Surreal pays nothing

Well, Surreal doesn’t pay the celebs at all! On LinkedIn, the company explains: We can’t afford famous celebrities, so we just found normal people with famous names and paid them to say nice things about our cereal. And if you read the fine print on the billboards, you’ll find out that it’s not the real Williams, Ronaldo or Jordan. About Michael Jordan: He’s just a normal bloke who lives in St. Alban’s but he does really like it. Yeah yeah.

Serena Williams

Not scared of claims

Surreal doesn’t seem to be afraid of claims from celebrities, by the way: ‘Now we can use their names where we like and no one can stop us’. But they add: We didn’t check that with legal, but we’re sure it’s fine.


I suspect that Surreal really did check this from every angle with legal, and legal responded with: oops, that’s legally unacceptable, piggybacking on the fame of these world-famous people who usually ask for (and get) loads of money for the use of their name in commercial messages. Better not do it.


Risk assessment

The fact that Surreal continued despite this was a risk assessment. This campaign generates a lot of publicity, not only through the advertising itself, but perhaps more so because the media will write about it. On the other hand, the likelihood that celebrities will take legal action is not that high. You might get a feisty letter from a lawyer, but if you respond with a loud ‘sorry’ and have a plan B and you can call the campaign off immediately, there’s a good chance it will all die down.

Ronald de Boer
The Great Ronald de Boer Interview, with Ronald de Boer from Dommelen on the right

Ronald de Boer

A nice example of this kind of fun with a famous names can be found in an old edition of the Dutch magazine Panorama magazine. To boost the magazine’s sales, Panorama announced ‘The great Ronald de Boer Interview’ in the run-up to the World Cup in 1998. At that time Ronald de Boer was a famous Dutch soccer player. In the article De Boer calls Guus Hiddink, the coach of the national team, “a loser” and “a coward” and states that Hiddink isn’t even worthy of polishing Louis Van Gaal or Johan Cruijffs shoes. It’s not until the end of the story that the reader understands the interviewed sports masseur is a certain Ronald de Boer from the small village of Dommelen.


The real Ronald De Boer complained and was proved right by the court in June 1998. As a result, panorama had to pay substantial compensation to the footballer.

Bas Kist

This article was previously published (in Dutch) on Adformatie