Bearding the celeb endorsement problem

Celebrity endorsement in advertising is always a two-edged sword. Sure, having hair-style challenged David Beckham or pukkah posh Joanna Lumley around helps to create lots of lazy interest. But interest in whom? For the most part the brand is no more than a moth fluttering about in the penumbra of the celeb’s brilliant aura.

Until now. We think Virgin Media has finally cracked the conundrum in its own unique way. Henceforth, each celeb must be statutorily obliged to sport a blond goatee beard (or is it a “spade” beard these days?) while appearing in a Branson ad.

Seeing those TV ads with Usain Bolt – the 2012 Olympics triple gold medallist – in them earlier this year was what gave us the idea.

All right, it took a moment to disentangle why the bloke with the lightning-bolt arms-eurythmic was pratting about in a false beard – confusion made worse by Beardie’s forlorn offstage appearance later in the ad. But now Mo Farah – our very own double goldster – has made his debut in a Virgin Media press ad, the sublime simplicity of the Branson branding device has become blindingly transparent. At last, Virgin has achieved what generations of marketers could only dream of – the power of the celeb successfully subordinated to the sovereignty of the brand!

From now on, all celebs endorsing Virgin Media should be obliged to sport the iconic device. That said, we can see that BBH might have a little trouble persuading Uma Thurman or, thinking forward, Victoria Pendleton, to take up the challenge. They should think of the money. Mo certainly did – he seems to have coined £500,000 already.

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