Celebrity Endorsement: Advertising Agency Managers’ Perspective 

B. Zafer Erdogan (Dumlupinar University, Turkey) and Michael J. Baker, Professor of Marketing (University of Strathclyde)

 

Abstract

This paper explores advertising agency managers’ attitudes concerning celebrity endorsement strategy. Although a number of scholars have written about the strategy, their research centres on the characteristics of effective celebrity endorsers. They have usually employed deductive approaches in deriving hypotheses from the communication theory (e.g. Source Effect Theory) and empirically tested with student samples. This study provides another perspective to the celebrity endorsement strategy by using semi-structured in-depth interviews with twelve advertising agency managers.

Introduction

Firms have been juxtaposing their brands and themselves with celebrity endorsers (e.g. athletes, actors) in the hope that celebrities may boost effectiveness of their marketing and/or corporate communication attempts for at least a century. One of the early example is Queen Victoria’s endorsement of Cadbury’s Cocoa (Sherman 1985). Three of humankind’s greatest inventions, (cinema, radio, and television) have extended the scope of endorsement as an advertising technique. Today, use of celebrities as part of marketing communications strategy is fairly common practice for major firms in supporting corporate or brand imagery. Indeed, according to a Marketing (February 1st, 1996) survey, advertising containing celebrities proved to be a key to gaining national headlines in 1995 in the UK and the cover story for Admap in April 1998 was devoted to issues involved in developing a celebrity endorsement strategy.

Scholars, mostly US-based, have explored the celebrity endorsement strategy (e.g. Caballero et al. 1989; Debono and Harnish 1988; DeSarbo and Harshman 1985; Friedman and Friedman 1978; Kahle and Homer 1985; Kamins 1989; Misra and Beatty 1990; Nataraajan and Chawla 1997; Ohanian 1990; 1991; Till and Busler 1998). Their contributions usually tested effective celebrity endorser characteristics by deductive methodologies with student samples (for an extensive literature review see, Erdogan 1999). Interestingly, so far no studies have explored what advertising agency managers think of celebrity endorsement as a specific strategy, what are their reasons for suggesting celebrity campaigns, how they execute celebrity campaigns, or how advertising agencies select celebrity endorsers. Miciak and Shanklin’s (1994) study could be seen as an exception although they only investigated factors considered by practitioners in selecting celebrities. This paper aims to provide some answers to first three questions as the fourth question is another paper in its own right which has been submitted to elsewhere. To address these issues we took Brownlie et al.’s (1994) suggestion that marketing scholars should undertake more in-depth studies of what marketers in different contexts actually do and carried out semi-structured in-depth interviews with advertising agency managers. The next section details the methodology used.

Methodology

In the absence of prior research, it was impossible to follow ‘someone else’s footsteps’. Thus, semi-structured in-depth interviews were deemed as appropriate for this research. An interview schedule was derived from the literature that identified the key issues to be explored and allowed the researchers flexibility to let interviews develop naturally and without leading or direction from the interviewer.

When selecting the agency sample, Campaign’s (February, 28, 1997) Top 300 Agencies Report was utilised and the top thirty advertising agencies ranked by annual sales in 1996 were chosen. It was thought that advertising agencies with large annual billings were more likely to utilise celebrities in marcom campaigns as celebrities bear high price tags.

After several phone calls to the agencies, as well as personal contacts, ten managers (two CEOs, three account directors, two creative directors, a casting director, two planning directors) from nine advertising agencies and a celebrity director from the Celebrity Group were interviewed. Two fax responses were also received from two agencies. Interviewing directors from diverse agency departments allowed the researchers to explore every department’s view on a potential celebrity selection.

The sample was believed to be quite representative of the population, but nonetheless it was a convenience sample which may be defined as ‘a form of non-probabilistic or purposive sample drawn on a purely opportunistic basis from a readily accessible subgroup of the population (Baker 1990). Table-1 lists the twelve participating companies.

