8 Celebrity Creative Directors: What They Really Do

"Celebrity creative directors" are a growing trend in corporate Hollywood.

February 18, 2013, 12:06 PM

Feb. 18, 2013 — -- intro:Celebrity product endorsements are a staple of advertising, bestowing titles like "spokesperson" and "brand ambassador" on stars. But these days, companies are taking an extra step and giving celebrities titles usually reserved for top executive talent, such as "creative director."

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"It's a really recent phenomenon, and the next extension of what a brand ambassador would do," said Shane Ginsberg, senior vice president of corporate development at Organic, a digital marketing agency.

When a company announces a partnership with a celebrity to take the role of "creative director," it is often stated that the person will help the firm shape its messaging and the type of products that are developed.

"Auspiciously, it's always done when the celebrity has something to sell themselves," Ginsberg said.

Although many celebrities who've become celebrity creative directors have a wide range of talents -- from writing to producing and performing -- it seems as if a famous name can get a title usually bestowed on the suave Don Drapers of the world.

"Maybe a better word is muse," Ginsberg said. "They might inspire a brand, but creative direction I'm not so sure."

Here are eight celebrities who have signed up as creative directors, plus a few brand ambassadors, for companies:

quicklist:category: Bud Light Platinum media: 18504910title: Justin Timberlaketext:This month, Anheuser-Busch announced that musician Justin Timberlake had agreed to be the creative director for Bud Light Premium, which debuted during Super Bowl 2012 and was the No. 1 new beer brand last year, according to the company.

Timberlake appears in a 60-second Bud Light Platinum ad, "Platinum Night," which also includes Timberlake's new single "Suit & Tie."

Anheuser-Busch had previously partnered with Jay-Z in 2006, when he was co-brand director for Bud Select.

The company said that like Timberlake's agreement, the timing of Jay-Z's agreement coincided with his new album release.

Terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

Ginsberg said "creative director" is another extension of "brand ambassador."

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"I doubt Justin Timberlake is signing off on ad copy for Budweiser, but it seems like it's another step," Ginsberg said.

When asked if celebrities such as Timberlake might have been asked to consume the products they're identified with, Ginsberg said there are probably specifications when one is out in public, but not privately.

"If you're asking if the only beer in Justin Timberlake's fridge is Budweiser, somehow I don't think so," Ginsberg said.

quicklist:category: Diet Cokemedia: 18506135title: Marc Jacobstext:Also this month, Diet Coke announced that fashion designer Marc Jacobs would be the creative director "exclusively for 2013," as part of its 30th anniversary celebration campaign.

Last week, Diet Coke revealed limited-edition cans of its soda decorated in fashion from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Read more: Marc Jacobs Designs Diet Coke Cans

"One would argue, 'Why not?' The guy does practice his creative outlet for a living," Ginsberg said of the partnership. "It's interesting to go from fabric to sugar water."

quicklist: category: Diet Cokemedia: 18506195title: Taylor Swifttext:Last month, Diet Coke also announced that musician Taylor Swift would serve as an "ambassador" for several Diet Coke initiatives, including a new ad campaign this spring.

Swift has been involved with a number of brands, including Cover Girl, Verizon Wireless, L.E.I. jeans and has released exclusive song tracks through retailer Target for her latest album, Red.

"Taylor Swift has a tremendous amount of line extension," Ginsberg said. "What she's done with Target and Red is very smart."

"It does feel like a fairly natural fit to her," Ginsberg said of Swift and Diet Coke. "But again, that's the celebrity promoting their own product, either an album or tour."

Read more: Harry Styles on Taylor Swift Split: "It Is What It Is"

quicklist: category: Blackberrymedia: 18356068 title: Alicia Keystext:

On Jan. 30, Blackberry announced that musician Alicia Keys would be its creative director, but last week, her Twitter account showed that she tweeted from an iPhone. She later tweeted that she was hacked.

"What the h*ll?!!!! Looks like I've been hacked ..." she tweeted later.

Ginsberg said that these apparent goofs happen frequently to celebrity spokespeople.

"I think there's a small cottage industry of people in the paparazzi ... who are there to catch people drinking Diet Coke instead of Pepsi and what not," he said.

