Chris Kyme: Postcard from Hong Kong

Chris Kyme_April2016.jpgChris Kyme continues his "Postcards from..." series and this time he is concerned why Hong Kong loves its celebrities...

Famous for being famous

I was in the car the other day approaching the toll booths for the cross-harbour tunnel, subconsciously taking in the outdoor visual pollution that masquerades as advertising, when a big handsome smiling face caught my eye. No I wasn't looking in the mirror, it was a strategically placed billboard signage for Caltex, right above where the cars approach the tunnel. It featured the celebrity (sort of) called Grant Imahara. And two things struck me. One being, hey that's clever, placing a Caltex ad right above where all of the drivers pass by. How relevant. The other was - who the hell is Grant Imahara? Is he a Lewis Hamilton's number one rival?
Actually, I know who Grant Imahara is, because I used to watch the TV show 'Mythbusters', and became used to seeing him as one of the brainy scientific experiment presenters. Nice young man. But I would bet my shock absorbers that the majority of Hong Kong drivers do not have any clue who he is. To them he's just some nice looking Asian bloke on a poster. Smiling. While the copy tells them that he recommends Caltex.

Now I think the use of him is quite relevant. Sort of. He's known to know a thing or two about engineering. So that makes sense. But at the same time, that aspect of it is only relevant if everyone else gets it. And that's the problem. I would also hazard a guess that the campaign did not originate in Hong Kong. Because if it had, it would have featured a Hong Kong based celebrity instead, and one who is definitely well-known here. But there's the dilemma. Do you go with someone really really famous, or, someone who has some sort of relevance to your product category?

Grant Imahara.jpgIn most cases in Hong Kong, it would be the former. The blind use of the most obvious celebrities is and always has been, everywhere. And I think Hong Kong is not alone in this. You're paying for them just because they are famous and that they therefore bring some credibility and the sparkle of fame to your brand. We see it everywhere in luxury. And in beauty. In beauty of course, showing the beautiful face of some one really famous makes sense. There's the aspiration right there. Where it also falls short, is if yours is not the only advertising campaign where said famous person's beautiful face is plastered everywhere. Because then, not only does the general public become immune to seeing that face, they also forget who they have seen it representing. (And don't think for one minute they actually believe that they choose to use the product.). Think Tang Wei, the actress. Gigi Leung ( a bit old school nowadays but still around), Andy Lau, Cheung Chi Lam. Or the evergreen (or ever face-lifted) Do Do Cheng, who's been flogging products in just about every category since Grant Imahara was playing with Lego bricks. Or these days the obsession with Korean stars.

The other downside of the blind use of really famous people is when they slip up and become famous for something other than having perfectly white teeth. As has been the case with some of the Hong Kong celebrity scandals over the years, when the people the public most love become the people the public most love to see in naughty photos. Of which the tabloids also love, while the brands they represent, don't. Always a risk.

If advertising has taught us anything, especially in Japan, it's that anyone is available for a price. Personally, I most appreciate the use of celebrities for endorsement when it's relevant and clever with a touch of humour. Like the UK beer campaign which had great big photos of famous people, which looked as if they were endorsing the product, but in small print next to each photos stated 'A photo of Margaret Thatcher' etc.

Hong Kong advertising loves its celebrities. Whether the Hong Kong public always know who they are or not, I'll leave open for the Grant Imahara fan club to answer.

VIEW CHRIS KYME'S MARCH 2017 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S JANUARY 2017 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S NOVEMBER 2016 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S OCTOBER 2016 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S 2016 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S AUGUST 2016 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S JULY 2016 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S JUNE 2016 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S MAY 2016 POSTCARD
VIEW CHRIS KYME'S APRIL 2016 POSTCARD

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