24 Jan 2015

Do Celebrity Endorsements Work?

Paying famous people to endorse your brand or concept is nothing new. Heck, Charlie Chaplin even jumped on the bandwagon back in the day. Fast-forward 70 years, and we now see so called “clebs” featured in one in every five ads. It therefore comes as little surprise when clients ask us to include more A, B, C, D and even Z-Listers in our ideas. But is it really that easy to transfer fame and fortune from an individual to a brand?

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Bob Geldoff ‘s latest star studded Band Aid 30 single encapsulates the public’s mixed opinion on celebrity endorsement. Some feel their pop star idols are at the forefront of the fight against Ebola, whilst others can’t quite get their heads around why a bunch of multimillionaire tax dodgers are asking Joe Blogs for a quid. We lean towards the latter, because ultimately it just doesn’t add up.

And it’s much the same in the world of creative video content. All too often clebs are seen as a quick last minute fix. They’re thrown into an idea that bares no relevance to them, and asked to force feed the audience information on something they clearly don’t care about. Better still is when they’re called in to do a voiceover, and we spend the entire ad trying to work out who the hell they are. Here’s our mini checklist for next time: Rob Brydon, Ruby Wax, Stephen Merchant, or a Morgan Freeman impressionist.


But it’s not just us that struggle to understand why Lenny Henry is telling us about comfy hotel beds. Ace Metrix’s study of 2,600 ads found that those that included celebrities very rarely out-performed those that didn’t, and in many cases they actually performed worse. It was only when the message was delivered clearly and bore relevance to the celebrity that the effectiveness levels increased. That year (2010) it was Oprah Winfrey who came up trumps, but George Clooney provides a more recent example of a strong alignment. What better match than he and classy coffee brand Nespresso? Well perhaps an expensive red wine manufacturer (insert line about getting better with age), but you get our drift.

We too feel that there’s a time and place for celebrity endorsements. Take, for example, the viral video we made for human rights group Reprieve. As opposed to force-feeding rapper Mos Def mundane lines about something he didn’t care about, we literally force-fed him. Yes, that’s right, he volunteered to be force-fed food up his nostrils in an attempt to raise awareness for Guantanamo Bay inmates who themselves were being force fed while on hunger strike. Clearly something close to his heart, the film struck a chord across the globe. It accumulated more than 6 million views and proved that if a celebrity strongly aligns with the cause or brand, endorsements can be extremely effective.

op nike ad
(Nike’s unfortunate Ocsar Pistorius ad)