While I may fancy myself an expert on many things—Kermit the Frog, karaoke, the best places to find tall women’s clothing (for shame, H&M), the worst subway lines in NYC (G is for God-awful)—today we are lucky enough to have a big-time media expert’s perspective on celebrity endorsements.
Enter Mr. Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen, a media planning and buying agency that was spun out of the media group of Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners in 2001. Their clients include Armani Exchange, Victoria’s Secret, and Sesame Workshop.
And, girls, he’s worked with Justin Bieber.
(Yes, I know, OMG. OMG.)
Barry was kind enough to speak with Celebranded about his thoughts on famous folks, the importance of social media, and why he wants to partner with Lady Gaga.
Can you tell me a little bit about the process that goes into choosing celebrities for endorsements and developing a celebrity endorsement campaign?
There’s something called a Q Score, which measures the celebrity’s popularity. It evaluates a variety of things about appropriateness that brands or agencies will look at before going with a particular celebrity…I think now, interestingly enough, what you’re going to find is that celebrity social media exposure is going to inform their viability as an endorser. If I hire them, I’m going to expect them to talk about my product outside of, let’s just say, a print ad. So how many followers they have and how many fans they have is going to be a factor in selecting them.
That was actually going to be my next question: How has social media changed the nature of celebrity endorsements? People expect now that celebrities aren’t just appearing in a commercial, but that they’re engaging in some way with the consumer out there.
Exactly. We had worked with Armani Jeans to promote [their] new launch in this country, and they had already hired Megan Fox and Christiano Ronaldo to help promote it. They had done videos of the two, and so we helped them distribute those videos. We came up with an online experience that allowed those videos to live in a really exciting way, and both of those celebrities had big social followings. They were that much more attractive to us.
There always seems to be a lot of debate over whether celebrity endorsements are worth it, whether people really buy into them, etc. What’s your take?
They’re actually becoming more important as media continues to get fragmented. It’s so hard to reach a lot of people all at one time. I think the right kind of spokesperson just helps you get noticed. It just helps with brand awareness. The difficulty with tying yourself to a celebrity is that you’re giving up some of your brand identity to that celebrity.
Especially if that celebrity does something that affects their image, à la Tiger Woods.
Are there any examples of celebrity endorsements that you’ve seen in the industry that you think really work in terms of conception, execution, and having the right match between brand and celebrity?
I remember the William Shatner and Priceline campaign. That was a rather famous one. The latest one is Ellen and JCPenney…I just think everybody loves Ellen. And that’s what a Q score will tell you—how loved these celebrities are. Jennifer Hudson and Weight Watchers, I think, is brilliant. Good for Weight Watchers.
Are there any celebrities whom you would love the opportunity to work with, for personal or professional reasons?
I think Lady Gaga would be fun for the same reasons that Justin [Bieber] is, because she stands for something and has such a great social following. That would be a really good one. I think Ashton Kutcher would probably be another good one, again, because he has that great social following.
And then I thanked Barry profusely (like, way profusely) and had a sudden desire to try to get my hands on a bottle of Someday…