Friday Perspective: Celebrity Fans

Every Friday I give quick perspectives, opinions and thoughts on the world of marketing and beyond. This week’s entry is below.

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Earlier this week I stumbled upon an online ad featuring Liam Neeson on WatersTechnology. The ad showed the actor from waist up, arms folded, wearing a black long-sleeved turtleneck, hair gently mussed, standing in front of what appeared to be a red barn. Slowly the ad changed. It was as if there was a camera on Neeson, moving ever closer to him, until it settled on only his head. I was now seeing a headshot rather than an image of him from the waist up. The ad was not a video. This effect was done using a static image of the actor.

For some reason I kept reloading my page, wanting to see the whole thing again. It pulled me in. Neeson had a casual, everyman look to him. The effect used to change the image seemed familiar too. Then I realized why. It reminded me of what's shown prior to the start of movies at Sundance Cinemas. Casual images of actors, much like this ad, are typically displayed, sometimes even with the same zoom effect.

I ended up clicking on the ad because why not? I spent that much time looking at it. And of course - because Liam Neeson. I was curious about this campaign featuring him and it's very rare that any online ad gets my attention, let alone captures it for this long.

The company who ran the ad? Mandarin Oriental.

Below the image of Liam Neeson was text that read, "He's a fan." along with the hotel's logo. Kind of clever since Mandarin Oriental's logo is a fan.

Mandarin Oriential "He's a fan." campaign.
Mandarin Oriential "He's a fan." campaign.

The landing page for the campaign showcased headshots of 28 notable people - actors, musicians, writers, entreprenuers, designers and architects - all "fans" of Mandarin Oriental. Several of these fans each had their own video listing a number of things they're fans of - cities, causes, foods, hiking, green fields, anything they like and makes them happy. Each of the videos ended with the fan stating, "I'm a fan of Mandarin Oriental."

I was intrigued. I've never stayed at a Mandarin Oriental, but the image I have of the hotel chain was reinforced by the campaign. It didn't hit me over the head. It was subdued. It was real. Yet it was also sophisticated.

Joining Liam Neeson were the likes of Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Christian Louboutin, Sophie Marceau, and Frederick Forsyth.

The notion of using celebrities as fans was savvy. When one thinks of celebrities, typically they're the ones with fans, not the ones who are fans of something. The campaign made the celebrities real and personal, and for Mandarin Oriental, the celebrities reinforced their brand image. The selections were wise. Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Lawrence weren't part of the campaign. I like both of those actors, but the likes of Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren carry a bit more gravitas.

Before you go speculating that the celebrities aren't really fans of Mandarin Oriental, maybe just paid spokespeople - think again. "All of our fans are thanked for their participation in our campaign with a donation from Mandarin Oriental to the charity of their choice."

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Celebrities appearing in marketing content is nothing new and the topic doesn't usually fascinate me, but this campaign caught my eye because of the realism and authenticity. I got the impression each celebrity wrote their own script or spoke unrehearsed into the camera. Each person's video was slightly different. Each took a unique approach, yet they all came off uniformly raw and unpolished - in a good way. There's a big difference in the feelings evoked from Michael Jordan pushing Hanes underwear or Jennifer Lopez appearing in a L'Oreal ad and what Mandarin Oriental did.

I'm very interested in seeing if this is a longer, prolonged campaign for the hotel. They have a good opportunity to extend what they're doing with this "I'm a fan" program.

While there are a lot of directions they could go, I'd like to see a next wave of material containing regular people. That's a logical next step. We've seen celebrities, now what about featuring regular people, intermixed with the celebs? Perhaps a spot containing average fans with the celebrities, all naming things they're fans of and ending with each stating they're fans of Mandarin Oriental? In other words, we're a hotel experience for Liam Neeson and for you.

I'll be keeping an eye out to see where they head next with this campaign - if anywhere. I hope they use it as a launching pad for a larger, more sustained campaign. Would be a shame to see this solid work only be a short-term thing.