Biz Break: What’s a ‘brand ambassador’ worth in tech?

Top Of The Order:  

Good Work, If You Can Get It: OK, let’s face it. Celebrities have been used in commercials and product ad campaigns practically since the first radio programs went on the air nearly 100 years ago.

If you’re of a certain age, some ads with celebrities have probably left an indelible impression upon you. Back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath wore pantyhose in a commercial. Before he became a show business pariah, Bill Cosby starred in a couple of long-running ad campaigns for Coke and Jell-O Pudding. Recently, comedian Amy Schumer and actor Seth Rogen have appeared in a series of commercials for Bud Light beer.

So, celebrities shilling for products is pretty common. In fact, it’s become so common that even if you barely qualify as a “celebrity” you can get in on an ad campaign as a “brand ambassador.” And with that, enter Brooklyn Beckham.

Uh … who?

You know … Brooklyn Beckham. The 17-year-old son of former soccer star (and professional brand ambassador himself) David Beckham and his wife, Posh Spice, aka Victoria Beckham. He’s famous for … well … being in photographs with his parents.

Well, that’s enough to get a gig as a brand ambassador (otherwise known as a person who gets paid to be in a product’s ad campaign) for the new Huawei Honor 8 smartphone. Let’s hear it for everyone who waited in line overnight for the Honor 8’s introduction at an event in New York on Tuesday!

(Is that the sound of crickets chirping? Anyway …)

The younger Beckham joins a stable of other brand ambassadors for the Huawei Honor 8, such as Scarlett Johansson (you know who she is), Henry Cavill (I think he played Superman in that one movie) and Karlie Kloss (she’s a supermodel). But will a “star” of Brooklyn Beckham’s status actually get people to buy a smartphone from Huawei, a brand that, as big as it is in Asia, is largely unknown to American smartphone users — who are likely already connected with their iPhones or something from the Samsung Galaxy line?

That’s a question the BBC poses as it looks at how the tech industry has employed, and handsomely compensated, brand ambassadors to hawk their wares. It seems that more often than not, paying for a familiar face to pose onstage or act in a commercial with your smartphone or tablet gets you some notice, but rarely results in a surge of new sales. And then there are times when the brand ambassador gets caught in an embarrassing situation in which they are caught using some other product than the one they are getting paid to represent.

But that won’t happen to Brooklyn and his Huawei Honor 8, now will it? He’s probably retired that iPhone that he used in a video guide to Instagram last year, right?

Middle Innings:

And Speaking Of Ads … Apple and Microsoft have often often used their TV commercials to take some shots at one another. Probably the most famous may have been Apple’s series of “Mac vs. PC” commercials, which — while not mentioning Microsoft directly — were definitely aimed at PCs running Microsoft’s Windows operating systems.

A truce was called, or, at least, the two companies stopped running such ads. That is, they had stopped until now.

Recently, Apple and Microsoft have restarted their commercial war. Apple kicked it off earlier this month with spots for its iPad Pro in which the tablet is shown working with its optional keyboard and running Microsoft programs such as Word and PowerPoint. The commercials don’t show any rival Microsoft products such as the Surface Pro tablet.

Well, Microsoft isn’t rolling over and playing dead. On Tuesday, Microsoft fired off its own salvo, with commercials showing the Surface Pro 4 next to an iPad Pro, and the Surface’s Cortana voice assistant asking the iPad’s Siri about its features, many of which the Surface has that the iPad doesn’t.

So much for the peace that had passeth all understanding. With Christmas and holiday shopping just a few months a way, the war for consumers’ tech dollars is back on.

Bottom Of The Lineup: 

Here’s a look at how some leading Silicon Valley stocks did Wednesday:

Movin’ On Up: Gains came from Accuray, A10 Networks, Jive Software, Medivation and Electronic Arts.

In The Red: Decliners included SunPower, Oclaro, Invensense, Depomed and Genomic Health.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index rose just 1.6 points to 5,228.

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average added almost 22 points to finish the day at 18,573.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 4 points to 2,182.

Quote Of The Day: “Had they asked, he would have stayed and assisted.” — Jeff Ostrow, lawyer for swimmer Ryan Lochte. Brazilian officials want to question Lochte further about his claims of being robbed at gunpoint in Rio during the Olympics.

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Photo: Brooklyn Beckham at the Huawei Honor 8 debut in New York on Tuesday. (BBC/Huawei)


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