Celebrity Endorsements: More Costly than Effective? - Strategic Marketing

Celebrity Endorsements: More Costly than Effective?

The endorsement of products by celebrities in television commercials alone does not actually promote online ad sharing, as evidenced by the list of most-shared ads from the 2014 Super Bowl.

With the average price of a 30-second Super Bowl ad costing about $4 million, marketers now have another incentive to think twice before paying for that first-class airfare and deluxe suite in a five-star hotel (on top of the hefty up-front payment) that is inevitably expected by their celebrity endorser.

According to a recent study by Unruly Media, celebrities have only been featured in 13 of the 100 most-shared ads of all time. Additionally, the study indicates that only 7 percent of viewers who saw Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad featuring Bob Dylan even noticed that the ad was for Chrysler, much to the horror of the company’s marketing department, I’m sure.

Kevin Harrington points out another downside to employing celebrity endorsers in his article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Save Your Money: Celebrity Endorsements Not Worth the Cost.” He observes that the key to harnessing the celebrity’s image to publicize a product is choosing someone who “is essentially the product.” In other words, the image of the company is subject to the ups and downs of the image of its celebrity endorser, so it is in marketer’s best interest to make sure that whatever face they pick to promote their product isn’t the same face that consumers will see in the tabloids above a caption describing the latest scandal. Marketers will be looking at some major publicity set-backs every time a celebrity endorser gets another line added to his or her criminal record. No one wants a brand defined by their endorser’s drunken escapades.

So what can be done to prevent celebrity endorsement from becoming a costly failure? If a marketer can successfully find a celebrity whose image aligns with the desired image of the product, the most important factor, according to Unruly Media, is to create an ad that will create an intense psychological response in viewers. This year, the top three most-shared ads of this Super Bowl season, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” and “A Hero’s Welcome” and Coca-Cola’s “America Is Beautiful,” appealed to viewers with their heartwarming content. In fact, Unruly’s statistics indicate that “warmth and happiness” were more effective than humor in Super Bowl ads this year.

However, an ad that is psychologically engaging does not guarantee the brand recall that marketers are looking for. Spending all of that money on a celebrity endorser and TV time doesn’t do much good if no one can remember who the ad was for. To improve brand recall, Unruly suggests airing teasers for the ad in advance and giving the product a more prominent place in the ad. It may be tempting to put the celebrity that you’re paying an arm and a leg for in the spotlight, but it’s probably not worthwhile if it is at the expense of the visibility of your product.