Does celebrity endorsement really help a brand?

Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by

Travelling across London in a taxi to a client meeting, I start talking with the driver. The subject starts with me working in TV and video production (currently for a marketing company), via his (now disconnected) Cabvision set, to successful TV ad campaigns. He describes an advert featuring ‘the guy with the big arse dancing down the street’ and how funny he found it. I will admit despite the description, my interest had been piqued.

'Cabvision' (This one is working though!)

‘Cabvision’ (this one was working though!)

On arriving home I sat in front of my laptop. After a minute (and some questionable Google searches) I found the advert the driver had described. Watching with a wry smile, a bald man with a suit jacket, hot pants and (what I can only assume is) a prosthetic posterior dances down the street ‘shakin’ his booty’ at passers-by. I found it funny and perfectly memorable as a concept. Suddenly I found myself sighing and closing the tab as Sharon Osbourne’s expressionless old/young face was suddenly (and inexplicably) on my computer screen, screeching a tag line.

Sharon Osborne ruins a good ad?

Sharon Osbourne ruins a good ad concept?

Finding myself actually annoyed at her inclusion ruining a good concept, I started asking myself the obvious questions that I have tried to answer below. Hopefully my musings might help agencies, brands and creatives decide whether celebrity endorsement is right for them, or how best to incorporate it.

A re-creation of my original reaction for illustrative purposes.

A recreation of my original reaction for illustrative purposes

1) What does celebrity endorsement actually achieve?

The answer in the advert discussed above is nothing except potentially annoying or prompting the phrase: ‘Was that Sharon Osbourne?’

When it comes down to it, the only thing a celebrity can buy you (that the right creative can’t) is trust or admiration. Is your brand a new start-up? The right name in the field can often act as an endorsement that your target audience will trust. Will your consumers want to say, ‘These are the ones Ronaldo wears’? Relevant to sporting goods and similar areas, a professional aligned with your product can be very powerful.

"These are the same ones Ronaldo wears!"

‘These are the same ones Ronaldo wears!’

I think the lesson even these areas can learn from the Osbourne debacle is: Don’t shoehorn a celebrity in to your concept. If you have a celebrity aligned, build a concept around their inclusion.

2) Is celebrity endorsement ever needed?

This is a loaded question. There will always be groups who advocate and groups who condemn. In my opinion, however, the answer is no. There isn’t a marketing goal that can’t be accomplished with the right concept, strategy and advertising space, as long as you place trust in your idea and execute well.

An example (a radical but scalable one) is Beyoncé and Pepsi. These are the facts:

  • Pepsi paid Beyoncé $50 million to endorse their brand.
  • A 30-second Super Bowl spot will run you $4 million.

In my opinion it’s hard to believe Beyoncé buys 12.5 x the consumer attention a Super Bowl slot buys. Especially when she’s only in posters and ads that would be there anyway.

I've got to be honest... I've seen healthier shopping hauls!

I’ve got to be honest… I’ve seen healthier shopping hauls!

3) Is celebrity endorsement ‘old hat’?

Again, a subjective opinion, but in most cases I think it is. There was a time when the consumer was more trusting and less savvy. Seeing someone they recognised telling them something was cool, quality or good value was enough to prompt a response.

In a society where a world of information, reviews and price comparisons is at our fingertips, the consumer is better informed and equipped to make decisions on their purchases (without Bieber being on the box effecting their decision).

Well... Now I know Groucho Marx is mates with Tony the Tiger, why wouldn't I?!

Well now I know Groucho Marx is mates with Tony the Tiger, why wouldn’t I eat Frosties?!

It all boils down to getting your creative treatment/concept right first and foremost.

Outlook are a group of creative types that are here to advise on and help execute marketing content (whether it includes a celebrity or not).

So if you’ve happened upon this piece in turmoil or just curiosity about signing a celebrity to your brand, get in touch. We’re always happy to help!