Actor Charlie Sheen public escapades makes this a good time to talk about the use of celebrities in advertising. Sheen was featured in Hanes commercials, which were dropped when negativity about him intensified. He follows a list of celebrity endorsers – Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Kate Moss, Michael Phelps, Chris Brown, Brett Favre – who ended up being brand liabilities instead of champions. Don’t expect this to deter advertisers from using celebrities, though. Why? Because they draw attention to and help shape perceptions of the brand.
One local example is Reliant Energy’s use of NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman in TV spots. Aikman’s agent tries to rope him into endorsing a dental gun, while Aikman practically begs for a shot at representing Reliant Energy. See for yourself:
For the Reliant Energy brand to be tied to an athlete like Aikman, whose performance as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys was nothing short of electric at times, is an excellent fit. Consumers likely will infer that Reliant, like Aikman, is competitive, reliable, credible…and delivers even under pressure.
Linking a celebrity endorser to a brand is not without risk, however. Besides undesirable behavior and/or sudden loss of popularity that can diminish the celebrity’s marketing value to the brand, there are any number of potential problems:
- Celebrity endorsers can be overused by pitching so many products that there ends up being no specific product meaning, or consumers believe that celebrities only do it for the money and don’t believe in or even use the product.
- The celebrity’s star power can overshadow the brand to the point where consumers can’t recall the advertised brand.
- A mismatch of celebrity and brand is unbelievable or illogical to consumers.
- Some consumers can feel that celebrities’ salaries to appear in advertisements add a significant and unnecessary cost to the brand.
What this all means is care must be taken by brands so that celebrity endorsers are evaluated, selected and used strategically, as well as closely monitored.
A recent survey by Starch Advertising Research indicates we can expect to continue to see celebrities featured in print ads because doing so produces a 9.4 percent lift in readership than ads without a celebrity endorser.
Do you think celebrity endorsements are worth the risk?
You’d really have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the recent launch of the new American Idol season and the upcoming Super Bowl XLV– two of the most expensive advertising vehicles for marketers.
Whether or not advertising during the Super Bowl and American Idol is worth the high dollars that are being spent depends on the company, the product, its integration with other marketing communications and its memorability.
Both the Super Bowl and American Idol draw huge audiences and practically every demographic and psychographic group. They also have some differences, though. With American Idol, advertisers can repeat their pitches multiple times, since the show runs 2-3 times weekly. While this is not true with the Super Bowl, what the Super Bowl offers advertisers is scarcity (a one-time finale) that produces a huge amount of anticipation both for the game and the ads. People who aren’t even sports fans will watch so that they can be a part of the post-game/ads talk.
And yet, advertising during either of these shows does not guarantee success. Just ask any of the dot.com companies, like Pets.com, that went bust after their Super Bowl advertisements aired.
Studies show that the Super Bowl is a great launching pad for a new product or to create brand awareness. Examples cited include Apple’s introduction of the Mac in 1984, and more recent product launches by Chrysler, Gillette and Victoria’s Secret. And when a Super Bowl ad is combined with other marketing communication mediums, such as an online promotion, direct mail, social media and print ad campaign, it can extend its effectiveness for weeks, providing the advertiser is careful not to over-saturate the market to the point of irritating consumers and turning them off.
In my opinion, staying top-of-mind among consumers beyond the Super Bowl or an American Idol episode is the true test of whether the ad was worth the money it took to develop it and the associated media spend costs. This is supported by Lisa Haverty and Stephen Blessing who developed a metric, CogScore, that examines six cognitive principles in an attempt to predict the memorability of the brand from any given ad. CogScore is based on the belief that awareness, persuasion and likeability of an ad will have no effect if the brand being advertised is not remembered as belonging to that ad. In their study, they examined ad recall of Super Bowl ads a year after the game aired. Not only were many of the brands and products not remembered, several were wrongly matched with a competitor’s brand. These are companies that did not get their money’s worth out of their ads.
Business Insider offers a preview of this year’s commercials if you haven’t already seen them and can’t wait until Sunday.
Which commercials do you think will score high in memorability?