Having a Plan B for Those “Tiger moments”

An article I was reading recently in AdWeekLessons of Tiger’s Tale – made what I thought was a very valid point related to the media frenzy now surrounding Tiger Woods and the impact on his advertising endorsements. “Using celebrities is effective and makes business sense. Just make sure you always have a plan B in mind — just in case.” Good point.

It’s a point that applies in non-celebrity situations as well. In fact, having been burned over the years by the use of “real people” in television commercials, I can relate – albeit on a much smaller scale. Advertising – particularly television advertising – can be extremely expensive to produce well. When “something happens” that casts a new – and often negative – light on someone in one of these commercials they generally have to be pulled. That creates a number of related problems:

  • The investment you made in that ad has been negatively impacted.  I have worked for organizations that literally didn’t care – they had a lot of money. I think in these economic times, though, those organizations are hard to find.
  • You’re now left with a “hole” in your communication campaign. If you’ve built an entire campaign around one individual and something happens, you have a gap that can take some time (and more money) to fill.
  • Your reputation/image may have been damaged depending on the significance of the issue. Maybe/maybe not – something you need to evaluate and consider and…
  • If your reputation has been damaged you now need to engage in some damage control.

It’s a risk I’ve taken – and lost – and a risk that I’m loathe to recommend for a client. Although, on the other hand, I have to admit that it’s a position that many clients do not agree with. They have good and valid reasons for wanting to highlight their staff, customers, and often themselves in their advertising. And, after all, it’s their money and reputation to risk.

Still, I think the lessons learned from the recent Tiger situation include:

  • Don’t enter into any arrangement with a celebrity spokesperson or any other representative to act on behalf of your organization without giving some serious consideration about what could happen down the road.
  • As the author of the AdWeek article suggests – have a Plan B. Be strategic – plan for both the best-case and worst-case scenarios. Both are relevant and can impact your business. In the best case somebody you’ve used in an advertisement does something wonderful that you may be able to leverage. Be prepared to leverage quickly – the opportunity won’t last long. In the worst case somebody you’ve used pulls a Tiger and you need to act fast. In both situations, knowing what you’ll do ahead of time will help you maximize/minimize the impact of the situation.

It takes significant effort, time and money to build a strong, credible and well-regarded brand. It doesn’t take nearly as long for that brand to be negatively impacted.

If using “real people” in your advertising is important to you, move forward – just recognize the risk you’re taking and have a Plan B – just in case.

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