Monetizing Celebrity. Interview with Wendy Dutwin

In a world of ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) the added value of the right personality and the right creative context now looms large. Wendy Dutwin, founder and head of Limelight Media, soon realized that there was a special role for her in celebrity procurement after years in production, both in television and in film. 

Celebrity procurement is essentially monetizing talent by matching them carefully to marketing campaigns. “We try to find the best opportunity with a client where a celebrity will have the most impact,” Dutwin explains. Many of Dutwin’s partnerships involve pharmaceutical campaigns where a celebrity can bring focused attention to the product or the disease. This poses unique challenges because of federal regulations and rules in the pharmaceutical area that may not exist in the consumer product and services sector.

Charlene Weisler: Does the celebrity have to suffer from the ailment in order to be a spokesperson for the product?

Wendy Dutwin:  Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Blythe Danner was the spokesperson for Prolea, which is a post-menopausal medication. We needed a celebrity spokesperson who had those symptoms. But in the case of disease awareness campaigns, it is not as necessary for the celebrity spokesperson to have that disease.

Charlene Weisler: What type of research do you conduct to help match celebrities to products?

Wendy Dutwin: We know that there is a specific demographic that we need to reach. We tend to focus on women who watch a lot of television as the aspirational target. They may watch certain programs of TV and psychologically there would be an affinity or a message that relates to this targeted female viewer. Nothing intimidating. So in the case of Jennifer Aniston being the spokesperson for Shire’s Dry Eye Campaign, we sought a female celebrity who has the “look” and can relate to the target consumer.

Charlene Weisler: How can you tell if a campaign with a certain celebrity is successful?

Wendy Dutwin: Our clients have metrics to let them know that the chosen celebrity worked for the campaign. And there are a lot of marketing offshoots from certain celebrities. An example is Tim McGraw who talked about his campaign while as a guest on The View. It is not a transactional relationship – it has a more organic fit. So we focus in on the right person who can do the job well and who also matches the target demographic. We can build a campaign around the celebrity. We can also measure our own success by the renewal of the celebrity in the campaign by our clients and maybe even achieve a longer deal.  

Charlene Weisler: Is this usually a multi-platform effort?

Wendy Dutwin: Yes. We always like to build in a broadcast element and, with the divergence of TV, social media advertising is becoming a big part of what our clients want to do today.

Charlene Weisler: Has your decision-making on which celebrities to match with which clients changed since you first started?

Wendy Dutwin: We stay updated on the trends. Celebrities are now cultivated on different channels. YouTube is becoming a great source of cultivating talent. Our clients are always looking for the next big thing so we are in constant conversations with agents of talent. We have found that once the trend has hit the magazines, it has already exploded. We try to get in there earlier. We signed Adam Levine before he hit it big on The Voice and now we can ride the wave with Adam. We look for exciting partnerships and use our talent in more creative ways.

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