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Celebrity Endorsements, Behind the Camera

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For decades, celebrities have appeared in front of the camera for all kinds of advertisements. However, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed the same is true for celebrities appearing behind the camera, too.

When I first saw this spot during the 2012 Oscars, I thought it was cute, heartfelt, and had a strong tie to a product benefit (which is really all it takes to catch my eye these days.) But there was just something about the way the story unfolded on camera that I was enamored with.

Suddenly, I realized: this commercial had to be directed by Wes Anderson, a filmmaker known for whimsical, soft-spoken comedies like The Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic.

While I was right about Mr. Anderson and Hyundai, I had no idea that directors have been doing this for years. Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and Michael Bay are among those who have loaned their iconic directorial styles to brands of all kinds. I was even ashamed (though not shocked) to learn that the most famous commercial of all time, Apple’s 1984, was directed by Ridley Scott, whose sci-fi and fantasy films I have always adored.

When you’ve written a script where mood and tone play an important role in delivering your brand’s message (like in the Apple and Hyundai spots), I think hiring a director who is known for creating that mood is smart and strategic. It’s the same way for any celebrity—why pay them all that money if there isn’t a natural connection to your brand?

Here’s a recent example of what I feel may have been a movie director misstep. Darren Aronofsky of Black Swan fame just directed this commercial for Kohl’s, starring Jennifer Lopez.

Apparently, Kohl’s wanted to use the same technique Aronofsky introduced in the climactic final scene of Black Swan. You know, the one where a hallucinating Natalie Portman goes full-on psychopath across the ballet stage. In the pop-glitter-teeny-bop world of J.Lo, was this an appropriate fit? What do you think?

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