Should consumer-facing marketing campaigns use celebrity endorsers?

Celebrities can be an asset to a campaign but also a liability. If PR practitioners want to use a star to promote a brand, they should make sure he or she fits their goals.

Yes 

Sarah Larsen, SVP, consumer marketing, Ogilvy Public Relations
More than a decade of PR, media relations, and consumer marketing experience

One of the first questions we often get from clients is "do we need a celebrity?" The usual answer is "Yes, it would help."

Now, we are not saying a celebrity spokesperson is a must have in any situation, but we know media consumption of celebrity news is high.

We also know the positive impact of celebrity endorsement on brands is a constant source of study, from research firms to business media companies such as Harvard Business Review.

With so much focus on celebrities, it makes sense to harness the power of fame to bring a needed layer to a campaign - news value, credibility, and target audience engagement potential - that may be lacking. Celebrities can create greater awareness for a brand.

But in this age of the more informed consumer, just partnering with any celebrity will not work. The process of identifying the right showbiz partner is a science. We operate within a methodical, highly researched process, not just a haphazard quick pick.

Celebrities, when properly incorporated into a program, can break through the crowded media space to increase brand awareness and recall. They can lend their credibility to a campaign, leading to improved brand preference.

Along with this, they can leverage established fan bases and can add value to a campaign through their assets such as databases, social media, and book and music tours.

Celebrities come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, enabling them to reach niche markets that correspond with key demographic markets.

But when determining the right celebrity spokesperson, reach and relevance are key. A celebrity must be able to extend and amplify your message on a large scale. In addition to falling within the budget, the value of the fee must justify the cost.

Also, any celebrity being considered for a campaign must align with the brand values and have a history of speaking out in favor of causes or issues relevant to the brand.

With this in mind, partnering with a celebrity can take your program or brand to a whole new level of success. l

No

Lisa Arledge Powell, President, MediaSource
Leader of a media relations and digital multimedia production company for more than 14 years

With reports of celebrities getting big bucks - sometimes $10,000 or more - just to tweet a brand endorsement, some PR people think celebrities equal big returns. But often it is a waste of money.

If the PR stars align, sometimes the right famous person can lead to increased brand awareness and even boost sales. But remember, for every Taylor Swift, there is a Lindsay Lohan.

Here are three reasons why you should think twice before sinking your PR dollars into a celebrity's designer pockets.

  • Star power is no media guarantee. Many brands partner with celebrities because they believe the star power will get them instant media buzz.

    But unless you secure an A-list name who is relevant to current pop culture, you or your client will likely be disappointed in the level of media coverage achieved. Competition for top-tier media coverage is fierce. A D-list celebrity may not get you a lot of national media buzz.

    So manage news coverage expectations if your celebrity spokesperson is not a superstar.

  • Celebrities behaving badly. Charlie Sheen. Tiger Woods. Lindsay Lohan. Need I say any more?

    When celebrities exhibit bad behavior, this reflects poorly on your brand. And even if they're not getting pulled over, arrested, or caught cheating, a recent study at the University of Colorado showed celebrity endorsements don't always work in the positive way that marketers hope. It showed that a celebrity's negative traits were more likely to be transferred to the brand than the positive.

  • Real people sell. In 14 years of taking products and services and creating newsworthy stories that appeal to a wide audience, I've found that real people sell the story better.

    Find the right person who has a problem your brand is solving, and you've now got a compelling story that can be told to the media and pushed out directly to your customers.

    So you can save your $10,000 tweeting fee and know your brand reputation won't hang in the balance of the Kardashian sisters' wardrobe malfunctions. 

PRWeek's View
Celebrities can be an asset to a campaign but also a liability. If PR practitioners want to use a star to promote a brand, they should make sure he or she fits their goals, is well-behaved, and is worth the price of their large fee.

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