Table-1 Participating Companies

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Ltd. Ogilvy and Mather Ltd.
Bartle Bogle Hegarty Ltd. Publicis Ltd.
Butler Lutos Sutton Wilkinson Ltd. Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising Group
DCA Group of Companies The Celebrity Group
Faulds Advertising Ltd. WCRS Ltd.
Grey Communication Group Young and Rubicam Ltd.

 

Interviews took place at advertising agencies and at the icebreaking stage of every interview, managers were specifically informed that this research was concerned with any kind of celebrity utilisation (i.e. actors, endorsements, testimonials, or spokespersons) in marketing communication activities. Interviews lasting on average over three-quarters of an hour, were tape-recorded and transcribed.

Before presenting findings it is necessary to summarise the key issues which underpinned the interview schedule. This research specifically explored;  

  • managers’ reasons for utilising celebrities in marketing communications
  • managers’ opinions on effectiveness of celebrity campaigns in terms of generating awareness, recall, positive attitudes towards advertising and brands, purchase intentions, and actual sales
  • whether managers perceive there is an increasing usage of celebrities in marketing communications
  • factors considered while selecting celebrity endorsers
  • commonality of these considered factors’ importance within the UK and among other countries
  • types of media used with celebrity campaigns
  • manager’s view on utilising celebrities in integrated marketing communication campaigns
  • managers’ opinion on international transferability of celebrity campaigns
  • managers’ view on utilising multiple celebrities for a particular celebrity campaign

 The research findings are presented in terms of issues grouped into three sections; Practitioners’ Reasons, Opinions and Trends; Selection Criteria and Their Commonality; and, Executional Issues.

Practitioners’ Reasons, Opinions and Trends

This section embodies three parts and explores: advertising agency managers’ reasons for using celebrity endorsers, opinions regarding effectiveness of celebrity involved campaigns (e.g. awareness, recall, positive attitudes towards advertising and the brand, actual sales), and whether advertising agency managers perceive there is an increasing usage of celebrity endorsers.

Reasons for celebrity campaigns

Respondents indicated that the biggest challenge in marcoms nowadays is how to stand out—break through ever increasing media clutter. As can be seen in Table-2, consistent with the academic literature, managers considered that celebrity endorsers enable messages to overcome this challenge due to their fame and high profile.

Table-2 Managers’ reasons for utilising celebrity endorsers

Standing out or shorthand
Awareness or attention getting
Celebrity values define, and refresh the brand image
Celebrity add new dimensions to the brand image
Instant credibility or aspiration
PR coverage
Desperate for ideas
Convincing clients

 An agency CEO stated that every time advertisements appear in television or press, they interrupt a program or an article. Therefore, they are an intrusion and very few people positively welcome advertisements though many do not reject them. People see advertisements as a part of their normal life. But, as an advertiser you have got to stand out from the crowd and celebrities can potentially achieve this. It was disclosed that the recent campaign for Ford Puma involving Steve McQueen generated instant awareness. Actually, the same spot won the best famous person usage award in the 1998 Creative Circle Honours (Campaign 1998).

Ten out of twelve managers indicated that celebrities could build, refresh and add new dimensions to brands by transferring their values. They argued that what celebrities stand for enhances brands. Many managers cited the Bob Hoskins and BT relationship as a great example of celebrity values transferring to the brand. A planning director claimed that Bob Hoskins brought his charisma, gentleness, and warmth to BT which had had none of these qualities. Another relationship which was mentioned frequently was between Jack Dee and John Smiths Bitter. Managers argued that the company has transferred Jack Dee’s smart, cool, laid back, no non-sense characteristics to the brand.

Although most academics have argued that celebrity endorsements work because celebrities are credible and attractive, only 50 percent of the respondents mentioned these qualities as reasons. A possible explanation for this discrepancy between scholars and practitioners could be that most advertising agency managers may perceive a celebrity as a gestalt, and do not differentiate attractiveness and credibility characteristics. Indeed, one of the respondents claimed that when a person is famous, people forget about what the person looks like as everyone knows the face, it is hard to judge whether the person is pretty or ugly.

