The last vestiges of more traditional advertising - pre-roll video ads, native advertising and TV sponsorship idents etc. are all coming under threat of extinction. Anything which is deemed intrusive or interruptive will no longer be tolerated by target audiences. Brand owners instead need to rely on more subtle ways of brand advocacy like product placement and celebrity / personality endorsements.
A classic example of the new paradigm is TV Show ’Made in Chelsea’ which now has a product placement warning at the start of every segment. ’Made in Chelsea’ has garnered quite a reputation for a super cool music policy - where record labels and artists now queue up to feature their songs in the program - this is further backed up by Spotify playlists and other forms of content / media promotion. I myself have been introduced to several new artists and songs courtesy of said program, including debut single ’A&E’ from fairly recent chart-toppers ’Clean Bandit’.
Throughout the program - various activities, bars, restaurants, shops, brands / products and destinations are endorsed by being included within the narrative flow of the show. The ’Chelsea Locale’ ranges from West to East London, the various home counties, and even the Côte d’Azur and Venice. Sometimes the inclusions come across as clunky and forced, but more often than not they just become a seamless part of the accepted tapestry of that lifestyle.
There is an obvious precedent here in the classic James Bond film format - which is the master of both product placement and musical endorsement - courtesy of the much hyped theme songs - including recent Oscar winner Adele’s ’Skyfall’.
Some of the James Bond films have come into criticism for too overt product placements - Casino Royal for instance was swamped with Sony product references - yet it can all work harmoniously with some due diligence and subtlety applied. Brand names don’t always need to be mentioned - sometimes they just need to be seen, which is why distinctive packaging and design will play an increasingly more important role.
Beats headphones are a classic example of clever packaging and celebrity endorsement. The design is for sure appealing, but without the early endorsement from a variety of music and film stars, Beats would not necessarily be the $3.2 billion success story it is today. Another example is how companies pay celebrities to turn up at high profile events - prominently showing off their clothing and related status symbols. At this year’s Coachella music festival - several celebrities were paid to show up wearing the latest Spring / Summer collections by their endorsed brands. Celebrities get paid to post product placement Tweets, Selfies and Status Updates - which go on to be featured by the Daily Mail, TMZ, Perez Hilton and the like.
One of my favourite examples of celebrity endorsement is how Tommy Hilfiger got the Hip Hop community to wear his clothing by sending them free samples - they had no idea he was a millionaire middle-aged white dude with no proper connection to their culture or lifestyle. By the time it was revealed who / what was behind Tommy Hilfiger, the brand cachet was already cool enough to support itself, and the youth of America were already invested. You could say the same of Abercrombie & Fitch - whose owner has managed to poison his once popular brand cachet (whose success was achieved in similar fashion to Tommy) with his own somewhat bigoted stance on exactly who should wear his clothes or work in his stores.
Lego is another amazing example of smart brand advocacy where there are legions of fans which promote the brand unprompted. For Lego itself - its characters and sets become movies and vice versa, and generate further diffusions like games, adventure park rides and more obtuse merchandising. The recent ’Lego Movie’ is a brilliant example of Lego’s ouroboros nature of constantly recreating / reinventing / recycling itself.
The Lego Movie was inspired by classic Lego characters and sets, the movie then spun off further Lego characters and sets, games etc. which continue to influence each other in a perpetual loop. Such is the brand cachet of Lego that it does not even need celebrity endorsement any more. The designer headphone phenomenon though has had various celebrities fronting each brand, and that cycle is still continuing with marked success.
Today’s advertising is really more about finding the right vehicle to promote and support your brand - it is a symbiotic mix of activity and personality - get one of those wrong and you run the risk of undermining your brand values and negatively impacting your hard-earned brand cachet, but get them right, and you are on the fast-track to success ...