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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 12:55 GMT
Celebs join the Christmas rush
AD BREAKDOWN
The Magazine's review of advertising

You scarcely need to go the jungle to hunt celebrities this Christmas. Just turn on your TV and wait for the adverts.
Grab from M&S ad
Des, Helen, Martine and Gordon

Familiar faces are cropping up all over the breaks, trying to persuade us that if we follow their advice our Christmas will somehow be happier, more enjoyable, even nicer-smelling.

It takes only a moment's thought to realise that the primary motivation for celebrity endorsements is, nine times out of 10, a big pile of cash. And yet the adoption of celebrities is proving a hugely successful tactic.

Take Jamie Oliver - credited with adding £27 of sales at Sainsbury's for every £1 the supermarket spends on its adverts.

He has made a career out of speaking to the camera as if everyone watching was one of his mates, successfully creating the impression that a big fry-up was on the cards for the whole country.

Jamie Oliver Sainsbury grab
Jamie and his magic touch
His current advert, which shows him taking a trip to Scotland to inspect the supermarket's production of salmon, has two strong points - advertising salmon instead of turkey helps the War Against Cliché, and the seemingly genuine moment when he asks to taste the fish and is told politely to wait until later.

But at the end of the slot, when Oliver has to deliver the message, he sounds as if he has been made to do a thousand retakes, saying: "With Sainsbury's putting this much effort into everything, we're going to have a great Christmas." Even his honest bloke persona doesn't quite convince that the quality of people's Christmas depends on which shop they got their salmon from.

Impact

But Oliver's not alone. Nicole Kidman's appearance in the three-minute-long Baz Luhrmann Chanel No 5 advert, which purports very convincingly to be a film trailer, has made a huge impact, not least because people will wonder how on earth it can be worth spending the reported £18m on one advert.

There's also George Clooney turning up at a party, with cases of Martini. Not quite the sophistication of Leonard Rossiter soaking Joan Collins in Cinzano, but amusing in its own way.

And at the other end of the celebrity scale, after a welcome gap, is the return of Ad Breakdown readers' anti-heroine, Linda Barker, on a new set of Curry's adverts.

Chanel No 5 advert grab
Kidman in lavish Chanel No 5 advert
It's the Marks and Spencer advert which really flaunts its endorsements. For the fourth year in a row, the shop has used a collection of well-known faces - solid, likeable, home-grown characters - to emphasise that it's a solid, likeable part of the British High Street. It's certainly NOT a wounded beast that had to see off a takeover bid.

Charting the characters featured over the past four years could turn into a sport to rival Celebdaq. Des Lynam is one of those in this year's adverts, as if saying to the viewer: "I know I've been through a changeable few years, but I'm still here - you can still rely on me."

M&S DOWN THE AGES
2001 - Zoe Ball, Julian Clary, Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Laurie, Angela Griffin, George and Alex Best, Honor Blackman
2002- Denise Van Outen, Ronnie Barker, Joan Collins, Graham Norton, David Beckham
2003 - Patrick Stewart, Emma Bunton, Zoe Wannamaker, Will Young, and June Sarpong
2004 - Rupert Everett, Rachel Stevens, Desmond Lynam, Martine McCutcheon, Gordon Ramsay and Helen Mirren
Celebrity endorsements are hardly new. But what has been termed "celebrification" of adverts in recent years is not something which has been imagined. Analysis of the past 20 years shows the number featuring celebrities in some way has doubled and now stands at about one in five.

The benefit for the brand is clear, says Hamish Pringle, director of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, and author of Celebrity Sells.

Hiring a celeb face can be "one of the fastest and most effective ways of giving a brand a touch of stardust," he says. "The right star brings compelling imagery, relevant characteristics and motivating associations that engage customers and intensify the brand communication."

"The right association with the right brand turns them into super-salespeople."

Risks

There are, however, risks too. "All the consumer research shows that the public believes the reason celebrities do adverts is for the money," says Mr Pringle. If that happens, the impact for the brand will be a fraction of what it might have been.
George Clooney in Martini ad grab
Clooney: Wish come true

Advertisers have to find a way to associate the star with the brand, so that the viewer will believe there is more to the relationship than money. Hence Sainsbury's showing Jamie Oliver playing a part in the formation of the shop's produce.

But the presence of a celebrity is "not a silver bullet".

Does the Chanel ad say anything about Kidman that we didn't know already, except that she's prepared to be associated with the perfume? The stars of the M&S ad - the idea of which is that lots of famous people shop at Marks - obviously feel comfortable with the brand.

But two risks stand out for the celebrity. One is being accused of selling out - although people seem less likely to be judgemental on this score nowadays.

The other is over-exposure, says Mr Pringle. "Celebrities have to be careful to manage their own brand too."


Ad Breakdown is compiled by Giles Wilson

As someone who works in advertising, I can honestly say I have NEVER purchased any product that has had a celebrity endorsement. The reason for this is that I know full well it is the last (or laziest) resort to use this approach, when the product has absolutely nothing else about it that makes it stand out above other brands. If the product was good enough, it wouldn't need celebrity endorsements. Nevertheless, the approach does work, as increased sales testify. Perhaps the general population is not as savvy as it likes to think it is after all.
Rob, London, UK

The best ads are the ones where stars poke fun at themselves. The "The Devil Makes Light Work for Idle Thumbs" series for Virgin Mobile is a great example. The one with Christina Aguilera playing with the settings of an office chair is hilarious.
Paul Childs, Ormskirk, Lancashire.

I must be one of the few people left who do get narked off with celebrities "selling out". I'm not fussed about B-list idiots, but it's the ones who go on and on about being "serious actors" or "artists", and then sell their soul to some mulit-national for a pile of cash I really don't think they need. They can do the adverts if they want to, but thye can't expect to be treated seriously afterwards.
Ben, Fareham, Hampshire, UK

By far the best advert this season, in my opinon, if the John Lewis "Colours" advert. It's simple, luxurious and comforting, a real triumph for the agency concerned. I personally am not swayed by celebrity endorsements, I assume anything that has a celebrity associated with it has a disproportional mark-up on it to compensate for said celebrity's fees.
Martin, London, UK

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