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The Cost of Endorsements
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Not many public and commercial figures can hide from the light provided by the Information Age. From celebrities, athletes, and political figures to business executives and nonprofit leaders, all in the past years have been in the unwanted limelight. As an industry that enjoys using these figures in our creative, AdLand must step ever-so-gently when it comes to picking the right face for our brands and campaigns. 

Or must we?

There have been debates about if brands and their executives (let's say agencies, too) should be involved in or voice their concerns about political issues and issues that may polarize consumers. We communications professionals, whether we like it or not, must enter this debate. To let the watchdog media make its silly assumptions and grandiose claims without any structural support will do more harm than anything else. Should we support the brand or shop's idea to advocate an issue that is important to them?

Our answer: absolutely.

It was recently been "unusual" for brands and businesses and the people who run them to publicly and commercially support issues and political activity. Back in the days of Mellon, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Roosevelt, and even Cool Calvin Coolidge, these businessmen mixed the worlds of charity, business, and public work. It wasn't considered uncouth to publicly throw your backing behind something that was going to affect the environment in which you, your business, and your consumers operated.

Goodness forbid someone is offended!

May it be the case that a competitive market that brands and the advisers in the ranks are choosing not to voice their opinions any longer for fear that the people who buy their goods and services may seek a brand that better fits their values? The brand may think that pushing an issue, and losing consumers is a far greater risk than pushing an issue and gaining.

Is it not the point of advertising to convey messages about how the good or service provided by a brand can improve the lives of consumers? If so, why then would it be a shock to see Ben & Jerry's or Chick-fil-A come out for issues that are part of their values? Ben & Jerry's at least made it part of their advertising, while the other brand did not.

The point is, when it comes to endorsing certain issues, celebrities, and the like, our society has gotten so uptight. We choose to push senseless creative and messages for fear of demonstrating how our brands fit in society and "scaring" people away.

The cost of endorsements is the loss of the identity and creativity the brands choose to hide.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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