of perceived value versus actual value, not a very good point to be at in the decision-making process.

Why would it cost me more money to negotiate with a celebrity directly?

Let me answer with the following real example:

One ex-NFL Pro Bowl quarterback was paid $500,000 for a one-year campaign by an ad agency representing a new client eager to break into the sports industry. Why did the client overpay by up to $375,00.00? Because the agent played hardball and gave them a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum and the client was afraid that all similar names would be as expensive. Unfortunately for the client, the athlete had signed another spokesperson deal within the year for $375,000 less less than what the eager company paid.

Not knowing fair market value is dangerous and could even cost a brand its first choice. No one should settle for second, third or even fifth choice and risk not meeting brand objectives.

So what is the best way to proceed?

With billions of dollars spent on celebrity endorsements annually, it will remain a fixture in mainstream advertising.  Yet, even as the task becomes more daunting with ad budgets and sales revenues at stake, many marketers continue to blindly negotiate with celebrity agents.  To avoid this trap, many brands use an expert to step up to the plate.

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