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September 14, 2006

CBS Hires Hartman as Wireless Hostess

One aspect of launching a new technology or product is to create a celebrity face that helps establish one's product. That's no surprise, as it's worked for many years in advertising, from radio spots to television ads to product placement with favorite characters and/or actors showing their support or affiinity for a particular brand or drink. I think back to the very earliest television and those episodes of Dragnet where we get to see shots of Sgt. Joe Friday enjoying his cigarettes and his portrayer, Jack Webb, telling viewers during sponsorship breaks how great Chesterfield Cigarettes really are. Or Molly Goldberg leaning out the window during commercial breaks of The Goldbergs to tell us about a great new product that she's found.

These types of very direct sponsorship were to promote products, but companies also use celebrity speakers to promote themselves, especially when launching into a new realm. For instance, I wrote about the importance of Mark Cuban landing a personality like Dan Rather for his HD channel earlier this summer. And now, CBS has landed Ashley Hartman in a role that is being labeled as a "wireless hostess."

According to the news from CBS, Hartman will be both the voice and the face of CBS' wireless products and will act as a direct guide for consumers. She will be used for all mobile content, including both appearing on users' mobile phones for alerts and video segments, as well as on the CBS Web site to aid consumers in purchasing content for their moble devices, including games and ringtones.

As Christopher Lisotta with TelevisionWeek points out, Hartman's claim to fame includes being a semifinalist on American Idol and landing a recurring role on The OC.

It's interesting that CBS chose a celebrity whose fame comes from two of their competitors to be their online hostess, but it will be interesting to see if giving a face to their product helps make viewers connect or feel more at home with mobile content.

For those interesting in the mobile space, do you think this type of host model could help drive more mainstream interest toward mobile content, or is this just a weak marketing idea and a waste of money for CBS?

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