Celebrity Advertisements Not Really Working

by Liz Colville

A new study suggests that advertisements featuring celebrities are not successful, and in some cases do worse than advertisements featuring regular folk, usually middle-aged men posing as grandfathers, but who definitely aren’t, who at some point bend down to pat a dog while telling you that the thing they are endorsing “may” kill you, where “may” is a kind of verbal asterisk leading to an invisible disclaimer about how everyone dies some time, and wouldn’t you like a drug to keep things interesting, but not necessarily better, until then?

The study, conducted by Ace Metrix, points out that not only do companies regularly turn to celebrities to help sell products, they often “develop campaigns around them,” which, hey, may be putting the cart before the horse. The only person who should give a celebrity special treatment is the celebrity herself, but celebrities are always forgetting to be nice to themselves, so there are companies and ad agencies to do it instead. This is turning out to be expensively selfless of those companies.

Ace Metrix has this to say:

In our data, whether or not a celebrity endorses a product was unimportant in determining whether a product resonated with viewers. In fact, when compared with industry norms, relatively few celebrity ads were able to earn performance marks above their industry averages.

Emphasis all theirs! For example, the company found that “N/A” did far better than Peyton Manning, Jim Nantz with Peyton Manning, and Beyonce Knowles when it came to selling digital TVs for companies including Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio. The authors suggest that ad agencies “focus on the creative content of an ad” rather than multi-million-dollar endorsement deals. They do say that the Snickers campaigns with Betty White and Aretha Franklin did well! But celebrities are usually only “effective if given the right context.”

Some more interesting and amusing excerpts from the study:

Some women believe Sarah Jessica Parker is beautiful — others do not.

Oprah aside, it is remarkable that so few celebrity ads were able to considerably impact viewer perceptions beyond industry norms.

Oprah always gets to be aside.

Altogether 52 ads (one fifth of all celebrity ads tested) yielded negative lift scores in excess of 10 percent.

Meaning they sucked! Sorry to interrupt:

Tiger Woods, Dale Earnhart Jr., Diddy, Lance Armstrong, Kenny Mayne, Jamie Lee Curtis, Andie MacDowell, Joe Montana, and Rachel Zoe (the “multiple offenders”) each had multiple ads that resulted in Ace Scores below industry norms.

Lance Armstrong! That’s because he’s a lying sonuva — sorry. Anyway, Jamie Lee Curtis too. And Andie MacDowell! Glad to hear the seemingly-built-into-her-actual-show Rachel Zoe ads for Bing.com weren’t effective.

Finally, you may be pleased, or at least not surprised, to know that:

The absolute worst performer…was Tiger Woods. Collectively, Woods’ two ads averaged 23 percent below the industry average (i.e., negative lift or “sink”) and was equally unreceptive among men, women, young, and older viewers.

Ace Metrix goes on to discuss why exactly these ads didn’t work. The implication is that the ads focused too much on the celebrities and not enough on, like, doing things well, e.g. the ads didn’t tell viewers much about the product, and sometimes they didn’t even make it clear what the product was. Now if only I could watch a show without knowing what it was.