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With the industry gathering pace again post-covid, now is the time to shoot for the stars on your creative. With the likes of streaming services, social channels, broadcasters and cinemas offering high profile talent and exceptional story-telling on tap, brands must do more to capture the attention of already highly-entertained consumers who curate their own viewing schedule.

In a new four-part series, BEN (Branded Entertainment Network), who provide free initial consultation for agencies on licensing, will share with readers the top tips for selling icons, celebrities, characters, fine art and movie references for ads of all sizes. 

Contrary to popular opinion, the use of celebrities and icons in ads is not restricted to major advertising events like Christmas and the Super Bowl, and does not have to cost the earth. In the first installment of the series, we find out how BEN simplifies the process of selling celebrities, with crucial licensing tips your potential client might like to know.


Whilst financially securing a celebrity or icon may be more workable than you first think, mapping out a ballpark figure of proposed campaign fees at the pre-pitch stage is a crucial aspect of selling celebrities to a brand. After all, your client needs to know they will see a return on that spend and you’re not throwing caution to the wind with their money. It’s important to understand the financial parameters surrounding celebrity requirements. If you’re not sure how to map this out, seek advice from a partner who does.

BEN offers advice and help with budgeting on a bespoke basis. Ballparking with BEN at the initial stages of your campaign planning will provide you with vital budgeting information early on. Knowing if the campaign will focus on one talent or several, as well as the number of creative executions the celebrity will feature in, along with the media plan, are all good starting points for budgeting. In our experience, this approach is successful for agencies as it puts them in a great position to move pitches forward quickly and effectively to the next stage.

Bear in mind, popular A-list celebrities may seem like the obvious choice, but the price the talent sets may not always correspond to what the client was expecting to pay. In these cases, we are able to recommend not only our roster of icons, but also provide a shortlist of highly sought after potential icons and living celebrities, depending on specific brand requirements and tailored to the budget. 

Further to this point, with online and social creative a major part of any campaign now, material produced is global in nature and use, so rights clearances need to take this into account. If social is part of your brief, it is important to budget for worldwide talent rights. This is a common oversight that often holds up campaigns, so should be taken into consideration early on. 


It is easy enough for creatives to dream up the ideal celebrity endorser that personifies the brief and the brand. The hard part, however, is trying to attain information regarding the talent’s availability, as well as their willingness to feature in the specific campaign. When a celebrity agrees to work with a brand, they are putting their faith in that brand to deliver as promised, so the creative must be a good fit. 

Sometimes clearances cannot be arranged due to the talent not wanting an association with a particular brand or category of product – such as alcohol – which can be devastating to any campaign. Other times, creative scripts will need to be tailored to fit with the celebrity’s personality or own brand and image, in order to be given the greenlight. For instance, portraying a celebrity as a “bad boy” in a script, when he is the opposite in real life, is unlikely to get approved by his management. The earlier these clearance considerations are made, the better, allowing time for a potential Plan B to be drawn up, depending on the feedback obtained from the talent.

Our far-reaching network makes us well-connected and able to fast-track initial feedback so you can find out whether a preferred icon or celebrity is interested in getting involved. We know which talent agents and estate representatives to contact, as well as all the major studios, labels and publishers, which means we can secure additional rights to music or movies if the creative utilises any links featuring the talent. 


The long-lasting pulling power of iconic brand ambassadors is undeniable. However, it is important to consider that the public opinion of a living celebrity can change quickly if that individual changes their behaviour, or does something that could be perceived as inflammatory.

On our roster we have icons like Steve McQueen. The reputation of deceased celebrities provide excellent evergreen value for brands, as their lives are well known, their qualities defined and unchanging. This provides a very strong message to the consumer about what the brand stands for. McQueen has been a brand ambassador for Tag Heuer for a number of years. Steve appears in the film Le Mans wearing a 1969 Tag Heuer Monaco watch, making this the perfect example of a harmonious and intuitive celebrity/brand partnership, as the consumer does not require an explanation about why the two have been paired up. 

Long-term use of an evergreen ambassador endows the brand with the same timeless quantities of the celebrity and customers buy into this. 


Using icons and archive materials such as pre-existing photos and videos does help with both sustainability and costs as agencies can create a spot only using pre-shot digital content. Clients may be motivated by a need to control production costs related to a shoot “in real life” but they can also have a willingness to streamline the narrative by using simple and effective images of icons from the present or the past. 


Don’t leave clearance until the final stages of a project, especially if the use of the celebrity is not obvious or a key part of the campaign. For example, if a script makes a spoken reference to a celebrity, or a photo of a celebrity is included as a prop in the background, these need to be licensed and last-minute clearance requests can take longer than you think. Sometimes the rights clearance process can take weeks to arrange – depending on the complexity of the clearance or of the campaign.  

Ensure you provide your licensing partner with your budget, a detailed campaign brief, a set media plan as well as a storyboard or creative visuals at an early stage. This ensures for swift and straightforward negotiation. Changing the brief halfway through clearance can be very difficult and can bring negotiations to a full stop when time is tight, so make sure you have everything you need confirmed early on and try not to make changes once estates and talent have been contacted.

To avoid disappointment, we encourage clients to consider each celebrity clearance that is required, early on, and make potential contingency plans depending on feedback obtained from the talent. The only way to navigate last minute clearance needs is by having good relationships with studios or talent agents that can offer up an alternative. If you don’t have these, work with a company that does.

Incorporating iconic household names into your next spot should not be a difficult sell and to help, BEN can facilitate the process of acquiring the rights of celebrity talent for commercial campaigns. For over three decades the company has been responsible for the representation and product licensing of global icons, and the scope of their rights licensing capabilities are far-reaching and versatile. BEN provides free initial consultation for agencies on licensing. Want to know more, simply get in touch.

This post was originally featured on lbbonline.com