Celebrities Failing to Drive Product

Discussion
Aug 27, 2009
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

A new survey by AdWeekMedia found
that fewer than one in ten respondents claimed that their purchases were
swayed by celebrity endorsements of products.

When respondents in the survey were asked whether
the presence of a celebrity in an ad makes them more or less likely to buy
the product, nearly 8 in 10 (78 percent) said it doesn’t influence them one
way or the other, according to an article in AdWeek. Only eight percent
said the presence of a celebrity spokesperson makes them more likely to buy
a product. This compares with a 12 percent who actually say it makes them
less likely to buy a product.

Among the findings by demographic group:

  • Older respondents were more likely to reject
    celebrities as endorsers. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of those ages
    55+ say seeing a celeb in an ad makes them less likely to buy a product,
    vs. just 4 percent saying it makes them more likely to buy.
  • Men (15 percent) are slightly more likely
    than women (11) to say a celeb deters them from buying a product.
  • Among “business owners,” 20 percent said
    the presence of celebs in ads makes them less likely to buy. That compares
    with 11 percent of people with jobs in the “management” category.
  • Among those respondents with “creative” jobs,
    19 percent said a celeb in an ad makes them less likely to buy. This compares
    with eight percent saying it makes them more likely.

Questioning whether the respondents were actually
being truthful, the AdWeek article
noted that many respondents were skeptical of their answers in comments posted
along with their votes. One respondent said, “Most of us would rather die
than admit to being ‘swayed by glamour’ in a purchase decision.” Another
commented, “We know that our subconscious will automatically add a bit of
credibility if a celeb is in an ad (whether we believe this on a conscious
level or not).”

The survey was conducted online in July among
a sample of 4,778 LinkedIn users.

On August 21, AdWeek released a list
of the top-ten celebrity endorsement deals:

1. Catherine Zeta-Jones, T-Mobile: $20 million

2. Angelina Jolie, St. John: $12+ million

3. Nicole Kidman, Chanel No. 5: $12 million

4. Jessica Simpson, Guthy-Renker: $7.5 million

5. Gwyneth Paltrow, Estèe Lauder: $6+ million

6. Charlize Theron, Dior: $6 million

7. Julia Roberts, Gianfranco Ferrè: $5 million

8. Brad Pitt, Heineken: $4 million

9. Scarlett Johansson, L’Oreal: $4 million

10. Penelope Cruz, L’Oreal: $4 million

Discussion Questions:
Is Madison Avenue overestimating the power of celebrities to support
product or is this another case of survey respondents saying one thing
and doing another? Can you name any categories where celebrity endorsements
are probably wasteful spending?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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18 Comments on "Celebrities Failing to Drive Product"


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Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 8 months ago

In this singular opinion from the outer limits, YES–Madison Avenue is overestimating the value of celebrity appeal. But it is helpful to their advertising to have a well-known person or an attractive face included. That can catch the eye of the reader more so–I think–than the reader’s pocketbook. One ruminates why no celebrity is touting Cialis.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

What the AdWeek survey failed to point out is that celebrity endorsements cut through the clutter. This ability to capture attention is invaluable, whether or not consumers may say that it does not directly impact their desire to buy a product.

Peter Milic
Guest
Peter Milic
11 years 8 months ago

Celebrity endorsement serves an advertiser well when the choice of the celebrity fulfills a strategic purpose. Consumers can be favorably impressed when the celebrity is seen as trustworthy (a tactic with financial services); knowledgeable (with sporting equipment); cool (new technology); or simply someone who embodies the personality of a brand (cosmetics, fashion). It is unlikely that advertisers expect an overwhelming percentage of a target group to be influenced by the association with a celebrity; instead, they expect to a sufficient number to be swayed to generate momentum.

Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

If the use of celebrities in advertising was limited to the rationale for purchase, I’d wonder about the investment.

However, celebrities in advertising have several functions:

• Celebrities get attention
• Celebrities are likely to engage the target
• Prospects are apt to listen to messages from celebrities
• Imagery projected by celebrities typically align with the brand/product

Now tell me that people are not influenced by celebrities, i.e. getting their attention and involving them with a brand message, etc.

If the advertiser chooses the celebrity wisely (resonates with prospects and profiles well with the brand) and the agency executes the advertising effectively, I’d say the return on investment may indeed be worth it, whether or not consumers say they are directly influenced to purchase because of celebrities appearing in the advertising.

If celebrities achieve the four objectives listed above, they’ve done quite a bit for the brands!

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

It depends on the product. If the product is already known to be useful and reliable, then a celeb can help reinforce the message. Like Max says above, they are attention grabbers.

If the product is just some useless gadget, pill, or service sold on an infomercial in the middle of the night, I know for me having a celeb endorsement just makes the item look even more worthless.

Ben Sprecher
Guest
Ben Sprecher
11 years 8 months ago
I think the primary objection to this survey was raised in the article itself (by the survey respondents, no less)–people are notoriously bad at understanding the motivations for their own behavior, especially when they aren’t proud of those motivations. And they are even worse at conveying those motivations accurately when surveyed. Why not approach the problem the other way? Empirically compare the sales of products with celebrity endorsements in several dimensions before vs. after the start of the celebrity campaign, and in markets where the celebrity endorsement ads run vs. those without the ads. Or better yet, use loyalty/CRM databases to randomly segment shoppers into two groups: those who will receive marketing with the celebrity endorsement and those who will receive other marketing without the endorsement. Then just track each groups’ behavior over time. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. The best measure of the influence of anything (marketing, promotions, celebrity endorsements, package color, etc.) on people’s buying behavior is…(drum roll please)…the actual (measurable) impact on their buying behavior. Retailers have the… Read more »
David Zahn
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

My sense is that having the celebrity using, wearing, or engaged with the product counts far more than simply touting it. Get the “paparazzi photo” of the celebrity actually in their daily life applying the make up, carrying the product, consuming it, etc, and that drives consumer trial and usage.

