In a week marked by celebrity deaths, we are reminded of the role of celebrities in the world of advertising and business. Love them or hate them, entertainers with their high profiles and glamorous looks have the power to drive buying behavior. Yeah, there are folks who claim some sort of high road and internal compass, but not everyone. Some of us want Tiger Woods Golf clubs and Michael Jordan’s shoes. They probably won’t make us better golfers or faster runners but in 2008, Michael Jordan’s line of Nike stuff brought in $800 million in sales.
It isn’t known how many people bought magazines because Ed McMahon was pitching Publisher’s Clearing House, or how much Farah Fawcett drove hairspray sales, but Billy Mays knew how to pitch to us. He drove $200 million in sales to the OxiClean business. So it was ironic that as news of his death broke on one channel, his show, “Pitchmen” was airing on another. As for Michael Jackson, he wasn’t known for his business savvy or his endorsements but his Pepsi ads – at the time a huge deal at $5 million – are thought to be a turning point for celebrities in advertising.
While cosmetics companies are known for hiring models, this year CoverGirl Cosmetics hired comedian Ellen DeGeneres to market its anti-aging line. Maybe it’s funny to look back and realize that using the cosmetics didn’t result in a higher population of good looking women like Christie Brinkley, Tyra Banks or Keri Russell. Or maybe we age more gracefully with laughter. Or we just love Ellen.
Of course marketers everywhere know that the Midas touch belongs not only to those who sell mufflers, but also to Oprah. Oprah doesn’t endorse products – well not officially anyway. She endorses people and they get their own shows or restaurants or books or home accessories line and then they can endorse products. Oprah if you’re out there, we’ve got a product or two with your name – almost on them.
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