Strategy Sessions: Can the Divas Take On Ashton?

Strategy Sessions: Can the Divas Take On Ashton?


Ever since Ashton Kutcher took over the advertising spotlight at Nikon, I’ve been intrigued by the role of celebrity endorsers for camera products. 

Celebrity advertising in this category is not new. Remember Mariette Hartley and James Garner hawking Polaroid products? Their television ads pretty much defined the brand, and they were done so well that many thought they were actually married! And then, of course, there was a bevy of tennis professionals getting behind the Canon brand, none more recognizable (or controversial) than Andre Agassi. His “Image Is Everything” campaign not only defined the Canon Rebel brand but also went a long way in defining Andre himself (a role he reviled, according to his recent book, Open, but one that made him oodles of money).

With the exception of Maria Sharapova’s uneven career, her celebrated grunts and Canon Elph endorsements, it had gotten a bit quiet until Ashton came around. 

Nikon’s move was bold. Take a solid “old man” brand and turn it into a young, hip, smart one with the power of one personality. The Kutcher campaign has been all about attitude—and the connection to a star that appeals to both men and women of a younger generation. Most men want to be like Ashton, and most women just want him (sorry, Demi). But his use of Nikon’s Coolpix cameras, and their DSLRs, has made the brand more approachable, while de-emphasizing the technology that makes them tick.

Apparently I’m not the only one to take notice. Over the past month or so, no less than three major camera brands have decided to go the diva route to connect with a younger, more socially active audience. And these are not
fly-by-night crooners we’re talking about, but Grammy award-winning superstars.

Lady Gaga has taken on the creative director role for Polaroid; Taylor Swift is now the spokesperson for Sony’s Cyber-shot line, and Alicia Keys is crooning for Samsung’s DualView cameras. Seems to be the right time to be a Grammy award-winning female artist.

“There were a number of things that Polaroid needed to do in order to transform ourselves to become first and foremost in conversations about imaging,” said Jon Pollock, senior VP and COO of Polaroid. “We talked to a dozen or so individuals with the following criteria: number one, can they help us engage in conversations with that younger audience; two, are they true advocates of the brand;and three, we wanted someone who was interested in partnering with us on different levels. Lady Gaga fit all of those bills very nicely; she’s relevant, she’s a rabid fan of the brand and she wanted to partner at a much deeper level than a standard endorser relationship.”

For those of you who aren’t sure who Lady Gaga is, she’s hard not to notice. She’s kind of like the Madonna of the new millennium, just much more “out there.” She is defining fashion, music and theatrics for the 18–25 set, and she’s more than just flash. She’s talent personified.

Hers is not just a standard endorsement deal. “She is our creative director, and we take this seriously,” said Pollock. “She has some magic creatively that we want to infuse into the brand; she is involved with our creative direction at the highest levels, including the look and feel of the products, the fit and finish of the products, and the user experience. These products will be co-branded Polaroid and Lady Gaga—a specialty line of products that will be specially designed by her.” 

Sony has taken a different approach, calling on Taylor Swift, probably the most wholesome, talented singer-actress to come around in a long time. “The real key with Taylor is that she’s a true-to-life ‘make.believe’ story,” said Steve Sommers, Sony Electronic’s director of Marketing, referring to Sony’s current advertising platform. “At 20 years old, it’s amazing what she’s accomplished—multiple Grammy award-winning artist, singer, songwriter, actress—and she fits our platform perfectly.”

So is Sony also reaching out for the younger, socially active set? 

“I think Taylor has cross-category and cross-generational appeal,” said Sommers. “When you’re talking about the point-and-shoot category, with 75+% household penetration, basically everyone’s got one, and they’re taking tens of millions of pictures a year. We think she speaks to all of those different groups.”

Sony will be using Taylor initially with just the Cyber-shot line, hoping she will make the technology in the camera more approachable. “Technology may put a lot of people off, but in fact it can really benefit them. So showing the technology in an easy, fun, friendly way is what we’re about. Partnering with a celebrity can also help a complex message come through in a more consumer-friendly fashion.”

Being young and socially active is also an important aspect of their campaign. “Taylor is very interactive, and our online campaign is a big part of our push,” added Sommers. “She shows you how to use the features and what the benefits are—in a fun and interactive way. You’re able to take pictures of her moving and dancing around, and to see the benefits of 20 frames per second, of low-light performance and intelligent sweep panorama.”

To round out our trio of divas, Alicia Keys has signed on as a celebrity endorser for Samsung, and she’s recently been seen in Samsung’s DualView camera commercials. Once again, we’re seeing an incredibly popular megastar looking good on both sides of the camera. She’s also been involved in Samsung’s Four Seasons of Hope charity, so this relationship is not a new one.

“We chose to work with Alicia Keys because she is one of the world’s most recognized and accomplished artists that embodies the spirit of our target audience, which is young-minded consumers,” said Peggy Ang, VP of Marketing for Samsung. “In regard to this specific campaign, there was also undeniable synergy between her new hit song, Wait Till You See My Smile, and our Samsung DualView digital cameras, so we were able to develop a campaign that leveraged the lyrics of her song to help promote the unique features of our cameras.”

According to Samsung, this campaign is part of a larger strategy for the company’s “Dedicated to Wonder” communications platform, which began with their 3D HDTVs and will extend to products beyond the DualView as well. 

What’s one to make of all of this? “I think partnering with a celebrity can help a complex message come through in a more consumer-friendly fashion,” said Sommers. And what about the run on divas? “I think brands in general are seeing the power of artists to engage in a different conversation with their target base,” mentioned Pollock. “There’s some good mutual ground that each of them see as beneficial. Also the economics have certainly changed on the music side, so this is a good opportunity to take some of their fan base, and their art, and infuse it into some of the larger brands.”

Aretha Franklin, are you listening?