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Rodney Mason
Article from "New York Times"

By NINA M. LENTINI
Published: January 4, 2007

BRAND mascots and other types of brand ambassadors — meant to bring a brand to life in tangible form — are everywhere these days, as marketers look for new ways to spread their messages across a variety of media.

Burger King’s monarch joined other personalities in wearing a milk mustache.. Marketers say the characters, whether symbolic or actual warm bodies, translate especially well to the Web, where video and audio are increasingly being used to build brands. They are part of what is known as experiential marketing, which seeks to translate a product or brand into a three-dimensional form to increase its appeal to potential buyers.

Such branding is a “definite trend right now,” said Tracy Ryan, associate professor of advertising research at Virginia Commonwealth University. “They can more effectively communicate the same cues” for a brand “in multiple places. It’s their very transportability that is key.”

Marketers like Procter & Gamble and Diageo say brand ambassadors give their marketing programs greater flexibility, because they can use the same image on television, in print or online. P.& G. posts images of its flesh-and-blood Mr. Clean on a Web site (mrclean.com), while Diageo goes even further, posting video and audio of its Tanqueray gin ambassador, Tony Sinclair, an affable 30-something with an English accent, on Tanqueray.com.

Brand ambassadors can also have provocative personality elements that “surprise and delight viewers,” as Burger King says of its quirky King, who appears on BKGamer.com. That is important because advertisers encourage consumers to spread online ads by forwarding them to other consumers — and a dull ad has little chance of being forwarded.

Diageo has inbued Tony Sinclair with the personality of an urbane, hip smooth-talker. LG Mobile signed the teenage singer Rihanna, whose songs appeal to the young audience it is aiming for.

Last month, Burger King’s King, plastic though he may be, joined legions of personalities who have appeared in “milk mustache” ads. And over at Procter & Gamble, a real-life, hunky Mr. Clean took his magic to the New Orleans Superdome, where he led a group of volunteers in cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina.

A spokesman for P.& G., Glenn Williams, said Mr. Clean “embodies the spirit of the brand — a magical helper who appears when he’s most needed.” The company posted on YouTube the video clips of a look-alike contest held at the Mall of America, though they have generated only about 700 views so far..

The Mr. Clean character has also appeared on “Cold Pizza” on the ESPN2 cable network, as well as at many consumer marketing events.

Burger King’s monarch appeared last year in a commercial that ran during Super Bowl XL in February, as well as in the mustache print ad for the Milk Processor Education Program, which appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone and People en Español. A series of video games for the Microsoft Xbox 360 system, sponsored by Burger King, featured the character, too; they have become something of cult hits on gaming blogs. More than 300 people auditioned for the role of Tony Sinclair. Rodney Mason, a dancer and actor, has personified the character since 2005 in a campaign created to bridge the gap between a previous Tanqueray brand ambassador, a venerable gentleman called Mr. Jenkins, and today’s more youthful audience.

“Old public school,” meaning English private school, is how British-born Tim Mellors, vice chairman and chief creative officer at the Tanqueray agency, Grey Worldwide, described the former brand ambassador. “There’s a tinge of that in Tony,” Mr. Mellors said, adding, “He’s the new cut on the gentleman’s gentleman.”

Diageo is preparing a nine-minute Web movie for national introduction in March. The film, “Globe Probe,” takes Mr. Sinclair and an oddball cast of characters to India, where they search for the lime groves of Rangpur to help make a new Diageo offering, Tanqueray Rangpur, which “goes with everything,” as the campaign will proclaim.

 

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