When your ad campaign has been around long enough to feature the child of your original ambassador, you know you're doing something right. And such is the case with London Advertising's 'Fan' campaign for Mandarin Oriental, which started with David Tang (see below) 20 years ago and recently signed his daughter, Victoria Tang, to appear in upcoming work.
Since the campaign launched in 1999, Mandarin Oriental Group has grown from fewer than 20 hotels to 32 locations globally, with plans to open 15 more hotels and 13 residences in the next five years.
Over the years, there have been 60 fans, connecting the group’s fan logo with the influential power of international A-list celebrities who regularly stay at the hotel.
“Many people often ask why we have so many celebrities to represent our brand instead of one," Angela Cai, China director of marketing communications of Mandarin Oriental, told Campaign China during the recent Shanghai International Advertising Festival. "[These celebrities] truly like Mandarin Oriental and had stayed at the hotel before we talk about them being in our fan campaign. These celebrities are our VIPs, so we think they are the best representatives."
The group offers these fans free stays at its hotels around the world (for a limited time period), and donates money to a charity of the celebrity’s choice, instead of paying them in cash. To date, the brand says it has made over US$500,000 in charitable contributions in return for the help of celebrities as varied as Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson. The company reportedly spends US$3 million on media annually.
The concept of inviting celebrities to endorse a brand is not creative, but "what makes the campaign stand out is that the celebrities are true fans of Mandarin Oriental and willing to represent the brand without being paid," Henry Moffett, business director with London Advertising, said during the Shanghai festival.
How does London Advertising choose the 'fans'? The agency gave an example of Chinese photographer and designer Chen Man, who has many fans in both the mainland and Hong Kong and thus could help the brand reach new consumers.
Other fans of Mandarin Oriental include Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, British violinist Vanessa Mae, and architect I.M. Pei, who recently passed away aged 102.
Michael Moszynski and Alan Jarvie, founders of London Advertising, have attributed the longevity of their work to creativity and a good relationship with the client, Jill Kluge, who has been overseeing all aspects of brand communications at Mandarin Oriental for 28 years.
“In Mandarin Oriental, we have a client who trusts us and understands what we are trying to achieve," Jarvie shared in a statement. "Too often, clients get bored with their advertising and change it just as it is in danger of being noticed. Or a new marketing director comes in and wants to make their mark and so demands a pitch or a new campaign. Perhaps this explains why so little advertising is remembered and correctly attributed to a brand these days.”
Moffett said that different languages and mediums are used in the campaign to communicate with consumers, such as online and outdoor ads as well as posts on social media platforms using the image rights of the celebs.
The ads are visual reminders when people think about the hotel, said Moffett, who credited the simplicity of the creative and the copy for the campaign's durability.
The campaign still works well in today’s digital environment. "We see people using our language ["I'm a fan"] to communicate when on social media," Moffett said. "When our work gets into the vocabulary of a larger group of people, it makes us more willing to carry on the work."
A prime example is how the fan video of English actor Dev Patel on YouTube clocked over 1 million views. The agency also tries to extend the longevity of the campaign offline, such as by having pop artist Sir Peter Blake cover the front of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park during its recent renovation.
While advertising is not allowed on central London buildings, the agency persuaded the authorities that Blake's poster (see below) was in fact a piece of civic art and could therefore be used, Kluge said in a provided statement.