Economy, Business And Markets

Iranian Celebrities Bite Once-Forbidden Fruit

Business & Markets Desk
The use of celebrities for marketing products may not work to the advantage of both the famous personality or the advertiser at all times
Advertisement agencies are mostly inclined to use athletes of famous sports clubs in their advertisements, followed by actors and singers.
Advertisement agencies are mostly inclined to use athletes of famous sports clubs in their advertisements, followed by actors and singers.
Celebrity endorsement marketing should be part of a long-running, integrated marketing campaign

Celebrities are followed by many people so it makes sense that there is a strong allure among marketers to enlist one to pitch their product.

On the other hand, intense promotional campaigns featuring celebrities indicate that there is strong competition among producers of similar items.

Although celebrities are excellent in grabbing people’s attention, university professor and advertising consultant, Ali Forouzfar, believes that the mere use of such an advertising tool and failing to notice other forms of promotional campaigns cannot produce the desired outcome.

“To develop effective promotional campaigns, a firm must have an appropriate spokesperson. The influence of famous people in urging people to buy a product should not be ignored. However, celebrity endorsement marketing should be a part of a long-running, integrated marketing campaign,” he told Financial Tribune.

Asked about the advantages and disadvantages of celebrity branding, Forouzfar said source, message and channel are controllable variables in a communication system.

“Marketers need to have a clear understanding of the correlation between each of these variables and the receiver,” he said.  

Marketing experts can highlight the resemblance between the source and recipient of the message or create familiarity by giving the knowledge of the source through repeated or prolonged exposure. Or they can develop affection for the source in receivers from physical appearance, behavior or other personal traits (here the celebrity who endorses the product).

However, the risks of using celebrities include the product being overshadowed by the celebrity it is being endorsed. Also, the celebrity may be overexposed and that might reduce his or her credibility.

“There are no accurate statistics on the turnover of advertising campaigns that enjoy the branding of a celebrity. Nevertheless, their share is apparently minimal compared to television, radio and field advertising,” he said.

 Response of Officials, People

However, officials’ criticism of artists appearing in an advertisement proves the fact that some state players are bent on ensuring they have the final say in all sectors unlike what is claimed by those who devised the country’s macroeconomic plan for promoting free market economy and privatization.

“Artists who are icons of the nation should not become promoters of consumerism; they should advocate values such as generosity.” This was part of an order issued almost a decade ago by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, upholding the 1979 directive by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution.

The directive banned “cultural figures” from appearing on TV or billboard advertisements.

What prompted the ministry’s response was the onset of sporadic appearances by actors and athletes in commercials.

Veteran actor, Jamshid Mashayekhi, was the first Iranian celebrity to appear on billboards, branding a household device—an air conditioner—in Iran. His break with tradition did not sit well with many officials and people. He was criticized for doing what was deemed unsuitable to his status as a respected artist.

In fact, eyebrow raisers were not willing to accept any change in the image they had of him: a non-materialistic sage who mainly appeared in self-abnegating roles.

However, this outdated logic, which sees the artist as an abstinent fellow of modest means, needs to be reworked.

According to film critic Mina Akbari, forbidding celebrities from appearing on commercials is synonymous with depriving them of a potential source of income.

“It is common knowledge that fame is short-lived. There are many artists who live in poverty during the final years of their lives,” she wrote in the Persian daily Shargh.

“Let people decide whether they like to see us in advertisements or not. You (officials) do not need to work out a solution before a problem has cropped up,” actor Bahram Radan told senior officials of the Ministry of Sports and Youth, Ministry of Culture and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting in a conference dubbed “The Role of Artists and Athletes in Advertisement” in 2015.

His remarks echoed similar statements by other actors and actresses present there.

A few weeks after the gathering, the ministry announced that the controversial ban was lifted, based on certain conditions.

“Celebrities’ endorsement of domestic products and national industries should be in line with the general principles of ‘Resistance Economy’ and aim to draw attention to local industries and products,” the statement said.

Resistance Economy is a concept aimed at weaning the Iranian government off oil dependence, its main source of income for decades, by boosting productivity and exports. It was first raised by the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in 2011, amid the tightening of international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear energy program.

 Serious Reservations

Forouzfar noted that celebrity endorsement marketing is not normally the first option of adverting agencies in Iran while famous people have serious reservations when it comes to taking part in commercials.

“They fear the quality of the product they agreed to endorse may not live up to expectations, which could in turn somewhat tarnish their own reputation and image among their fans,” he said.

Referring to the fact that clothing, toiletries, automobile and sports brands are more interested than other companies to use celebrities for publicizing their products, Forouzfar said advertisement agencies are mostly inclined to use athletes of famous sports clubs in their advertisements, followed by actors and singers.

“The type of product and consumers’ culture are central to the decision-makers in this field. One particular group of celebrities should not be employed for all products and all kinds of customers,” he concluded.


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