Celebrity Endorsements: The Good. The Bad. And the Good to Know.

Manufacturers beware. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

In general, celebrities get paid ridiculous amounts of money for their appearances, roles, voices, etc., and we all buy into this by seeing their movies, buying their albums and reading the gossip rags. The fact is, manufacturers seek out these megastars to pimp out their products…and pay a hefty amount to do so.

When does this all become unreasonable? Because we have bought into this industry and so heavily rely on celebrities to set trends in fashion, technology, entertainment and lifestyle, we have molded many of them into thinking that they are entitled to anything they want for free, and then ask for more.

The opportunity to “donate” product to a Hollywood “cause” comes up quite often in the PR atmosphere. More times than not, agency X calls upon PR representatives with the “best promotional opportunity ever,” and all for a low-low cost. And much like the used car salesman, that low-low cost comes with a ton of red tape and fine print that isn’t always clearly presented. Before you commit to anything, be sure to assess the situation, once the silver lining has faded.

From a PR perspective, the chance to leverage a brand using a well-known “It” person can be very advantageous, but at what cost? You most certainly think that the circulation and reach supersede the bottom line, right? Wrong. Don’t expect anything in return unless it is clearly stated in a contract.

It is daunting when an agent asks us for free product in return for a quote or two. Dare ask if the recipient of the products will appear in a print ad promoting the brand? You may hear, “He/she gets paid thousands, even millions to appear in ads”, but don’t be afraid to ask, “Then why does this person need free product?”

Don’t be afraid. This is a mutual agreement. It is their job to try and negotiate FULL donation, but if it makes you uncomfortable or goes beyond your budget, offer the products at an accommodation price that meets your needs. Or, suggest a different product that will help in your publicity efforts while sticking to the budget. Most will be willing to bargain; some will not. And be sure to address the returned favor–the slated opportunities: Will your products be prominently featured in these articles or segments?

Make sure you don’t overlook the celebrity that they are presenting to you. Are they classily spanning across decades and generations? Do they appeal to your target audience? Will they show up in tomorrow’s rags showing their unmentionables or partaking in publicly drunken stupors? Make sure the celebrity fits YOUR company, not the other way around. Don’t be afraid to say no if the opportunity isn’t right. Believe me, in about three days, another one will come along.

It is amazing how many unauthorized people will call to try and swindle a deal for free product. You have every right, then, to question the integrity of the agent. Ask for credentials before you begin the process. If they have nothing to show, then just walk away.

I know the temptation of celebrity endorsements can be strong, and you may feel like a fool for walking away, but just remember you have a job to do. You are responsible for portraying your client in the best of ways. Not every opportunity will fit.

Posted by Lauren

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