The advantages and perils of celebrity endorsers
BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores () - October 12, 2009 - 12:00am

Have regard for your name, since it will remain for you longer than a great store of gold. —The Bible

Fame is a bee. It has a song. It has a sting. Ah, too, it has a wing. —Emily Dickinson

Someday each of us will be famous for fifteen minutes. —Andy Warhol

Deploying celebrity endorsers is one of the favored strategies used to create media buzz and public awareness, whether in the business of selling consumer products, services, non-profit causes, and now also political candidates for the exciting 2010 election.

In my advertising class to business and mass-com college students, I gave my opinion that the use of celebrity endorsers is one shortcut way for many businesses and advertisers to vigorously market their brands, but they should strategize with careful planning and thorough selection with background checking.

TV host Boy Abunda previously endorsed Nacionalista Party presidentiable Manny Villar, but has now reportedly shifted to Liberal Party’s Noynoy Aquino out of his close friendship with Kris Aquino, who is herself a top celebrity endorser. Villar has reportedly cultivated Wowowee host Willie Revillame as his endorser for the masses. How important will all these endorsements be in the minds of us voters next year?

Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) presidentiable Chiz Escudero recently came out with various news releases about a series of charity concerts, with his photo cleverly juxtaposed with that of his showbiz look-alike, the singer Bamboo. Senator Loren Legarda was endorsed by Regal Films’ Mother Lily Monteverde in past elections, while top TV-radio host Korina Sanchez is of course endorsing her fiancé, Senator Mar Roxas.

Who will Lakas-NUCD presidentiable Gibo Teodoro enlist for his campaign — perhaps fellow party-mate, Batangas Governor Vilma Santos Recto, or boxing champion Manny Pacquiao? 

Despite Senator Kiko Pangilinan’s intellectual and other credentials, it is no secret that his wife, Megastar Sharon Cuneta Pangilinan, is his biggest ace in electoral politics. In fact, the well-read, smart and friendly Sharon is herself eminently qualified and winnable as a future political candidate. Congratulations to Smart Communications of PLDT for recently getting Sharon as its endorser, for she used to endorse archrival Globe Telecom.

As editor-in-chief of the glossy entertainment monthly S Magazine (we’re having the grand launch of our Special Edition on Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the GMA-7 lobby on Timog Avenue, Quezon City, with over 100 showbiz stars), one of the stars I admire and respect the most is Sharon. Unlike other top celebrities who often wallow in scandals, the Megastar has wisely managed her career and personal life through crises and successes. Her image is that of a wholesome, intelligent and multi-faceted star with a heart of gold.

Unlike the surfeit of the starlets and studlets endlessly flooding Philippine showbiz and the modeling world but who come and go so easily like fleeting shooting stars, Sharon has become more credible as the years pass.

Other wholesome celebrity endorsers include the ageless Vilma Santos, the humble and talented Box Office Queen Sarah Geronimo, Aga Muhlach, the born-again Piolo Pascual (who said he plans to someday be a full-time pastor), Lea Salonga (who has a big concert at the PICC late this year), and others.

Kris Aquino used to be a magnet for controversy in her wild youth, but she has become consistently wholesome now and has a good image as a responsible mother and a caring (perhaps over-doting) younger sister.

John Lloyd Cruz is a hot favorite of advertisers, but there are possible uncertainties if his love life turns topsy-turvy due to recent rumors about various flings, which he should handle well.

Three major celebrity endorsers — Manny Pacquiao, Marian Rivera and Willie Revillame — are also among the current favorites of advertisers, but they’ve had their recent brushes with controversy, which they should avoid in the future for sustainability. I also recommend that, like Sharon Cuneta, they should read more or enroll in school to polish their language and social skills, breeding and moral values.

Manny Pacquiao’s dangers are his ill-advised forays into electoral politics plus past rumors of illicit romances with sexy stars like Ara Mina and speculations about his alleged gambling.

GMA-7 star Marian Rivera has also survived ugly rumors about her stealing Dingdong Dantes from his ex-girlfriend Karylle, her alleged difficult-to-deal-with personality and lack of professionalism before.

In the same way, ABS-CBN 2’s Willie Revillame has recently survived controversies involving the public backlash on his perceived slight to the late President Cory C. Aquino during her funeral and also 12-year-old student Chloe Ronquillo’s open letter on the Internet (also published in Pilipino Star Ngayon) about her dad’s becoming a delinquent father due to Willie’s alleged womanizing influence. 

What about the dangers of celebrity endorsers soiling one’s brand when they get involved in self-inflicted or even accidental scandals? Can companies or advertising agencies add and effectively enforce morality clauses in their endorsement contracts?

One such case of an innocuous-looking, pretty-faced endorser becoming part of a raging controversy was that of the young doctor-actress Maricar Reyes of ABS-CBN 2, who got entangled in the Hayden Kho sex video scandal. She used to endorse a cosmetic product.

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world’s largest luxury goods firm, dropped actress Sharon Stone from Dior ads in China after she suggested that the May 12, 2008 earthquake that killed more than 70,000 might have been “karma” for the nation’s treatment of the Tibet province.

Four years ago, supermodel Kate Moss was publicly dismissed from costly advertising campaigns with H&M, Chanel, and Burberry after reportedly being photographed with cocaine.

In 2001, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant lost millions in endorsement deals with McDonald’s, Sprite, and Nutella after he was charged in court with sexual assault. The charges were later dropped.

In 1987, America’s Beef Industry Council enlisted actress Cybill Shepherd to publicly profess her love of eating beef for their “Real food for real people” advertising campaign, but the marketing blitz turned embarrassingly awry when Shepherd eventually admitted in public that she didn’t eat meat!

The Cybill Shepherd case reminds me of strong rumors I heard that one of the young local actresses recently enlisted by the non-profit PETA for its vegetarian ad campaign is supposedly not a real-life vegetarian. Guess who?

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On this date, Oct. 12 in the year 539 BC, the military forces of Cyrus the Great of Persia took over Babylon. Cyrus was one person who exemplified great leadership, not only in military prowess but also in statesmanship and empire-building on an almost unprecedented scale in those times. Even the Jewish minority revered him because he respected their right to preserve their ethnic identity, culture and values. He attributed his leadership success to “Diversity in counsel, unity in command.” 

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