Celebs, brands and social media

Getting celebrities to endorse a brand via their social media platforms can be an amazing boon. But not all celebrities are scrupulous with their disclosures. Should brands and agencies insist? Or does the onus lie with the celeb?

Anathea Ruys, head of Fuse Asia Pacific, Omnicom Media Group
Anathea Ruys, head of Fuse Asia Pacific, Omnicom Media Group

Over the past few years there has been a real shift in the type of celebrities we admire and how we hold them up to scrutiny. Fame used to propel stars into the stratosphere and we held them to different and generally lower standards than we would expect from those we know in everyday life (which is also the reason celeb based magazines, such as the one I used to edit, flourished).

We idolised them despite their public disgraces, substance abuses and flagrant promotion of products they never used. So Film star X promotes whiskey in Japan and speaks publicly about a family member's alcohol problems, or TV star Y flogs a supermarket moisturiser in advertising but admits in interviews that she adores La Mer, and we didn't bat an eyelid.

But the rise of the personal celebrity—the social star—has created a much different dynamic. Despite their huge numbers of fans and subscribers the more social stars have a much more intimate relationship with the people at love them. And a much, much more reactive one.

At Campaign Asia-Pacific's Media360Summit Ryan Higa (nigahiga, 17M subscribers) said he gets feedback all day every day on the partnership choices he makes, and no one is afraid of telling him directly when he is selling out. He literally can only partner with brands that he has a very real affinity with or his subscriber base will be up in arms.

It's the same with Bethany Mota or Zoella. Two amazing young women who have turned their thoughts on fashion, beauty and lifestyle into multimillion-strong subscriber bases. And now into powerful partnerships. Mota has partnered with Walmart to sell her cute clothes collection that absolutely resonates with the girls that love to hear what she has to say.

And likewise Zoella. My organisation recently partnered with her to create a Zoella popup shop that highlighted the best of what Zoella was into that season. Every product sold out instantly because there was a real authenticity about what Zoella had chosen. As she said, she is just a girl taking videos in her bedroom about stuff that's interesting to her.

Maybe that's the difference. Celebrity used to be almost defined by artifice. Actors literally played someone they weren't and musicians often spoke about becoming someone else on stage. Not so for the social media star. Authenticity is what's hot to audiences these days.

So the question shouldn't be so much about who bears the responsibility for disclosure, but more who bears the responsibility for ensuring the partnership is authentic. And that is on both sides. As brands we mustn't force a fit where it doesn't belong, and our new generation of celebrities must never be blinded by the promise of cash to compromise their authenticity—but they're not likely to miss the mark too often. Not when they have millions of people keeping them honest.

Anathea Ruys is head of Fuse Asia-Pacific, part of Omnicom Media Group


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