So, what is the practice of putting a face on a company? It's sort of the ultimate in transference.
A short guide to transference: Person sees X, person hears Y, person equates X with Y.
This ad approach can look a lot like the other ad approaches. The company can take a Feel Good approach and talk about how it cares about the community. The company can take a We Are the Experts approach and talk about how nobody does it better. Some companies can even take the Guilt Trip approach: Sally Struthers for Save the Children is infamous for this.
Put a Face on the Company is pretty much the ultimate gamble: If it succeeds, generations will know your company for one thing it does well. If it fails, it can be a blow to PR bigger than any leak could ever damage them.
- Halifax bank has its staff appear in its ads, the most famous of which is Howard, now heavily associated with the company. Uniquely, he wasn't CEO or owner, but just a normal office worker.
- He is now also out of a job, Halifax having abandoned the 'carefree' ads in the economic downturn.
- Not entirely; the current adverts feature Halifax staff playing at being radio DJ's, with two rather dumpy girls in sensible cardigans singing along to Vanilla Ice advertising a safe and reliable financial product called an ISA.
Beauty and Personal Hygiene
- The Hair Club for Men: "I'm not only the president, I'm also a client!"
- Remington shavers, and owner Victor Kiam: "I liked it so much, I bought the company!"
- The Spatula City owner: "I liked their spatulas so much, I bought the company!"
- The series of "Ask Dr. Z" commercials used by the Chrysler Group in the US and Canada, featuring DaimlerChrysler chairman Dr. Dieter Zetsche. The campaign backfired, as many viewers assumed this guy with a silly mustache and incomprehensible German accent was a fictional character.
- In the 1980s, Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca appeared in many of their ads. He returned to Chrysler commercials for a few months in 2005 despite having left the company over a decade before.
- On a related note, basically any television commercial for a car dealership will feature one of their salesmen - the best looking one of course. Dealerships being local businesses, however, these ads are likely not that great.
- Joe Isuzu was a fictional spokesman for Isuzu automobles. Played by David Leisure, this character was a pathological liar who made outrageous and overinflated claims about Isuzu's cars. It has more seats than the Astrodome!
- Bill Ford, Jr., great-grandson of Henry Ford and at the time CEO of the Ford Motor Company, made a point of appearing in a series of Ford ads during his tenure, playing on his "cool, Nice Guy exec" persona (for a scion of one of America's great industrial families, he seems to be a very casual guy and what with the veganism and folk guitar is a bit of a hippie for one too). The company kept declining, Bill's face on it notwithstanding, and he bowed out of both the ads and being CEO to look after his family's other interests (including trying to get his father to run the Detroit Lions competently).
- George Zimmer, CEO of Men's Wearhouse, appears in all of its ads, ending each by saying "You're going to like the way you look; I guarantee it." This phrase has spawned its own Memetic Mutation, and turned Zimmer himself into somewhat of a Memetic Badass.
- Video Professor ads all feature CEO John Scherer plaintively imploring the audience to, "Please? Try my product."
Food and Drink
- Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers had commercials featuring Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes, a couple of elderly country bumpkins sitting in a porch. Apparently, Ed was the brains of the outfit, even if he never talked.
- In the 1950s and '60s, Piel Bros. beer had a series of animated spots featuring the fictional Bert and Harry Piel, voiced by comedians Bob & Ray.
- Orville Redenbacher did this for his popcorn for years until his death. Creepily, he continued to do so as an obvious zombie for years after his death.
- The PS3 ads have been doing this... disturbingly.
- It was never specifically stated, but there was a British advert for a firm of ambulance-chasers featuring a spokesman of such sheer ugliness and wooden presenting ability that he must have been the boss, wandering around a call-centre of such depressing cheapness that it must have been their actual offices...
- Such cheap advertising only ever appears on daytime British TV, where it is universally assumed the watching public will not be of the exalted and sought-after prime-time demographic with lots of lovely disposable income. In fact, they're anything but. Daytime TV watchers are thought of as an amalgam of students, the unemployed, housewives, the elderly, etc, those without any of the assets that make them so valuable to TV advertisers. It is also believed that such people are not financially savvy, hence all the adverts for ambulance-chasers, PPI refund cowboys, loan-sharks, pawnshops, etc, that you never see in the breaks at peak-time.
- Michiganders (and others, but mostly Michiganders) are familiar with the awful 1-800-CALL-SAM commercials for The Law Offices of Sam Bernstein, another firm of ambulance chasers, prominently featuring the founder and more recently his children (who are apparently all lawyers working at his firm).
- Buckley's cough syrup in North America ("It tastes awful. And it works.") was for a long time advertised by founder William K. Buckley, and later his son, Frank Buckley.
- Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's Restaurants, appeared in commercials for the chain.
- His daughter Wendy (yes, the restaurant is named after her) is doing the same thing, but Dave did it better. The ads featuring Wendy Morse (she goes by her married name) tend to be wholesome ads emphasizing the freshness of the ingredients or the company's commitment to Dave Thomas' adoption charity; these are helped by the fact that Wendy Morse, despite being a multi-millionaire businesswoman (she owns over 30 Wendy's franchises and sits—at least sometimes—on the main company's board), looks exactly like the stereotypical Midwestern suburban mom. (At the same time, the company ran ads featuring a sexy twentysomething redhead who looks like what a lot of people probably imagine the "Wendy" in the logo would look like—these generally feature particular meals.)
- The ur-example: Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harlan Sanders. He went so far as to put his own face on the logo—and now his face is famous the world over. Not bad for a farmer's son from Southern Indiana.note
- Jack in the Box's ads feature Jack, the corporation's fictional clown-headed CEO.
- Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has been appearing in its most recent commercials, talking about how "cool" his company's various phone plans are and looking like a huge dork in the process.
- The Crazy Eddy electronic chain had WPIX-FM late-night disc jockey Jerry "Dr. Jerry" Carroll as a spokesperson, doing a series of commericals in his manic style, ending each spot with the line "Their Prices Are Insaaane!". People actually thought this actor was in fact 'Crazy Eddie'. When in fact "Crazy" Eddie Antar had fled to Israel, after embezzling half the profits from his stores.
- Detroit-area electronics chain ABC Warehouse features company founder and CEO Gordon "Gordy" Hartunian playing a comically goofy version of himself in its humorous TV and radio spots.