How to design the perfect celebrity endorsement video.

Do celebrity endorsement videos really help your brand? Are celebrity endorsements effective? Yes and yes… but the devil is in the details.

There’s no denying the transitive power of a celebrity endorsement. We live in a celebrity culture. How else do you explain the ludicrous prices on offer at auctions of celebrity flotsam and jetsam. I suppose we imagine that some of the ‘essence’ of that celbrity is transferred to us or perhaps it’s simpler than that – maybe we’re just socially programmed to like /crave/envy/desire/revere/need /stalk/love those in our society who have special gifts and powers.

Google “are celebrity endorsements effective?” and you’ll discover a mine field of warnings and caveats about the risks of celebrity endorsement and the questionable return on such a superficial investment. So how then do you explain Nike’s yearly expenditure of upwards of  half a billion dollars on celerity athletes or Pepsi’s ongoing investment in celebrity pop musicians? Surely those businesses (and their accountants) must find ongoing value in these endorsements.

Which brings me to the this Johnny Walker promotional video.  This promo should be used as a case study in how to design the prototypical endorsement video. In fact, I’ll build the argument for you:


How to build the perfect Celebrity Endorsement Video


1. Chose the celebrity that best suits your brand… that you can afford. Don’t start with the concept because the celebrity is bigger than the concept. The idea should be ‘informed’ by the celebrity – that’s the power of celebrity. This is where a great deal of the risk is. If you’re a local brand then you can only afford local talent and the risks are probably low. If you are a national or international brand then the risks in choosing a celebrity are much higher. Sure, if you can wrangle George Clooney, super, he’d add luster to just about any product imaginable. He’s the archetype of ‘cool’. Anything he’s associated with will glow and hum – metaphorically speaking. But most A-listers aren’t so easy to choose between. Check out Brad Pit’s $7 Million endorsement for Channel or Scarlett Johnasson’s SodaStream Superbowl ad.

 In this video. Johnny Walker is the most widely distributed blended scotch whiskey in the world so there’s a great deal riding on who is chosen to represent this iconic brand. The choice of Giancarlo Giannini and Jude Law in this promo is inspired. Giannini is one of Italy’s national treasures and Jude Law plays the perfect foil and partner to Giannini’s old world charm. Johnny Walker chose very well. Both actors personify ‘sophisticated cool ‘in this ad. I’d give the casting a 10 / 10 here.


2. Build a story that people will want to watch. Once you’ve chosen your celebrity you have to build a story around them that suits their character. I recently wrote about a promo that Kahlua created using Jeff Bridges. Another A-list actor and another international alcohol brand. Jeff Bridges reprises his iconic ‘dude’ role from ‘The Big Lebowski’ to promote one of the world’s great party drinks. In this video a story is built around what you might expect to happen to ‘The dude’ in those circumstances. Build a story that people want to watch. If you read the story on paper and you shrug, then you should keep writing. A good story should always jump off the page.

In this video. The title of the promo is ‘A gentleman’s wager’- which set’s up the basic story-line.  The ‘bet’ makes you wonder what comes next and the terms of the bet (a dance number) make you wonder how on earth this could possibly work. It’s very difficult to stop watching this video. You can’t say that about most videos. The story also suits the positioning of the product. A couple of bored rich guys sipping scotch on a yacht in the Mediterranean – that’s certainly how I picture myself when I sip on my Johnny Walker (Red). I’d give the story a 9/10 (The dance sequence was great, but I would have preferred a ‘con’ or a car chase…) { Update: see Post Script at bottom.)


3. Execute really, really well. There are two ways to do this. The first is hoping that a Devine combination of luck and talent coalesce in the equivalent of a ‘hit’ video (the Will-it-Blend series or Dollar Shave Club) and the second is to hire the best talent money can buy. Execution is the hardest to do well and given that acquiring the right talent and developing a great story are also very difficult, it’s easy to see why most branded entertainment and celebrity endorsement videos are just not that good.

In this video. Johnny Walker hired top tier talent to execute this video. The video was directed by Jake Scott (Ridley Scott’s son) and was shot by John Mathieson who has worked as D.O.P. on movies such as Gladiator, August Rush and Robin Hood. Production design was done by Joseph Bennett who was responsible for the look of HBO’s “Rome,” great music… and on it goes. They brought the ‘A’ team to this gig and the production team delivered. The video has a style and elegance that is rare in most promotional videos and Law and Giannini both deliver uber-cool performances.  I’d give the execution a 10 / 10 here as well.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for the formula to develop the perfect celebrity endorsement video it’s all rather quite simple: 1. Find the perfect actor that best represents your brand, build a great story around that character and hire a world-class production team to deliver your video.

Good luck with that.


Post Script:

The good folks at Johnny Walker commissioned a follow up video appropriately entitled: A Gentleman’s Wager II.  Running at just over 11 minutes this new video illustrates just how difficult it is to re-create the glory of a great idea, well executed.


6 thoughts on “How to design the perfect celebrity endorsement video.

  1. Create the “give me more” factor is the real deal. There’s more and more celebrity endorsement video ads on internet that you have to be extremely creative (or just find out a genius idea) to stand out.

    Find a concept and build a story? Ok. But originality is the thing.

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