Managers believed that celebrities save time in creating the credibility a company has to build into products. They argued that when consumers see a credible celebrity endorsing a product, consumers think that the product must be at least ‘OK’. However, it was revealed that Nanette Newman was used by Fairy Liquid for years because she was perceived as trustworthy, believed in, and motherly.

Four out of twelve advertising agency managers mentioned PR coverage as another reason for using celebrities. Managers perceived celebrities as topical, which created high PR coverage. Indeed, celebrity-company marriages are covered by most media from television to newspapers (e.g. The Spice Girls and Pepsi). This particular reason has not been mentioned in the academic literature previously to the researcher’s knowledge.

Two managers were quite sceptical about advertising agency motivations for using celebrities. One stated that when agencies are desperate for an idea or all else fails, they bring in a celebrity. Another argued that agencies use celebrities because it is easy to convince clients since a successful celebrity campaign could make clients’ marketing managers famous and keep them comfortable in their position for a while.

Opinions on campaigns involving celebrities

Although managers argued that when used well celebrities could be very powerful and help magnify the effects of a campaign, at the same time they were very cautious. They emphasised that celebrities alone do not guarantee success as consumers nowadays understand advertising, know what advertising is, and how it works. One of the managers argued that years ago celebrity mania prevailed, but has now dissipated. People know celebrities are being paid a lot of money for endorsements and this knowledge leads them to cynicism about celebrity endorsements. According to this respondent, people are annoyed that celebrities are endorsing products.

Specifically, all respondents postulated that celebrities were good at generating attention, recall and positive attitudes towards advertising provided that celebrities are supporting a good idea and there is an explicit fit between celebrities and brands. On the other hand, they were not agreed on issues such as creating positive attitudes to brands, purchase intentions and actual sales.

An account director claimed that the combination of product innovation and celebrity endorsements lead to absolute success for Pizza Hut. He argued that the product, stuffed crust pizza was a very good product and had a point of difference to other Pizza’s because it had cheese in the crust. The launch of the product and other promotional activities involved celebrities (e.g. Ruud Gullit, Murray Walker, Damon Hill). All the financial modelling the agency had done in terms of the actual contribution to the company’s business in sales terms indicated a phenomenal growth. Another example for a successful celebrity usage was the Steve McQueen—Ford Puma campaign. The agency argued that the car was instantly sold out and second hand models were selling for 1000 more than new ones.

According to another account director, the Hula-Hoops and Harry Enfield relationship generated phenomenal recall and awareness figures as well as increased sales. Most sports person endorsements are argued to create positive attitudes towards products and generate sales (e.g. Nike—Michael Jordan, Dunlop—John McEnroe, Adidas—Prince Naseem Hamed). It was argued that people know they are not going to be as good as these athletes, but having their equipment makes them feel better.

The issue of a celebrity overshadowing the brand (the vampire effect) was widely known to advertising managers. They indicated that they were very careful about this phenomenon when deciding which celebrity to use. One cited that overshadowing is just like an atomic bomb which can blast the campaign to nowhere. Two specific examples were given; Dawn French—Cable Association and Leonard Rossiter—Cinzano. Both of these campaigns were aborted due to celebrities getting in the way of effective communication.

Another issue was raised as making sure a celebrity endorsing a brand actually uses the brand as well. Sainsbury’s encountered a problem with Catherina Zita Jones, whom the company used for its recipe advertisements, when she was caught shopping in Tesco. Managers also suggested that whether the celebrity is endorsing another brand in the same product category must be investigated.

In sum, managers thought celebrity endorsements could be effective when celebrities were chosen accurately and campaigns were planned and executed well. Moreover, a good campaign idea and an intrinsic link between the celebrity and the message were musts for a successful celebrity involved campaign.

