The Creative Brain Results Part 3 – How Celebrity & Nostalgia Unlock Our Wallets

July 10, 2015 James Rubec

Celebrities and nostalgia are used to speed up the emotional and mental journey that advertisers want us to take while viewing an ad. The question is: how effective can a celebrity endorsement be and how were they used in The Creative Brain?

In 1996, Sotherby’s held an auction of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ estate. The luxury auctioneer thought they would bid off the 1,300 items for about $5 million.

Four days and $34.5 million later they had auctioned off one of JFK’s desks for $1.43 million, and a set of golf clubs for $772,500.

thecreativebrainicon1People have a deep reverence for celebrities. Even after their death items that they’ve used are sought after and valued. Brands too hold reverence for celebrity and benefit from their association. In the ads tested during the Creative Brain session, celebrity was used to varying effect. As we’ve seen in the Volvo and Clash of Clans’ ads, celebrity works well when it ties into both the brand story and the schema we hold about a specific celebrity.

A schema is a mental template, which when we’re presented with an image or phrase, unlocks a series of other mental images, feelings and biases.

When Jean-Claude Van Damme does the splits between two moving trucks it isn’t just telling us that Volvo’s trucks are stable, it is saying they are stable like Van Damme was in the movies Bloodsport or Universal Soldier.

Celebrities are walking, talking schema factories. The film industry has mastered the art of uncorking our emotions. These emotions are transferred to the actors starring in them.

Turkish Airlines And Comedy Beats Adidas’ Seriousness

The same transfer of emotion moves between famous athletes and their teams to the viewing audience. Sports stars are authentic, self-made heroes and are viewed as role models. Growing up we all have our heroes —likely one of yours graced the front of a cereal box or hockey skate commercial.

The Adidas Take It ad features many celebrity athletes. In spite of this, the ad is arguably the worst performer of all of the ads. The ad is dark, the voice over unidentified and it features no narrative to string the audience along. It placed second last in attention and emotional connection and dead last in encoding. Where did they go wrong?

Compare it to the Turkish Airlines Ad, Drogba vs Messi. Both ads feature sports stars, and both include Lionel Messi. The difference is how they’ve deployed celebrity in relation to the brand.

In the Adidas spot, Messi is seen brooding before literally turning himself off on screen. In Turkish Airlines he’s a globe hopping foodie who haunts his fellow elite level soccer striker Didier Yves Drogba Tébil in restaurant after restaurant in country after country.

The Adidas ad is an unsmiling credo to the drive that elite athletes need to compete. While Turkish Airlines is a comedic jaunt around the world, poking fun at real life Messi’s success and Drogba’s ambition. The lesson, story and comedy are valuable tools that grab and keep our attention.

When story and comedy are used in conjunction with celebrity that’s an effective one-two punch of persuasion.

Nostaglia Hacking

Two ads accessed played on our emotions through nostalgia. Hindsight may be 20/20, but it appears the rose coloured glasses of the past are hacking our minds. In the Bud Light’s Real Life Pacman and Snickers The Brady Bunch ads, we’re treated to two different uses of nostalgia.

Bud Light brought a partygoer to play Pacman in real life and his reward is a Bud Light. The EEG’s recorded powerful ACE metrics during game play. The combination of authentic game play, music and the genuine excitement of the player all helped deliver Bud Light’s branded messaging. Overall, the beer ad’s performance was moderate, but its ability to convey an emotional message around fun, excitement and an evening of endless possibilities succeeded.

Snickers used its long-time “You’re not you when you’re hungry” series to powerful effect, placing Danny Trejo of Machete fame in the home of the Brady Bunch wielding an axe with a bandage on his nose. He’d been hit in the face by a football and is going to miss the dance. The ad itself was a recreation of segments from an actual episode of the original series.

Brady Bunch Family As Real As Its Own

Selecting the Brady Bunch was a carefully selected call back. The Brady Bunch ran for five seasons from 1969 to 1974, it had four spinoff series and four films, the last of which aired on Fox TV as late as 2002. The Brady family is as much a character in this ad as Danny Trejo or Steve Buscemi. With the combined star power of the Brady family, Trejo and Buscemi, along with familiar comic notes, the ad managed to trigger emotionality and make itself memorable without being bombastic or outrageous.

As advertisers, when you unlock the imagination and memories of your audience, you are letting their life experience do half the work for you. When you use celebrities, this is a subset of your audience that will be devoted to your brand, just as a collector would spend $1 million for a JFK desk.

This is part 3 of 5 in The Creative Brain Results series. See more results and download the full report with findings here.

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