How to design the perfect celebrity endorsement video.

This video has a style and elegance that is rare in most promotional videos.

Do celebrity endorsement videos really help your brand? Are celebrity endorsements worth the money?

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 obsessive attention lavished on celebrities in social media or the ludicrous prices on offer at auctions of celebrity flotsam and jetsam.

I suppose we’re just socially programmed to like / crave / envy / desire / revere / need / stalk / love those in our society endowed with what we perceive as special gifts.

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 celebrity 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 Johnnie Walker promotional video that landed a few years back.  This promo could 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 your project with a concept because the right celebrity is often ‘bigger’ than any concept. The idea should be ‘informed’ or, at the least, ‘inspired’ by the celebrity – that’s the power and value a celebrity can bring.

If you’re a local brand then you can likely only afford local talent and the risks of choosing the wrong person is low. If you are a national or international brand then the stakes are much higher and the risk in choosing the right celebrity can be significant.

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 all A-listers are not created equal and even the highest profile celebrities can end up missing the mark. Check out Brad Pit’s $7 Million endorsement for Channel or Scarlett Johnasson’s SodaStream Super Bowl ad.

 In this video. Johnnie 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 is perfect as both foil and partner to Giannini’s old world charm.

Johnnie 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 then have to build a story around them – an adventure that suits their persona. I wrote previously about a promo Kahlua developed using Jeff Bridges -another A-list actor and another international alcohol brand.

Jeff Bridges reprised his iconic ‘dude’ role from ‘The Big Lebowski’ to promote one of the world’s great party drinks. In this promo a story was built around the shenanigans you might expect ‘The dude’ to get into.

Now that you have perfectly cast your actor – build a narrative around your hero that suits their character. If your doesn’t jump off the page and make you want to see the finished video, keep writing.

In this video. The title of the promo is ‘A gentleman’s wager’- which nicely summarizes the basic storyline.  The ‘bet’ is the set-up and the terms of the bet (a dance number) definitely piques your interest. How on earth is this going to play out?

It’s a very engaging video – a slow build that keeps things moving. You’re always left wanting to see what comes next. You can’t say that about most promotional 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 Johnnie Walker (Red). I’d give the story a 9/10 (The dance sequence was great, but I would have preferred a ‘con’ or even a car chase…) { Update: see Post Script at bottom.)


3. Execute really, really well.  Ya, I know… this goes without saying right? There are two ways to do this. The first is hoping that a divine combination of luck and talent coalesce in the equivalent of a ‘hit’ video (like the Will-it-Blend series or Dollar Shave Club) and the second is to hire the best talent money can buy.

Execution is never easy. You need to hire the best talent you can afford – director, actors, crew… etc. and hope that everyone involved in your video production is motivated. 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. Johnnie 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.” The music is really well done… 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: 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 Johnnie 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 recreate the glory of a great idea, well executed.


6 Responses

  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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Video Production Cost Calculator

Discover what goes into the cost of your video project.


Top 10 Posts