Should You Put Your CEO in Your Ad Campaign?

Today I came across a story in Slate by Seth Stevenson wondering if it’s smart to put your CEO in your ad campaign. An earnest Stevenson gets quite analytical over the question, but I could’ve saved him some time. The answer is, For the love of God, no!

So maybe this is one of my pet peeves, but unless you’re Frank Perdue, your CEO starring spot is awful. What these ads do is remind people how soft and flabby, and country club looking, corporate CEOs are. And how if they’re not wearing suits, they’re wearing suits with no ties (a truly ridiculous look if there ever was one). They’re usually horrible actors giving you the feeling you’re driving by a wreck on the side of the road that you just can’t look away from. When I see these ads, I can’t help but act out the marketing meeting in which it was decided that the CEO should star: “Yeah boss, that’s a great idea! You’d be great in that ad!”

One of the CEO ads Stevenson analyzes is the GM spot starring CEO Ed Whitacre. While admitting that Whitacre is “plainspoken, unapologetically uncharismatic,” he decides that “The ad is akin to a calm retail manager emerging from the back of the store to soothe a frustrated customer.” I guess, if the retail store is the Lansing Country Club gift shop. I have no idea what he’s saying because I can’t take my eyes off every little tick and eccentricity that Whitacre exhibits. The way his lips move when he talks, the way he carries his arms when he walks, and those odd glasses. Why does he snap his fingers once during his walk through the set? He can’t possibly be so strange in real life, can he?

Here in San Diego, my old employer, the Union-Tribune, is using the new publisher in radio ads. Yup, I’m holding my breath for the TV version!

(In case you missed it, here’s the GM spot.)

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