Celebrities on the tech fast track

Celebrities on the tech fast track

I remember a few months back – a year or more in fact – when ex-TV news announcer Richard Long came out of screen retirement to front an advertising campaign for Hanover. Clearly he was chosen because he was a recognisable, friendly face. But, more importantly, a face that had been in our living rooms for the last few years, he was someone we knew and… well, someone we trusted.

Ipso facto, this ‘trust’ and general bonhomie would then be conveyed to the product he was talking about. We’d trust it because we trusted Long. The subsequent meltdown of certain segments of the investment market here notwithstanding, I was surprised at the time that he’d done it. I didn’t know if he had any professional financial knowledge, so it struck me as odd that he was in the ad.

Of course, celebrity endorsement is nothing new … from Stephen Fleming pushing air conditioning to Sarah Ulmer eating at McDonald’s, we’ve pretty much seen it all.

It’s a fickle business, which is why I’m more than a tad surprised at the latest celebrity endorsement to find its way into my line of vision.

“Strap yourself in!” screams the ad. Then the ‘famous’ guy chips in: “Telecom say that their new XT Mobile Network is faster in more places and covers 97% of where New Zealanders live and work. And I can’t wait to put it to the test.”

You may have seen the ad. The celebrity in question is Top Gear’s Richard Hammond (although you’d be hard pushed to tell from the signature – and I also can’t find any specific reference to the guy, so maybe it’s a digital doppelganger). Anyhow, the real Richie is clearly a knowledgeable bloke when it comes to cars, but now seemingly a mobile technology expert as well… or perhaps not.

“But if you’re anything like me, you won’t take some bloke off the TV’s word for it…” he adds somewhat ironically.

Well, at last he got that right.

I guess Telecom took the chance to nab him while he was here in New Zealand for the live Top Gear shows. But what’s the association between a TV car show presenter and mobile technology? The promotion points to speed and ‘test driving’, as the company is inviting people to do with its new network. But isn’t that a little bit tenuous? Is there any real relationship between the physical speed of driving a car and the data transfer speed of communications? It’s not like making a phone call will suddenly feel like you’re gunning it down SH1 in a Ferrari.

Anyhow, back to products and personalities. Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Hammond crash a jet-powered car recently and nearly kill himself? Maybe this association with land speed isn’t such a good thing after all.

Then again, maybe it’s our high-speed racer who should be the one on the look out, if the latest wranglings between our mobile network operators are anything to go by.

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