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Celebrity adverts: The most bizarre campaigns featuring Mariah Carey, Robert De Niro and Owen Wilson

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 23/08/2019 Isobel Frodsham
a person sitting on a sofa © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Actors and musicians have filled our screens, radios and publications for decades with their skill and talents.

So much so, they are often called on by various companies to star in their advertising campaigns. While some are fantastic (David Mitchell and Robert Webb’s Mac/PC adverts for example) others are a little more…unconventional.

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Last week saw a new celebrity advert thrown into the mix. Owen Wilson, 50, is starring in a campaign for sofa company Sofology – for the second time. The Golden Globe-nominated actor previously worked with the company in 2017, and confused viewers with his musings on Shakespeare. In the latest advert, he admires the craftsmanship of a surfboard to a dog before saying he is going to take a nap.

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Sofology Ad Campaign 2019

Bizarre, to say the least, but luckily for Wilson, he is in good company. Here are some of the strangest adverts featuring celebrities.

1) Blue – Ideal Boilers

The hugely successful noughties pop group shot to fame with their hits such as One Love, All Rise and Fly Bye.

The band – consisting of Duncan James, 41, Lee Ryan, 36, Simon Webbe, 41, and Antony Costa, 38 – have sold millions of records worldwide, three number one singles and three number one albums in the UK charts. They split up in 2005 to pursue solo careers before later reuniting in 2011 to represent the UK in Eurovision. Despite their impressive stats it was their collaboration with Ideal Boilers in February which stunned fans.

While the boys proved they still have the moves 19 years after forming, the quartet singing One Love to a woman who has a boiler delivered is not what you would expect from them.

2) Mariah Carey – Game of War

While the rise of meme culture has helpfully reminded us of some key Carey moments – see the MTV Cribs episode of her climbing into a bath and the “I don’t know her” gif – one thing you wouldn’t expect from the singer is to star in a gaming advert.

But, in 2015, the diva - who is one of the best selling musicians of all time – surprised us all by taking centre stage in a Game of War advert.

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The campaign saw her 1993 hit “Hero” playing in the background as soldiers rush to save some struggling men during a medieval battle.

Carey herself then appears – fully clad in a metal breastplate with a large sword – and shoots dead a dragon with a crossbow. “Time to be heroes guys”, she says, before running off to battle.

Not what you would expect from the star who brought us “Glitter” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, but critics loved it regardless.

3) Robert De Niro – Warburtons

The 76-year-old actor has two Oscars, a Golden Globe, is a holder of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been nominated for six BAFTA Awards, four Primetime Emmy Awards and four Screen Actors Guild Awards. So what have he and bagels got common? Turns out more than we think as, in May this year, both bagels and De Niro were the stars of an advert for Bolton-based bakery, Warburton’s.

The advert features De Niro – playing an amalgam of his famous gangster parts - storming into company chairman Jonathan Warburton’s office and mapping out his plan to take over the business. He says he plans to rename it “GoodBagels”, a nod to Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas, which De Niro had a lead role. It’s silly and features some groan-worthy puns -“Sit back and watch the dough roll in” – but received high praise from the Guardian’s Stuart Heritage.

4) Iggy Pop – Swiftcover

The Godfather of Punk’s career spans 60 years and has collaborated with the late David Bowie, Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and Guns N' Roses’ Slash. But in 2009, Iggy’s collaborations took a surprising turn when he was named as a face for a £25million campaign by online insurance company, Swiftcover.

The advert – as part of their “Get a Life” campaign - saw Iggy, 72, enact his erratic onstage behaviour for the cameras while praising the company.

Iggy Pop wearing a microphone: Legend: Iggy Pop was criticised by fans for starring in the advert (Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Legend: Iggy Pop was criticised by fans for starring in the advert (Getty Images)

An early version of the advert was banned said the ad implied the veteran singer had a policy, but Swiftcover did not cover musicians at the time. Swiftcover subsequently started to offer policies to musicians. Iggy’s role in the campaign also prompted fans to say that he had “sold out”.


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