Published March 09, 2011
Want to get Snoop Dog to endorse your business? What about the queens of product endorsement, the Kardashian sisters? It can be as easy as sending a tweet.
Ad.ly, a startup based in Los Angeles, Calif., connects celebrities with companies seeking endorsement based on the audience a business is trying to reach. Co-founder Derek Rey said while traditional celebrity endorsements can cost upwards of $1 million, Ad.ly can connect a business with a celebrity for under $3,000. It has more than 1,000 celebrities including reality stars, professional athletes and actors.
“In a traditional endorsement sense you are already in the hole before you even know if it works,” Rey said. “We can connect them for a lot less, which is less risk from a brand standpoint.”
Celebrities take a “large percentage” of the price cut, Rey said, although he declined to specify just how much they make on a single tweet. Ad.ly acts as an automated platform where businesses control what is being said by which celebrity and when it is posted, he said.
There is no doubt people are listening to what celebrities have to say. For example, Charlie Sheen’s tweet from Monday “I'm looking to hire a #winning INTERN with #TigerBlood. Apply here – http://bit.ly/hykQQF #TigerBloodIntern #internship #ad” that linked to the site Internships.com, got close to half a million clicks for the business in less than two days.
According to Rey, the company of 22 staffers took off a year and a half ago, after bringing to life the idea to create a shortcut for advertisers to reach the platforms where everyone is spending their time, through the most influential people in the world of celebrity.
Today they have expanded into New York City, and are looking to double in size and add offices in the U.K. and Chicago, Rey said.
David Wales, prime minister of the Ministry of Culture, said a realistic way for small businesses to approach this type of endorsement is to look for a niche celebrity that speaks to their audience. The definition of ‘celebrity’ is so widely defined today that there is a potential advocate for nearly anything.
Ad.ly has a firm grip on the celebrity endorsement space in social media, Wales said.
"They have got it kind of wrapped up," he said. "They saw the potential in this."
The endorsement partnership should have some sort of believability, Wales said, because the allure of celebrity doesn’t cancel out consumers’ smarts.
“If Kim Kardashian mentions she is using Spanx, I can well imagine that, and it would have an impact because it’s believable,” he said. “If she said she loves a certain kind of photocopier, there would be a major disconnect. There does have to be some sort of storied logic.”
Some celebrities, however, can endorse anything under the sun and get away with it.
“Someone like Snooki from the 'Jersey Shore,' she can do breath mints, pantyhose, vodka and people will believe anything because she is a colorful character,” Wales said. “Others messages have to be somewhat crafted to be believable because at the end of the day, people are not stupid.”
Rey said Ad.ly’s businesses write in a suggestive manner, rather than a flat-out endorsement of one product, so that it feels more realistic to readers.
“We make sure every message that goes out of Ad.ly is written for people,” he said. “It doesn’t make my skin crawl. It’s giving value, building awareness and finding creative ways to message and learn about a brand. We leverage the celebrity as a messenger.”