My friend, the late Peter Wensberg (1929-2006) former executive vice president of Polaroid Corporation and author of Land's Polaroid, A company and the man who invented it, published in 1987 by Houghtom Mifflin, mentions all the celebrity names who flogged Polaroid cameras and film. With the exception of Garry Moore, who got two index listings, all of them received only one (even the most famous spokesperson team of James Garner and Mariette Hartley were mentioned only in the prologue). Sir Laurence Olivier got four.
The mentions of Sir Laurence were of his reminding Peter of Land himself as Olivier worked an empty stage in Paris; and "when I proposed Laurence Olivier as the spokesman to introduce SX-70 on television, Land frowned and was silent."
David Ogilvy, one of the greats of international advertising had this to say in his book shown above, "Research shows that commercials with celebrities are below average in persuading people to buy products," "Testimonials from celebrities get high recall scores, but I have stopped using them because readers remember the celebrity and forget the product," and "Some commercials which score above average on their ability to change the viewer's brand preference. Celebrity commercials, for example, usually score above average on recall and below average on changing brand preference."
In 1972 dollars, Sir Laurence was paid $350,000 for the commercial. He is reported to have said that it "would go into a trust fund for the education of his young daughters." His only restriction was that the commercials not be viewed in England. Still, Polaroid went for it.
Of course, I was out of the loop. However, I couldn't help notice how my clients had gone Hollywood. There were lots of references to Sir Larry and how democratic he was, "Please call me Larry," he asked. Later, at a Polaroid design conference In Amsterdam one of the participants wished she could have had the nerve to ask Sir Laurence to tape a welcome message for her answering machine.
To put this in perspective, consider what the production costs of this commercial might have been from the ad agency, travel to Paris for all involved, hotel and restaurant bills as befits princes of commerce and theatre, added to Sir Laurence's 350 big ones. Fast forward only two years to 1974 when Polaroid's stock plummeted to just over $14 and stockholders lost $4 billion.
Land's personal losses were estimated at $660 million.
Dr. Phil [McGraw] might well have asked, "How's that working for you?"