Traditionally, the relationship is defined in a contract. It helps if the celebrity gets a percentage of the company's profits, such as P. Diddy and alcohol brand Ciroc, or Vitamin Water and rapper 50 cents.

"Diddy drinks Ciroc where he goes because he also has a stake in promoting it," he said. "He has a tangible outcome because he has a stake in the company."

Ginsberg said it is not very embarrassing for a celebrity if they are "caught" using another brand, but "it's extremely detrimental for the brand. It undermines the integrity of the brand and entire program itself."

quicklist:category: Pepsimedia: 17931801title: Beyonce Knowlestext:

When Pepsi announced a "partnership" with Beyonce back in December, the beverage company said it was "designed to be a true creative and wide-ranging collaboration between Pepsi and the 16-time Grammy Award-winning artist, with the brand and the pop star working together to co-create amazing content and experiences intended to benefit both partners. ..."

The performer made a splash at Super Bowl 2013 with Pepsi by her side, and a limited Pepsi can "developed in partnership between Pepsi and Beyonce" will be released in Europe next month.

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Pepsi does not disclose the financial details of its talent relationships, and a spokeswoman for Pepsi said a New York Times story and other media outlets erroneously estimated the value of Beyonce's multi-year campaign at $50 million.

quicklist: category: Intelmedia: 18504750title: Will.i.amtext:

Ginsberg said he was skeptical when Will.i.am, front-man for hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas, became Intel's "director of creative innovation" in January 2011, but he was later surprised by the synergy of the partnership.

"I was the first person to roll my eyes at Intel," Ginsberg said. "But I have seen the guy is passionate about tech and its applications. Seems like a closer fit to me than Lady Gaga and Polaroid, and Justin Timberlake and low-calorie beer."

Ginsberg said a celebrity partnership with a company makes most sense if the star and the brand are closely aligned. Intel has tried to show that an Intel Ultrabook can be used by someone as artistically creative as Will.i.am.

"We've had the equivalent of creative director as celebrity for some time, like Les Paul for Gibson guitar," he said. "But there it is directly related to the industry he was in. It sounds a bit of a stretch though sometimes."

quicklist: category: HPmedia: 18504841title: Gwen Stefani text:

In May 2005, performer and fashion designer Gwen Stefani and HP announced a limited edition "Harajuku Lovers" digital camera, and she has since been featured in HP ads shown in Asia and the U.S. touting online printing.

Ginsberg said Stefani has "done a very good job and has been a bona fide creative director" with Harajuku Lovers and L.A.M.B., her own fashion lines.

"That's been really good. Clearly, her sensibilities have come through in the products themselves. The brand and her are synonymous so it feels true to consumer," Ginsberg said.

"Then Gwen started doing HP touch stuff and it seemed somewhat believable though I don't think she's sitting with scientists in Palo Alto to interact with PCs, granted she is using the device, which is fine," he said. "Then Gwen started showing up in Windows Phone ads."

Other celebrities, such as actress Jessica Alba, have signed on to promote Windows Phone 8.

"Gwen must really like the Windows environment," Ginsberg said. "It feels much more like an endorsement when she does something other than her core. So it seems like borrowed interest or equity."

quicklist: category: Polaroidmedia: 18504680title: Lady Gagatext:In May 2010, Lady Gaga was announced as Polaroid's "Creative Director for Specialty Line of Polaroid Imaging Products" who at the time was promoting her new album, The Fame Monster.

She had also released her own line of headphones, Heartbeats by Lady Gaga, which were part of the family of the most successful celebrity brand collaboration outside of perfume line extensions, Beats by Dr. Dre.

"There is dispute how much of a role Dr. Dre had in developing the sound as opposed to Monster," Ginsberg said of the headphone company that helped developed Beats by Dr. Dre. In January 2012, Monster and Beats announced they did not renew their production contract and ended their partnership at the end of last year.

"But this is a good example of a celebrity driving the tone, marketing and style of a product to great success," Ginsberg said. "It's natural for a music producer to do headphones. It's harder to believe a fashion designer to do soda."

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