Thursday, July 10, 2008

Click that Celebrity!

It is interesting to note the various degrees of how celebrities tap the internet to brand themselves. At one end of the scale are celebrities who have absolutely no official web presence, closely followed by those who seem to have sites designed by the lowest bidder. On the other end are those that have well planned sites that help build the celebrity as a brand, are informative, and promote various merchandise at the same time.

A few of the well-designed official sites that I came across were that of Nelly Furtado, Maria Sharapova, Avril Lavigne, Emma Watson and Emmy Rossum. Nelly’s site caught my eye because of the design, which was synonymous with the trademark font that she uses on her album covers.

Maria Sharapova is astounding when one takes into consideration the wealth of information and the presentation layout. Sharapova’s site like that of co-tennis player Anna Kournikova has adopted a strong co-branding strategy, with her sponsors products being highlighted time and again. Her site is media rich with a number of photo slideshows, videos, forums etc.

The only person who managed to trump this depth of content was Avril Lavigne who even included content for mobiles, a link to her Myspace account, and a picture of her Weemee. Avril’s site even uses Google to automatically translate the site into ten languages!

For those celebrities who lacked an online presence it is interesting to see the quality work fans and communities have undertaken to highlight the celebrity. True this is not a replacement for the celebrities own site but some of these sites come very close, with stunning designs and rich content. I was suitably impressed by a fansite for Shia LaBeouf of Transformers and Indiana Jones fame, which delivered content succinctly.

What is truly interesting is how certain celebrities have started ‘official’ social networking pages. These profiles are supposedly updated by the celebrities themselves or by their press team. This development is not only interesting from a web development point of view, but interesting from a social perspective as well. Celebrities who do set up such pages come across as open people who like to keep in touch with their fans. Going a step further would be seeing celebrities starting their own video blogs. Alternately, such blogs are integrated into official sites – such as in the case of Anna Kournikova.

The downside to celebrity branding online is sites that masquerade or allude to be official sites, or official sites that are are not done well. One site that was strictly OK was Charlize Theron’s site, which though was pretty clean failed to impress after having considered the competition. The page that was really a let down was the so-called official page of Ms Keira Knightley on My Space. One has to wonder if this indeed is an official page. It's most likely not, with dozens of so called Keria Knightley profiles on MySpace. If it is indeed her official page, Ms Knightley should have a look at Emmy Rossum's site perhaps for inspiration!

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