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The DRTV X-factor: Celebrity Endorsements

October 2007 By Britt Brouse
Using celebrities to endorse products in DRTV has proven successful for many marketers, but it is not a catch-all solution for increased sales. Planning a DRTV celebrity endorsement campaign proves to be a unique experiment with a real human element. Choosing a celeb takes left-brain intuition and right-brain research, and the pros and cons must be weighed on a case-by-case basis.

First figure out whether or not your campaign requires a celebrity endorser. Doug Garnett, president of Portland, Ore.-based Atomic Direct, a full service DRTV agency, sees an overwhelming amount of advertisers using celebrities as gimmicks for bland products. A celebrity endorser should add depth and personality to an already strong product. “If you have a bad product, a celebrity won’t make it take off,” says Garnett.

Co-branding Celebrities and Products
It is helpful to think of your product and endorser as two brands. “The actual product has to be in alignment with the celebrity brand,” says Andrew Gordon, president of Newton, Mass.-based Direct Impact Group, a direct marketing agency. For example, consumers did not believe that Tiger Woods actually drove a Buick, so the company recently dropped him as a sponsor.

Co-branding the product and the celebrity is a tricky issue that can impact future sales, products and programs. Garnett sees the Slaton/George Foreman Grill partnership as a brand failure “because it chose to brand the product so strongly for George Foreman, the company never built any value for itself out of that,” he explains. Marsha Kent, CEO/executive producer of Driftwood, Texas-based Creative Juice, a full-service DRTV agency, disagrees. “Yes, George Foreman’s name is bigger than the word ‘grill.’ But they sold millions and millions of grills. That grill would have come and gone and no one would ever have known it existed. By attaching George Foreman to it, it created a business.”

The Benefits of Celebrity Endorsement in DRTV …
Celebrities provide stopping power for channel surfers and a loaned sense of credibility, which alleviates customers’ doubts about the product. Sometimes participation in DRTV brings lesser-known celeb endorsers into the mass market, and this rise to mass-market appeal only can bolster the campaign and the franchise.

Celebrity endorsers also boost off-screen sales. Kent says celebrities increase profits on the back end of marketing in radio, print and other media. “Generally, for every one product you might sell over the TV, if you have good retail distribution, you might sell 14 or 15 of them at retail,” adds Gordon. Hot celebrities also can have a positive effect on your production. Kent finds their presence on set “elevates the level of work. The crew becomes more attentive, and everybody works harder.”

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