Michael Jackson might have hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans mourning his death but marketers would have no hesitation in using his image or stock footage in a marketing campaign.
More than 70% of respondents to last week’s MarketingWeek.co.uk poll question said that it would not be “wrong” to use the singer in an ad campaign.
There are plenty of precedents for using actors and entertainers who have died in campaigns. The most memorable of recent years is the campaign in 2005 for Volkswagen Golf featuring a dancing Gene Kelly from Singin’ In the Rain. Television entertainer Bob Monkhouse was also recently revived for a campaign, albeit a charitable one, for The Prostate Cancer Research Foundation.
However, 24% of poll respondents did think it would be wrong to use footage of Jackson in any kind of ad. Of course, in many cases the deceased’s estate may have no control over the use of footage, which may be the property of a film studio or record label.
Once the matter of taste is removed it becomes a question of whether such an association is beneficial or harmful for the brand.
Using a character much-loved by a certain demographic can run the risk of a backlash. A press campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi featuring grunge icon Kurt Cobain depicted as an angel sitting on a cloud wearing Dr Martens’ boots attracted the ire of fans and may have led to the agency parting company with the client.