Ad campaigns that feature the owner of a business are like a horrific car accident. You want to look away, but your primal nature wants to see the carnage.
It happens a lot in local ads. When I worked in radio, there was a constant stream of small business owners coming in to read their copy…which, on the air, sounded like they were reading their copy. TV is even worse. Some of these people don’t know any better. And some are just doing it because they like the attention.
Local ads like this usually last a long time because the owner personally sees the results. People come up to them and say “I saw you on TV!” The owner is constantly reassured that people are seeing the commercial…so they buy more. This is one reason these types of ads are so prevalent…media salespeople know that vanity spots are usually good for an extended run. An ad that doesn’t feature the owner (or heaven forbid – his kids/grandkids/etc) is probably just as effective. But since most businesses have no marketing tracking whatsoever, vanity spots are seen as “effective” by the gut check of the owner.
OK. Small businesses don’t know any better. What about larger companies?
Well, when there was a fungus among us in contact lens solution, Bausch & Lomb trotted out their CEO who looked like he was making a hostage tape.
Bill “I’m related to Henry” Ford has all the personality of Al Gore when talking about the innovation and “exciting things” happening at Ford.
Sometimes the owner is so non-camera-compatible that it becomes a hallmark of the ads…and becomes good. Case-in-point: The late Dave Thomas at Wendy’s.
And we’re about to have another instance of “bad becomes good” with the current “Dr. Z” commercials featuring DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche. (I’m actually appalled at one of these spots where Dr. Z and another guy crash…and walk away. The disclaimer is not big enough here.)
The point is that sticking the CEO out front in an ad is not always the best option. Actually, it rarely is. And a good leader/manager/owner will be intelligent enough to realize their own limitations…and decline.