On Thursday, iconic Australian brand Qantas released a new advertising campaign starring inimitable actor Christopher Walken.
Walken – who at 72 has appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows – has been enlisted by the airline to help promote their new health insurance wellness program, Qantas Assure.
The ad, filmed in a darkly-lit theatre, depicts Walken engaging in various modes of exercise and plays on a simple pun: “Here’s Christopher … walkin’,” reads the voiceover, as Walken saunters across the stage.
Assure is a new initiative between the airline and the National Heart Foundation offering Qantas Frequent Flyer Points to health insurance customers who prove their active lifestyle by sending Qantas their fitness data.
The ‘Walkin” gimmick has delighted some viewers, while others believe the actor has joined a raft of others in selling out for a quick buck.
Watch the ad below:
The star factor
Walken isn’t the first star to promote a brand for big bucks. One of the most notable endorsement deals of recent times has been George Clooney and Nespresso, while acting legend Al Pacino surprised many by appearing in an ad for Vittoria coffee.
In her 2003 film Lost in Translation, Sophia Coppola poked fun at the world of celebrity endorsements, casting Bill Murray as a depressed star selling his soul to a Japanese whisky brand.
Dr David Waller, senior lecturer in advertising at the University of Technology Sydney, said using big-name celebrities was guaranteed to catch an audience’s attention, but it didn’t guarantee the right message would get through.
“It’s fun and clever, but maybe it’s too fun and clever and it misses the point of what it’s trying to sell,” he said.
Another possible problem with using celebrities is brand dilution. Not only has Walken already appeared in a big brand advertisement this year, carmaker Kia also used his surname for a pun in its ‘Walken Closet’ advertisement during the NFL Super Bowl.
See Kia’s ‘Walken Closet’ ad below:
Dr Waller said being in a different market, it was unlikely Australians would notice the pun idea had been recycled, but he hoped Walken wouldn’t “spend the rest of his career using his last name for ads”.
Dr Waller also pointed out many viewers would recognise Walken’s dance moves from the 2000 Fatboy Slim film clip Weapon of Choice – good for familiarity but another potential copycat issue.
Money well spent?
Christopher Zinn from The Determined Consumer said the ad was imaginative, but only time would tell how audiences respond.
While Mr Zinn said the ad used Walken to great effect, he questioned whether it effectively communicated Qantas’ message.
“I have a lot more questions after the ad,” he said, noting that it was also in the company’s interest to pique customer curiosity.
Rosie Baker, editor at Ad News, said Qantas was being clever by not attempting to enter the competitive health insurance market with talk of extras and low fees.
“By using a cult figure like Walken to do something so completely different in the category, they can cut through,” she said.
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