Americans prefer their good causes to have star quality

RICHMOND, VA: Who is the most effective and familiar celebrity


In a phone survey of more than 1000 Americans conducted by fledgling

firm Slay Public Relations (see story, p.7) with Bruskin/Goldring

Research of Edison, NJ, 35.6% of respondents named comedian Jerry Lewis,

pitchman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, as the most familiar

celebrity promoting a charity or cause.

Actors Michael J. Fox and Charlton Heston ranked second and third

respectively, with 16.2% and 8.8%. Fox represents Parkinson's Disease,

an illness he has been battling, while Heston is associated with the

National Rifle Association.

The survey was conducted in April to determine just how famous certain

celebrities were, and whether or not Americans believe they help with

social causes. Other celebrities named included Christopher Reeve (7.6%,

spinal cord injuries); Katie Couric (5.6%, colon cancer); and Elton John

(3.2%, AIDS).

The findings revealed that 'what we pay attention to is driven by

marketing, money and celebrityhood,' according to Joe Slay, president of

the Richmond-based PR agency.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing. 'The study shows that Americans

believe celebrities have more access to the media to promote social

causes,' Slay continued. Thirty percent of Americans believe there are

not enough celebrities helping worthwhile causes in the media, although

38.8% say celebrity involvement is 'just right.'

While Americans believe that politicians beat athletes (25.9% to 19.3%)

for unlocking the door to media access, politics and sports are

virtually tied when it comes to what they think attracts media

attention. Entertainment and lifestyles was third at 15.7%. And all the

issues that politicians use as platforms - education, health,

environment and technology - each ranked below 5%.

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