Brands have used celebrities in their ads for ever believing it would raise awareness and meaning. So the Johnny Depp commercial for Dior Sauvage is nothing new.
I have mentioned many times that having your brand solely affiliated with a celebrity can be dangerous. Then, you are chained to the reputation of that celebrity, good or bad.
Most brands, however, just use celebrities in a one off, highlighting them in one campaign then moving on. Or you have a case like Nike, which simply sports an entire team of athletes that promotes its products and “Just Do It” mantra.
The most recent example of a brand using a celebrity to increase its meaning is Lincoln and Matthew McConaughey. That campaign is tremendously effective because it shows Lincoln in a new light (that it’s cool). The campaign is so effective that the recent spate of ads needs no voiceover. Just McConaughey being cool in his Lincoln. (And sales of Lincolns have risen.)
The Johnny Depp commercial is laughable.
The Johnny Depp commercial, however, is a similar attempt going wrong and is laughable in its execution. In it, Depp essentially drives down a highway, sees a buffalo, digs a hole in the desert and buries his jewelry in it.
The main problem is that Depp doesn’t have the brand equity that McConaughey has right now. He’s a fine actor, but the last time I saw him play a recognizable human being was probably in Donnie Brasco nearly 10 years ago. Since then, it’s been Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Sleepy Hallow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Pirates of the Caribbean and many others.
More than that, the Johnny Depp commercial plays like a parody of a cologne ad. It has no internal logic (or at least a logic that would be understood and resonate) and is full of images from an album cover you’d never buy.
When Depp rises from his burial, posed like a hero in an apocalyptic western, you bust out laughing.
Like a lot of advertising, the Johnny Depp commercial is simply money wasted. Marketing cologne is not easy because the market is such a blend of similar styles that few resonate for any length of time.
Trying to copy the McConaughey Lincoln ads feels like an attempt to demonstrate Depp’s appeal, but it failed to make the product or the brand coveted.