ANA Annual Meeting 2013

Despite That Brief Problem With Pacquiao, Hennessy Still Banks on Celebs

Hip Hop Icon Nas is Newest Star of 'Wild Rabbit' Campaign

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Hennessy is acutely aware of the risks that come with putting celebrities in ads. The cognac brand featured Filipino boxing and political star Manny Pacquiao in its "Wild Rabbit" campaign in early 2012 -- only to encounter a firestorm later when an article gave the impression that Mr. Pacquiao vehemently opposed gay marriage.

The situation was confused from the start. As the Huffington Post told it, the article "quoted a passage from the book of Leviticus that left many people thinking that Pacquiao was calling for the deaths of homosexuals." The author of the article later said Mr. Pacquiao never cited the passage, but the backlash sent Hennessy marketers scrambling.

"We probably had a crisis management meeting every other hour until the situation could be cleared up," said Hennessy USA Senior VP Rodney Williams, speaking during a presentation at the Association of National Advertisers' meeting in Phoenix.

The incident did not, however, deter Hennessy from using celebrities, now including the newest star of the "Wild Rabbit" effort, by Droga5, hip hop artist Nas. Ad Age spoke with Mr. Williams at the ANA to get his take on the pain -- and gain -- of working with celebs.

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