"When the client moans and sighs,
make his logo twice the size.
If he still should prove refractory,
show a picture of the factory.
Only in the gravest cases,
should you show the clients' faces"
So reads the advice from David Ogilvy in his Confessions Of An
Advertising Man. Well, it's lucky that Victor Kermit Kiam II, who died
last week, was unaware of, or uninterested in, Ogilvy's advice.
Kiam, who liked the Remington shaver so much that he bought the company,
starred in Remington advertising throughout the 80s. It made him a
household name in 31 countries.
Winston Fletcher, the chairman of the Advertising Standards Board of
Finance, believes there's a simple reason why the ads, which were
developed in-house, struck a chord with the clean-shaven masses. "He did
it with huge confidence and gusto and there was a touching amateurism
about him," he says.
There's no doubt that the permanently tanned Kiam had a big personality
and that came through in the advertising. He had been the vice-president
of marketing for Playtex and would describe bra sizes as: "Ping Pong,
Ding Dong, King Kong and Holy Cow!"
Associating Remington shavers with the smoothness and energy of Kiam
proved to be a successful formula. When he bought the company in 1979 it
was losing dollars 30 million per year, but within a year he had managed
to secured profits of dollars 47 million.
In 1981 Remington had 25 per cent of the UK electric shavers market.
Fletcher is unconvinced of the Kiam-focused campaign, however. "He only
got so far," he says. "Remington never got a really big market share or
managed to displaced Gillette or wet shaving. It was modestly
Ogilvy's words point out that casting the client smacks of
There is no one reason to explain why agencies or advertisers do use
company heads in ads. In some cases it's an ego thing, in others it's a
The Union is proud of its work for the Baxters soup range, which most
recently starred Audrey Baxter, the daughter of Ena Baxter, who began
appearing in the brand's advertising in the 50s. Ian McAteer, the
Union's managing director, says that highlighting the family ownership
of the company lends the brand family values that go down well with
He also thinks that the Baxters imbue the brand with Scottishness and
Jim Kelly, the joint chief executive of Rainey Kelly Campbell
Roalfe/Y&R, thinks the owner of a company personally endorsing his
product can help to lend the brand integrity. "You buy into the
individual's integrity when you buy the brand," he argues. Kelly cites
both Kiam's appearance in the Remington commercials and Frank Perdue's
role in America's Perdue Farms chicken advertising as two examples of
the boss's promises of quality strengthening his brand.
Perdue is a household name in the US. After one retailer was found to be
selling Perdue chickens beyond their sell-by date, Perdue appeared in an
ad promising consumers that his company would never supply that retailer
In one sense, the roles played by Kiam and Perdue could not have been
performed by any other. A company's chief executive could never imbue a
brand with the same personal guarantees and credibility as the man who
owns the thing. A colourful figurehead with passion enough to sink a
personal fortune into a company speaks to a consumer's basic trust.
However, Laurence Green, a managing partner of Fallon, does not think
casting company bosses makes strategic sense: "It's very limiting.
There's no way back. They tend to dominate the strategy. The strategy
becomes Richard Branson rather than any kind of financial revolution
that he may be promoting. You've got nothing to start with when you try
to move the campaign on."
The one exception that Green allows is Bartle Bogle Hegarty's work for
The New Covent Garden Soup Company. He says that although the owners
starred in it, the strategy was bigger than the owners' appearances.
Green makes another valid criticism: "Because they're not actors, they
can't take direction so the ad is more than likely to end up creatively
lame." When you remember Bernard Matthew's wooden performance in his
turkey advertising, you can see what Green is talking about.
McAteer cites one more very important failing of commercials starring
clients. As consumers become more cynical, it is proving harder to
convince them that the bosses and owners cast in the ads are genuine,
not actors. He says the fictitious man from Del Monte has a lot to
Kiam's appearance had a creative idea and strategy behind it. He liked
the shave so much he bought the company. He didn't appear blandly on our
screens, saying "buy my shavers". His brashness and confidence succeeded
in imbuing Remington with associations of quality.
However, his death appears to mark the end of an era. The public's savvy
and cynicism leaves little space these days for such a direct appeal to