You're hired! Are brands really taking on celebrities as staff?

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When you arrived at work this morning, did you notice a pop star sitting at a flat-screen, typing away? Was there a movie idol in the kitchen fixing some coffees? Or a minor royal handing out the mail? If not, I'm afraid your firm is way behind the curve, because hiring the famous and fabulous is all the rage.
Who's the Creative Director of the wobbly Blackberry empire? Why, it's Ms. Alicia Keys.  A perfectly rational choice. If you needed someone with deep technological knowledge and a track record of innovative product design - you'd rush to appoint a massively successful, but mediocre R&B songstress, wouldn't you? I know I would. True, you may be a wee bit disappointed when she started tweeting from an iPhone - but nevertheless, she's still perfect for the job, right?
After all, you'd only be following the example of Polaroid (are they still going?). When the instant photo folk found themselves without a Head of Creativity, did they retain the services of a top global head-hunter? Embark on a series of meetings with the planet's most adept creative executives? Of course not! They simply asked Lady Gaga to do the gig. Because what a manufacturer like Polaroid requires, above all else, is a bit of kit that looks like a broken satellite dish covered in yoghurt. (In fact, Gaga knocked them out a design for a printer which looked like all the other printers in the world).

And, hold on - what's this? Pop your head round the door marked Director of Creative Innovation at Intel and guess who you'll see, ranting into his dictaphone and playing with his Newton's Cradle? Why, it's badly-barbered, Cheryl Cole botherer Will.i.am. What a coup! How on earth would you design increasingly powerful micro-chips without the considerable skills of the guy who wrote 'My Humps'? You wouldn't, you couldn't!
It isn't just the tech giants jumping on this recruitment jamboree either. Glossy, fame-worshipping magazine Vanity Fair is the latest outfit to take advantage. And they've really raised the bar - bagging sister-of-forthcoming-queen Pippa Middleton and appointing her Contributing Editor. Cue journalists going postal about the desecration of their trade, unfair privilege and general sycophancy.

Phew! What a palaver. 

Maybe we should all just calm down and examine exactly what is actually going on here. Anyone who imagines Lady, Will, Alicia and Pippa are roused from their beds at 6.30am each morning, ready to head into the office for another day of editing, innovating and creating, hasn't quite thought this through. Not one of these personages requires a 'proper' job. They're all minted and probably very reluctant to mix it with mortals. No, this is of course, all about brand marketing.

The concept of associating a product with a star is as old as advertising itself. In the UK, it probably originated with the Royal Warrant - a crest which appeared on goods to indicate their favour with the monarchy (it still appears on some packaging). In the glory days of Hollywood, everyone from Clark Gable to Joan Crawford would happily endorse cigarettes, cars, hats and more. The modern era has brought us Chris Hoy and his breakfast cereal - and we'll never forget David Beckham almost not wearing  his underpants - this is just an extension.

What better way to draw the glitterati close to your brand than to actually give 'em a title and stick 'em on the payroll. They don't (and wouldn't) work for you in real life, they just do it in the minds of marketing managers and the odd, naive punter. Proper, wage-slave workers need have no fear for your prospects and careers. These quasi-deities will never trouble your workspace or staff party. 
It's all a stunt, albeit a quite effective one.  

Coming soon: One Direction appointed Joint Heads Of Emerging Markets at Goldman Sachs.

Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant



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