the frequency a kenny chung blog

We all associate celebrities and public figures with brands and products. There’s Jared from Subway, Justin Long and Apple, Paul Reiser and AT&T One Rate Plus. OK, that last one was a joke, but true (though I’m sure this newest generation is neither familiar with the actor or service… or touch-tone phones).

Sometimes, a person transcends a brand or becomes their own- Michael Jordan with Air Jordan, Derek Jeter’s 24 Hour Fitness, and countless fashion designers. But there are also in-between scenarios when people become so synonymous with a brand that they become the face of a company- for better or for worse.

Sometimes, it makes perfect sense- like Dave Thomas and Wendy’s (he was the founder). Other times, it’s a stroke of luck, like Andy Azula (you may never have known his name, but you’ve definitely seen his face. He’s the UPS whiteboard guy, and actually the creative director who had a hand in thinking up the commercial concept).

So is it prudent to put all of your eggs in one basket in terms of branding/presenting the face of your company?

Dave Thomas of Wendy's

Let’s take the Dave Thomas Wendy’s example. He had been a great spokesman for 13 years and was perfect for the brand (since the company was in essence his). But when he died in 2002, due to health complications, the company took a huge hit in the advertising space. Wendy’s no longer had a face and was forced to reinvent itself. They tried to leverage Wendy herself (a caricature of Dave’s daughter), but that was very forgettable. In fact, it’s been 8 years, and I doubt if any significant number of people could name a specific Wendy’s ad campaign from the last two (sorry Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners). We certainly haven’t had another “Where’s the beef?” moment.

On the other hand, let’s take a look at Tiger Woods. He was, at one point, an almost ideal spokesperson for sports-related products. We had the Nike and the Gatorade sponsorships. But then all of his many sexual infidelities reared their ugly heads, and the companies that endorsed him had to make an important choice. Nike famously backed Woods and acknowledged his problems. Gatorade, however, dropped him quickly. The sports drink company could afford to. The Gatorade brand was already well-positioned and built up. The company also had a slew of other available sports stars at their disposal to take Tiger’s place. Now imagine if instead of Gatorade, a smaller up-and-coming company paid for the face of Tiger as its exclusive spokesperson. It probably wouldn’t have the luxury of a star-studded celebrity supporting lineup. But their brand would also suffer a huge blow from which a smaller company might not recover.

So back to the question at hand: should you trust your brand identity to a single person? Well, it depends. Sometimes you take what you can get. Other times, you keep backup options, because scandal and death could always be around the corner. Either way, you should always have a backup plan. No excuses.

One more extreme example- anyone remember those ShamWow commercials with their overly annoying spokesperson Vince? Well, he was charged with beating up a prostitute. Not exactly great PR…

March 17th, 2009
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Our Boston University School of Communications Spring Break Advertising Trip began at the offices of Publicis USA. Then we had lunch, and then headed downtown to Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners.


Clients You’d Know: Citi, Oral B, BMW, Maytag, Charmin

First impressions: We were in a Penthouse-type meeting room with a nice view. They provided some coffee, water, fruit and some finger foods. We had six or seven speakers, about half of whom were BU alumni. According to my notes, we had an Acct Director, two AEs, two HR people, a planner and a Copywriter.

They were all informative and friendly. But here are the takeaway points:
·Understand the brand!
·Integrated Creative over different mediums is important.
·New business= new jobs!

Also, their bathroom was super nice:

(Yes, that’s a shower!)

Lasting impression: Publicis is very people-based, and build their accounts around the people instead of finding people to fit rigid slots. Their offices were modern and looked really comfortable, and I could definitely see myself working there.

Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners

Clients You’d Know: Kenneth Cole, Panasonic, Wendy’s, Mohegan Sun

First impressions: We were in a conference room with stainless steel tables (reminded me of working in food service). The walls were frosted glass with light pouring in from the hallways. We started with a reel (that was really more like a short film with several cameo appearances), had three to four speakers, and then a special treat- Jon Bond himself spoke to us personally.

Here are some key points from Mr. Bond:
·Radical is good. Be different and take the less obvious approach (pretty much KB+P’s mantra)
·Multimedia campaigns are the way to go- solve problems using different mediums.
(answer to my question: how do you know where the envelope is so you can push it?) It depends on where you think the brand can go and if its believable. As a corollary, know the brand!

Lasting impression: KB+P tries to break boundaries in everything they do (just look at their Kenneth Cole campaigns), and the personalities of their workers reflect that. By their account, they created what we know as reality TV (with their Snapple Lady commercials). KB+P seemed to be more creative-driven (we even had a Creative volunteer to stay afterward and review our work). The higher-ups definitely know where they want brands to go, and it’s up to the creatives to figure out the means. And that’s how wacky ideas come about.

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