A new research report claims that celebrity endorsements in the form of TV commercials
are almost always a bad deal for the brand. The study covered every
nationally televised ad in the first 11 months of 2010 -- and saw that ones with celebrities underperformed other types of ads, often drastically. On average, celebrity ads had a negative "lift," while non-celebrity ads did much better. Of course, you can hide a lot of details in aggregate numbers, and part of it might just be that the celebrity ads were done poorly. It's possible that a good celebrity ad can still be effective, but what seems clear is that "just add a celebrity" does not help at all. The study's authors posit that consumers don't care as much about celebrity endorsements in these social networking days:
Today's consumer is a totally different animal than the consumer of even five years ago, meaning that what was effective and influential five years ago is not necessarily so today, as today's consumer is more likely to be influenced by someone in their social network than a weak celebrity connection. Today's consumer is informed, time-compressed, and difficult to impress, and they are only influenced by ads that are relevant and provide information. They don't want to have products pushed at them, even from a celebrity. In fact, the data show that relevance and information attributes were key missing ingredients from most celebrity ads.
I'm not sure I completely buy that. After all, celebrities are some of the most popular people to follow or friend on social networks. I think it may be more a case of poor utilization of celebrities, where the endorsements are seen (reasonably and accurately) as being fake, rather than sincere. I think when a celebrity really does like a product and then also agrees to do an endorsement, those can be effective. But a pure "let's put this celebrity with this product" sort of thing is quickly dismissed as inauthentic.