Shoppers have become more jaded and can see through a paid endorsement like a standard commercial. However, product placement on a TV show or in a movie will resonate far more.

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
11 years 8 months ago

I wish consumer-facing companies would divert their celebrity endorsement money into more efforts to stimulate word of mouth. If your customer likes your product, she will likely tell her friends and family given the slightest incentive. It has never been easier for shoppers to reach out to their network through messaging, twitter, friends and family, social networks, etc. These seems more productive that lining the bloated pockets of celebrities and their people.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
11 years 8 months ago
In interesting application of this survey to retail might be the impact a celebrity has merchandise. To a great degree, the launching of celebrity branded merchandise isn’t all that different from a celebrity endorsement of another brand. The distinguishing difference is that the celebrity acts as the brand in one case, and serves to support, enhance or detract from the brand in the other. Other commentators have noted some criteria which might lead to higher levels of acceptance and influence for celebrity endorsements. I believe they are the same for celebrity branded lines of merchandise, and I believe the insights are comparable. Celebrity brands which derive legitimacy from the competency/expertise of the individual (perceived, plays one on TV or actual) in a real world sense have a much greater chance of success than those dependent on aspirational association. This is common in branding and marketing today, probably a direct result of the recession. Aspirational marketing has become far less effective than needs-based communication. Celebrities with actual empowerment to deliver, or for whom the consumer is… Read more »
Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 8 months ago

The continuing importance of social media has caught the attention of many Brandowners. Many of the younger shoppers rely on peer recommendations as most reliable. As well, shopper segments like new mothers trust peer-recommended products over celeb endorsements.

Of course, some products will draw more attention with a celebrity in the picture. But thinking about the Dos Equis Beer commercial–everyone seems to be talking about it. Tremendous boost for the brand by an imaginary celeb–changing times for Brands!

Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

This “research” is meaningless, for the exact reason stated in the article. Use of celebrities (and actually, particular celebrities) in advertising absolutely can drive sales lift. Like all advertising, it doesn’t necessarily drive lift, but it can. APT has measured this effect with controlled experiments with multiple clients.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 8 months ago

There’s a world of difference between a celebrity hawking or endorsing a product and a celebrity being presented as “the face” of a brand. Sally Field on TV for Boniva or Jamie Lee Curtis and Activia—not so good. A youthful Angelina appearing in print St.John ads and making the clothes look even more gorgeous, or artful and romantic still shots of Gwyneth for Estee Lauder perfume, uses the celebrities more as familiar faced “models.”

In his day, though, I have to admit Michael Jordan could sell practically anything from Fruit of the Loom underwear to Hebrew National hotdogs to Nike.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 8 months ago

John Gerzema is the Author of a book called The Brand Bubble in which he points to Wall Street overvaluing brands in general, in contrast to a decline in brand importance with the consumer. People simply don’t attribute as much significance to brand as they once did.

By extension, if we accept celebrities as individual brands, you could argue that their importance is also being over-valued.

When coupled with the compressed lifespans of brands and celebrity in general, high profile endorsements are a riskier venture today than even 25 years ago.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
11 years 8 months ago

Celeb endorsements are overrated. Yeah, they do play a role, but today’s consumers get product info from a variety of sources, like consumer ratings, friends, family members, colleagues, social networking sites, etc. Celebs are just one part of the mix. The glamor mug may initially grab the consumer’s attention, but it’s likely that smart consumers will do their own product research. And in an era when celebrity itself has lost a lot of its allure, the celeb endorsement isn’t what it used to be.

William Passodelis
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Some celebrity involvements with a certain product or company are a great thing, and some are utterly ridiculous and I am certain that we can ALL think of several in each category off the top of our heads.

Celebrity association can create buzz and may stimulate initial interest, but ultimately it is the company or product that will determine its success.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 8 months ago

I’ve always questioned the real value of celebrity endorsements, but price/value is such a driver in the marketplace right now that it’s overwhelming just about any other marketing factors. This report is not a surprise.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
Celebrity endorsements do break through the clutter of print and TV advertising as Max Goldberg said above. At the same time, the extent of believability has some relation to the product itself. When a celeb touts a skin care product and shows a group of “before” pictures, one assumes that it actually helped the person improve their complexion. The alternative is that they are not telling the truth. On the other hand, when you see Lance Armstrong riding a Trek in the Tour de France, you should realize that he can win on one of many other bikes and would be naive to run out and buy a Trek thinking it will make you a better cyclist. If you are a fan of Lance’s and want a Trek as an expensive memento of your fandom, that’s a different story. With an average price of $4,000, that’s an expensive souvenir. I am fascinated with the economics in play. Since most of us here agree that we are paying for awareness and attention grabbing impact, do brands… Read more »
Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Interesting discussion, thank you. I have also read surveys here that said the Asian consumer is not swayed by celebrity endorsements. And yet I have asked acquaintances, and they say they have been.

I think it is probably true that few people will want to admit to researchers that they were swayed by a celebrity to buy a product, and yet celebrities do get products noticed; were are not sure of the overall consumer response.

I find it shocking to see how much these celebrities are paid when the probably don’t even use the product. I would support and buy a product if the celebrity stated he or she actually used the stuff, and 100% of their earnings went to charity. Why do Paul Newman products still sell so well? They aren’t the cheapest.

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