Study questions value of celebrities in marketing

Wish you had a celebrity pulling for you? It may not be the slam dunk you’re hoping for. A recent study, as reported in Advertising Age, found that celebs don’t really pull their weight:

… celebrity ads performed either below average or merely equaled it…. fewer than 12% of ads using celebrities exceeded a 10% lift, and one-fifth of celebrity ads had a negative impact on advertising effectiveness.

It would be hasty to draw the conclusion that celebrities are the kryptonite of marketing, but I think the study does emphasize a couple worthwhile points:


  • A crummy ad is still crummy, even if it has a celebrity.
  • The wrong celebrity — or a celebrity at the wrong time, like Tiger Woods nowadays — can make an ad much worse.

For nonprofits, the standards are even higher. An effective celebrity for us has to be known and liked by our audience — and also have an impeccable image. You can’t just engage some hot new property everyone on your staff thinks is cool and hope you’ll have a winner.

Best bet for most nonprofits is a celebrity is a beloved older one: More likely to be known by donors. Less likely to sully his or her (and your) image with dumb antics.

Download the full study here (PDF).


Comments

4 responses to “Study questions value of celebrities in marketing”

  1. Great stuff Jeff; so true and exactly what Ogilvy said in the 80s. Nothing really changes that much. I think the picture on celebrities is worse – even in the small number of cases where the celeb lifted response, I wonder if it was enough to cover the costs.. A charity fundraiser may say ‘it was pro bono’ and the celebrity waived their fees, but even without fees, there is always the time chasing them, contracting, model release, negotiation time and the fact that they never turn up when first arranged, postpone at last minute etc – all serious opportunity costs.
    Sean Triner

  2. Great stuff Jeff; so true and exactly what Ogilvy said in the 80s. Nothing really changes that much. I think the picture on celebrities is worse – even in the small number of cases where the celeb lifted response, I wonder if it was enough to cover the costs.. A charity fundraiser may say ‘it was pro bono’ and the celebrity waived their fees, but even without fees, there is always the time chasing them, contracting, model release, negotiation time and the fact that they never turn up when first arranged, postpone at last minute etc – all serious opportunity costs.
    Sean Triner

  3. Hi Jeff
    As with so many things, the words ‘it depends’ need to be used here. A great celebrity can work very well. We had a banker recruitment pack that featured a celebrity with first hand experience of the charity’s work. He was also in the ‘national treasure’ category.
    The charity he endorsed was not that well known and when he decided that he’d like to take a lower profile we decided to test replacing him as signatory of the banker recruitment pack with the CEO.
    Results showed that he was responsible for over 50% of the response. The test helped persuade him not to lower his profile too much.
    In virtually every other test I’ve done, endorsements by current donors have beaten celebrities.
    It’s an old post but there might be a few points here that you might find interesting…
    http://www.queerideas.co.uk/my_weblog/2009/01/the-lure-of-celebrity.html
    Best wishes
    Mark

  4. Hi Jeff
    As with so many things, the words ‘it depends’ need to be used here. A great celebrity can work very well. We had a banker recruitment pack that featured a celebrity with first hand experience of the charity’s work. He was also in the ‘national treasure’ category.
    The charity he endorsed was not that well known and when he decided that he’d like to take a lower profile we decided to test replacing him as signatory of the banker recruitment pack with the CEO.
    Results showed that he was responsible for over 50% of the response. The test helped persuade him not to lower his profile too much.
    In virtually every other test I’ve done, endorsements by current donors have beaten celebrities.
    It’s an old post but there might be a few points here that you might find interesting…
    http://www.queerideas.co.uk/my_weblog/2009/01/the-lure-of-celebrity.html
    Best wishes
    Mark

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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