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“I just play one on TV…”

Tips for partnering with a celebrity

Rule number one: the celebrity is not the character he or she played on film or television. Don’t expect them to become Doug Ross or Meredith Grey. Celebrities are simply people with their own distinct personalities, some of which do NOT come with a dash of diva. I know this. However, entering into my latest Hollywood experience, I was still an anxious mess. What if they hate what I ordered for lunch and throw their ham sandwich back at me? What if I have to pick out all the green M&Ms, trim the skin from their apple, or run all over LA to find pineapple lime kombucha? What if their “first-class, exclusive motorhome” isn’t up to snuff? I showed up for a shoot once and the celebrity gave me her size, which was smaller than her ACTUAL size, so I had to run all over Manhattan buying new clothes. Hence the apprehension.

That’s why on our most recent shoot when our celeb came out of hair and makeup shouting, “Kate!?! Kate!?!” I went into hiding. The urge to vomit was very real. I thought “Oh no, here we go… He hates everything. He hates the script. He most especially hates me!” After he finally located me in video village, it turns out he was just trying to tell me he was ready to go. He was so “normal” and down to earth I felt like an idiot. My experience with celebrities has taught me a lot, so I thought I’d share some of my insights.

Pitch an achievable concept Before you even pitch a celebrity partnership, make sure you can pull it off. Research cost, availability, union fees, production, travel, directors, extras, etc., etc., etc., BEFORE ever pitching the idea to the client. Because if you can’t make it work, you’ve not only lost out on a pretty cool job, but you’ve lost a valuable client and probably pissed off your boss.
Research your target audience Are you targeting forty-somethings or twenty-somethings? Men or women? Do they spend more time on social media or in front of the TV? If it’s the former, maybe an influencer is the way to go. If it’s the latter, a celebrity may be your best bet. This is obviously pretty basic but also pretty important. We recently pitched the above-mentioned celebrity endorsement video to our client, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI), and they loved it. Why? We found the perfect fit with an acclaimed actor who’s funny, whip-smart, and a vocal supporter for the special needs community. He also played a doctor on TV. Best of all? He was available and willing to work within our budget parameters.
Research your celebrity It’s critical to find a celebrity endorser that appeals to your target demographic and fits your brand. For instance, you wouldn’t want to hire a recovering alcoholic to promote your beer brand, like Anheuser-Busch did with Eric Clapton in 1988. And yes, healthcare is different, but not vastly so. You need to match an appropriate celebrity to your brand. Sally Field starred in a series of ads for Boniva, an osteoporosis medication. She was age-appropriate, female, well regarded, and people REALLY liked her. Our chosen star for ACAAI may not have played the most likeable character on television but he’s one of the funniest (and most recognizable) people you’ll meet, which made him a really good choice. He was also incredibly collaborative on script development, ensuring that the lines he delivered would be true to his character.
Pair your brand with the appropriate celebrity When you think of celebrity endorsements, there’s no need to only consider expensive A-listers. Today’s volume and variety of media outlets have produced a surge in the number of celebrities, giving you the opportunity to find the one who appeals most to your demographic. This increased supply also makes the cost of working with celebrities much more affordable, putting the benefits of celebrity endorsement in reach for companies of any size. You don’t need George Clooney or Ellen Pompeo. In fact, you may not need a celebrity at all. Maybe your brand would benefit more from a social media influencer.
prepare. prepare. Prepare. Hiring the right production company is CRITICAL. For celebrities, time is money. Literally. And they have certain expectations, like lavish motorhomes, special food requests, limo services—the list goes on. This isn’t something your cousin Eddie could shoot on an iPhone in his backyard! Speaking of locations, expect hiccups and have a backup. Trucks full of props are a must. How do you cover up all those nosy noobs in the background trying to take pics while you’re shooting? You could set the dogs on them, or you could do what we did and bulk up existing flora with extra tree branches to block them out.

If anything, our latest experience with a celebrity partnership has taught us that with the right talent, the right agreement, and the right strategy you can expand recognition for your brand far beyond anything you thought possible. And you can have a memorable time doing it.

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