The Fame Game

By The Drum, Administrator

September 20, 2007 | 4 min read

Admittedly the celeb path is one fraught with danger, often producing advertising that is bland and lacks credibility, served up in the vain hope we remember a name because that bloke from The Bill was spouting it. That said, use the right celeb for the right brand and the chemistry fizzes and interest soars. Particularly, and we’re skirting the borders of subjectivity here, when cast against type (Lineker for Walker’s) or plunged into unexpected contexts (Whicker for Travelocity or Shatner for All Bran) or surreal worlds (Hasselhoff for Pipex). If the budget allows you can also go for the celebrity double. Putting Ronnie Corbett and Alice Cooper together in the Sky ads had oodles of cut-through because it went against everything we already knew about them.

These cultural collisions often make striking celebrity endorsed advertising. But these days the most striking thing isn’t how we use our stars but whom we’re using. It’s a shift that questions the very nature of what we deem 'celebrity' itself. For our parents celebrities are easy to pigeonhole. They act, sing, do impressions of Tommy Cooper or present game shows. In the good old days talent and fame went hand-in-hand. No longer. With the proliferation of media more people are getting the opportunity to cash their 15 minutes. From Big Brother to Wife Swap to Changing Rooms we have become a society obsessed with ordinary people doing ordinary things. We championed Jade Goody not because she was virtuous and inspiring but clinically stupid. And to reinforce just how steeped we are in this nonentity culture we made names of her boyfriend and mother too. Jade’s earthiness and astounding naivety made her a heroine for the hard of thinking but only briefly. For what the media giveth the media also taketh away.

In contrast to the Max Bygraves era the modern celebrity lives a life of almost total transparency. 24 hour news coverage allows us to follow them sneaking from club to toilet to hotel room to The Priory with impunity. There are few places to hide and we’ll have CCTV in there eventually. In such an environment building and maintaining a reputation is a true test of a celeb’s will power. With the possibility of one transgression accelerating their downfall media intrusion is more likely to make our current heroes less approachable, less trusting and their public less adoring.

And that’s why the instant celeb has greater appeal for the risk averse advertiser. Possessing an ingenuousness that makes them so adorable, believable, even ‘real’, they are hot property for a very limited time. Take Alex Sibley from Big Brother 3, his obsession with cleanliness in the house led to a TV ad for Domestos within days of being evicted. No one’s heard of him since. For another whose name I couldn’t find on Google, public humiliation on Pop Idol led to an ad for Pizza Hut. Fame, it seems, is more ephemeral than ever.

Why The Krankies?

Another good question. Finding an appropriate face for stvbingo was an interesting challenge because we needed someone who was relevant to our audience and universally liked. Especially as Mrs Osbourne and Katy Price’s alter ego were doing their monotone best for the competition. A quick word on bingo. It’s not highbrow or elitist but deeply populist. And that made The Krankies a perfect fit. Instantly recognisable cult heroes who carry plenty of retro, provoke a cosy nostalgia and are effortlessly funny. Dress them up as bingo balls and we’re onto a winner.

So, lured by the irresistible desire to entertain the Scottish people, and of course, filthy advertising lucre The Krankies left their Australian winter home (Ian in economy, Janette in overhead storage) to once again don the comedy crown but not small boy’s shorts. And what did we learn from the experience? That they were thoroughly professional and genuine and weren’t happy until we were. Above all, they possessed both the talent and values of yesteryear, making them the very antithesis of today’s fame junkie. We couldn’t have asked for more. As my fingers hover over the keyboard, I can resist the temptation no more. They were, in a word, fandabidozie.

To see a review of the new TV advert created by The Union, turn to page 39.


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +