Celebrities in Advertising Are Almost Always a Big Waste of Money (good title…not mine)

Thanks to the folks over at the VO-BB for finding this before me.

Here’s an article from Advertising Age that at first look, I thought might be some voice of reason to clients about the use of celebrities to endorse their products. Then, well…just give it a read. It’s got some industry jargon, but you should be able to plow through that without much trouble. Go ahead…I’ll wait.


Back? Awesome. Let’s continue.

OK. So my biggest problem with the article is the fact that they were so tied to their research study, and unfortunately, the examples are like instant fail. Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong were in the top (bottom?) two celebrity TV ads, according to the cited study, which can be found here. The problem with them is that they had a ton of negative press last year. But more on how they measured this stuff…

The metric they used is called “lift,” which is used to measure how much better or worse their advertisement did when compared to its competition’s ads. Yeah…they’ve come up with a measurable way for clients to say, “Nah nah nah nah nah nah” to their competition. Except when it’s “negative lift,” which is the advertisement’s equivalent of a facepalm.

One thing that stood out to me was this:

The bottom line is that good ads stand on their own, and this study empirically shows that a celebrity has little to no impact on an ad’s effectiveness. In fact, regardless of gender or age, ads without celebrities out-performed ads with them.

I know that this article isn’t the proof we were looking for when it comes to celebrities in voiceover. In fact, VO is never mentioned in the article or in the study, but it’s something that clients (hopefully) will start to see. That the risk of using a celebrity in an advertisement of any kind has a direct correlation with that celebrity’s potential for doing something dumb. And we’ve all seen or heard enough TMZ or Perez Hilton to know that celebrities do just as much stupid crap as the rest of the mere mortals out there…but I digress.

I know we in the industry look at this with a pair of jaded glasses, and most of us are going “well, DUH,” but it’s the clients that need studies like this to hopefully persuade them to start letting good creative and transparent talent carry their message.

And speaking of transparent talent, you know there’s nothing worse than hiring a celebrity and nobody noticing. Now I am talking about voiceover, and I know that a bunch of you know several instances where this was the case. I’m talking about those celebrities who really don’t have a recognizable voice, and aren’t doing character stuff. It’s one thing to have the soothing drawl of Morgan Freeman or Jeff Bridges talking about a product…but again, they have voices of distinction. Sometimes celebrities do well other areas of VO. I hear tell of Justin Timberlake doing a serviceable job as Boo-Boo in “Yogi Bear.” I don’t really know, because I never saw it. Neither did most, as I hear it. With a 14% score at Rotten Tomatoes, I can only wonder why.

So, anyway…celebrity endorsements get a “meh” from consumers. If it continues, maybe clients will listen. Only time will tell.