When a celebrity does something noteworthy—dying, for instance—the news media wring as much content as they can out of the occurrence. The assumption is that consumers are endlessly fascinated with celebs' doings. And many marketers must share that assumption, given their propensity for populating ads with celebrities who may or may not have any plausible connection with the brand that's being sold. Does the presence of a celebrity in an ad actually make it more effective with consumers? The consumers themselves insist not, judging by a poll conducted for AdweekMedia among members of LinkedIn.
Respondents were asked whether the presence of a celebrity in an ad makes them more likely or less likely to buy the product, or leaves them neither more nor less likely to do so. Just 8 percent said seeing the celebrity makes them more likely to buy the product, vs. 12 percent saying it makes them less likely. But a landslide 78 percent said it doesn't affect them one way or the other.
Perhaps because the celebrities in ads tend to be young, the survey's older respondents were especially averse to them as advertising pitchmen and pitchwomen. Twenty-four percent of the 55-and-older respondents said seeing a celeb in an ad makes them less likely to buy the product, vs. just 4 percent saying it makes them more likely to buy. Men were a bit more likely than women (15 percent vs. 11 percent) to say a celeb in an ad is a deterrent to their purchasing the product. (To see the full results of this poll, click here. And to participate in another ad-related poll, click here.)
In another breakdown of the data, 20 percent of business owners, vs. 11 percent of people with jobs in the "management" category, said the presence of a celebrity in an ad make them less likely to buy. No doubt having had their work upstaged from time to time by celebrities, 19 percent of survey participants in "creative" roles said a celeb in an ad makes them less likely to buy the product, vs. 8 percent saying it makes them more likely.
Of course, all these responses leave one unanswerable question: Were the survey's participants telling the truth when most of them said a celeb in an ad makes no difference to them and fewer than one in 10 said it makes them more likely to buy? In comments they posted along with their votes, a number of respondents were skeptical. As one commenter put it, "most of us would rather die than admit to being 'swayed by glamour' in a purchase decision." Another offered a similar thought: "Perhaps most of us like to think that celebrities don't have any effect on our buying decisions, but in reality, celebs may indeed have some power over our wallets."
Analyzing consumer psychology, one participant commented that "we know that our subconscious will automatically add a bit of credibility if a celeb is in an ad (whether we believe this on a conscious level or not)." That dovetails with the shamefaced confession of another commenter: "I was going to say 'no' but then I realized I just bought some mascara endorsed by Eva Longoria. So I guess my answer unfortunately is Yes."
One male participant offered the pithiest comment on whether celebs in ads have an effect on consumer behavior—or, at least, on his own: "3 words…Catherine Zeta Jones."
--Nielsen Business Media