VIEWPOINT: RULAS OF THE GAME: IN THE WORLD OF CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS, EVERY MICHAEL JORDAN HAS HIS BOSLEY.
I began wondering the other day about the criteria companies use when selecting celebrity spokespeople. What set me off on this train of thought was not the Donald Sutherlands and Gene Hackmans and Joe Mantegnas and Candice Bergens of the world lending their easily recognizable voices and faces to big-name car companies, airlines or long distance phone carriers. No, what got me to thinking on the subject was this: What reasoning led the Select Quote people to choose Tom Bosley as its radio spokesperson?
Sure, Tom Bosley sounds sincere. He was great as all around nice guy Mr. Cunningham on Happy Days. But does he still carry any endorsement weight? And if he does, then why give him an opening line like, "Hi, I'm Tom Bosley for Select Quote"? (A good tipoff that a celebrity endorser may not be worth the bucks is when name ID is required at the beginning of a commercial. Though it's probably a good thing, because I wouldn't be able to tell a Tom Bosley from a Dick Van Patten.)
When I was a kid, there was a TV commercial for a shampoo and the first line, read by an announcer, was, "Actress Rula Lenska for Alberto VO 5." I didn't know who Rula Lenska was. Neither did anyone in my family. I still don't know who Rula Lenska was, or is, assuming she's still alive. But at least she had nice hair and maybe that's all that mattered.
Continuing in the realm of odd choices in second- or third-tier celebrity endorsers, what's with Jim Brolin (complete monotone) as the radio voice for Aamco? Jim Brolin? Didn't he used to be James Brolin back when he played the uptight, yet dashingly handsome, assistant to Marcus Welby, M.D.? (I'm dating myself. Speaking of dating, my office mate tells me Jim is currently dating Barbra Streisand. Does she call him Jim or James? Does he call her Babs?) So James is now Jim, a regular guy talking to us about stains on our driveway. ("Could be a transmission problem. But maybe not.")
This an example of the classic, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV." Only more twisted: "I'm not a transmission specialist, but I played a doctor on TV." Huh?
Jim replaced the immortal Claude Akins (another total monotone-I sense a pattern here) as Aamco's spokesman. I got the connection with Claude. He starred as Sonny Pruitt, a tough, crime-bustin', over-the-road trucker in the television series Movin' On. (Found this on the Claude Akins Home Page on the Web. Another month where my $19.95 was well spent.) Sonny repaired his own rig. So, yeah, maybe Claude could pass as a guy who knows transmissions. Then again, Claude was also the celebrity pitchman for a denture adhesive. Go figure.
And shouldn't one of the primary criteria for selecting a spokesperson be the celebrity's ability to properly pronounce the advertiser's name? Take the case of Kate Jackson for Lincoln-Mercury. Kate pronounces it Linkin-Merkree. Three or four times a commercial. And every spot ends with Kate declaring, "See yer local Linkin-Merkree dealer . . . tuh-day!" Sure, she's enthusiastic, but she can't pronounce the company's name.
Which brings us to a gasping and wheezing George C. Scott for the U.S. Postal Service. Why George C. Scott? Is it because he once played a government employee, General Patton? (I know, I know, the Postal Service is not a government entity.) Did he ever play a mailman? Is there some obscure postal-related fact buried deep in George's press kit? While still a struggling young actor in New York, George made ends meet by sorting mail on the overnight shift at New York's largest postal facility . . .
I just can't imagine the Postal Service's marketing and advertising people sitting around a big conference table and having one of them suddenly blurt out, "Hey! Maybe we can get George C. Scott!" (And, yes, George identifies himself in the first sentence of his radio copy.)
I'm guessing that if you had a surreptitious recording of Lincoln-Mercury execs discussing Kate Jackson, you might hear a guy shouting, "I don't care if she can't say Mercury! I want a Charlie's Angel and she's available!"
Has anyone seen David McCallum lately?