Beyond the hype of celebrity creative directors

September 24, 2013 | Blog | By Lightbox

From Beyonce’s glamorous H&M campaign playing at the mall on Adspace’s Smart Screens, to a suited up Justin Timberlake performing in a Bud Light Platinum ad, celebrities in commercials were hard to miss this summer.


Beyonce & HM Video

Pop culture and brands have been a power couple for many years, but recently their relationship has expanded as ephemeral brand endorsement deals are turning into long-term commitments. Producer Swizz Beatz, and his wife, Alicia Keys, are not just the faces of Reebok and Blackberry, they serve as Creative Directors for both brands. What really stands behind this trendy title and does it actually affect advertising?

In today’s saturated marketplace, brands’ main concern is differentiation. Companies are no longer using a celebrity’s image to sell. Instead, they are looking for devoted ambassadors who share the same values and can bring authenticity to consumers who are less responsive to traditional marketing strategies.  As for entertainers who are recovering from the digital revolution, they need to generate new revenue streams and think from a branding perspective.

Signing on a celebrity creative director seems to be a win-win, allowing both parties to capitalize on the partnership without hurting the core brand. Intel proved this by appointing singer and producer, Will.i.a.m, as the director of creative innovation. More than 5 million web users interacted with the Ultrabook Project, alluding to the company as being a “trend setting brand,” deeply in touch with its consumers’ interest. The partnership was also beneficial for Will.i.a.m’s credibility, presenting him as a tech savvy and innovative artist.

Will.i.a.m & Intel 

Pop stars should not be granted a fancy title – and another reason to be obnoxious – unless it reflects a mutually beneficial exchange. Many companies have been burned for not following this basic rule. For example, when announcing her partnership with Blackberry, Alicia Keys tweeted from an iPhone (#whoops). Additionally, the futuristic items that Lady Gaga unveiled as the new creative director of Polaroid were never released. Believing in the product and understanding that there is a mutual relationship between the brand and celebrity is what separates a glorified brand endorser from a thriving celebrity creative director.

I don’t mean that a celebrity needs to go so far as receiving an employee badge, but he must bring a true asset to the table—add value to the overall brand experience. Beyonce succeeded in this through the premiere of her new single, “Grown Woman,” in a Pepsi commercial. As the company’s new creative director, she gathered the key elements to target the new generation of empowered consumers including: experience, emotion, exclusivity and engagement. Just like her husband, Jay Z, did a few months later when launching his new album via a Samsung Galaxy app.

While creative director titles do not necessarily define the nature of the relationship between stars and brands, they do acknowledge a new dynamic in branding. As the line between pop culture and marketing is becoming thinner and thinner, advertisers must rethink their media strategy accordingly and consider more hybrid outlets.