Celebrity usage trend

Nine respondents felt that there was an increasing usage of celebrities as endorsers, but four out of nine thought that this increase was in line with the overall growth of advertising. The remaining three did not see an increase in the UK.

Increasing consumer interest in sports and leisure activities was argued to be a reason for the increasing utilisation, as promotional activities have been simultaneously moving more towards entertainment as well as product/service selling. Availability of far more celebrities (e.g. footballers, rugby players, and comedians) who are willing to endorse products because they can make a lot of money and gain fame as a result of endorsements was another reason.

The snowball effect, which occurs when a company uses a celebrity, as others start to consider using one was given as another reason. Last, but not least the need to stand out quickly in today’s expensive and cluttered media environment was mentioned as an additional reason for the increasing usage of celebrities in marcoms.

Managers observing no increase claimed that personalities come and go. They indicated that certain products (e.g. female skincare products, shampoos, cigarettes) always had celebrities namely Ronald Reagan for Chesterfield cigarettes and Ian Botham for Hamlet. They argued that celebrities have got more expensive and probably more risky since media nowadays digs out the lives of celebrities. Celebrities were thought to be not enjoying the untouchable status they had in the 60s and 70s.

Even though managers were only asked to give their opinions on reasons for using celebrities, effectiveness of celebrity endorsements, and whether there was an increasing utilisation, most of them also commented simultaneously on potential pitfalls of this strategy. These responses could lead to the conclusion that managers are very cautious in selecting celebrity endorsers. Indeed, as it is presented in the following part, a range of factors are considered in choosing celebrities to endorse brands.

Selection Criteria and Their Commonality

In this section, factors considered while deciding on a particular celebrity endorsers for a campaign and whether these factors’ importance may differ within the UK and among other countries are explored.

Selection criteria

According to managers, factors considered while selecting celebrities vary depending on how celebrities are utilised; celebrity as the central feature, or celebrity for the added interest. In the former case, a campaign can not work without a particular celebrity (e.g. BUPA Health Centre used Arsenal’s striker Ian Right who rapidly recovered from his injury). On the other hand, in the latter case an agency can use a variety of celebrities as the aim is to get added interest (e.g. One-2-One mobile phone company used such celebrities as Chris Evans—John Lenon, and Ian Right—Martin Luther King, to promote its new service). Table-3 comprises a list of criteria mentioned in choosing a celebrity endorser for a campaign in a ranking order.

Table-3 Selection criteria

Fit with the advertising idea
Celebrity—Target audience match
Celebrity values
Costs of acquiring the celebrity
Celebrity—Product match
Celebrity controversy risk
Celebrity popularity
Celebrity availability
Celebrity physical attractiveness
Celebrity credibility
Celebrity prior endorsements
Whether celebrity is a brand user
Celebrity profession
Celebrity Equity membership status

As can be inferred from the table, respondents mostly argued that a celebrity must be right for the advertising idea though it is ambiguous as to how one decides whether the celebrity is right. It is our belief that what respondents tried to communicate was that agencies do not start with a celebrity and then build a campaign around them. Usually the campaign idea would be developed first and then a celebrity search would start. It is about what suits a campaign rather than using an available and popular personality, although casting departments occasionally are asked to put forward a list of possible celebrities for campaigns. In these exceptional occasions, a personality is chosen first and an advertisement is written around the particular celebrity.

The second most frequently mentioned factors were target audience feelings towards a celebrity, what the celebrity stands for, and how much the celebrity charges for an endorsement contract. These finding are similar to academic suggestions put forward by McCracken (1989), Brierley (1995) and findings by Kamins (1990) and Langmeyer and Walker (1991a, 1991b). The third most cited factor was whether the celebrity image matched product characteristics, which was widely suggested by scholars (Ohanian 1991; Bertrand 1992; Callcoat and Philips 1996; O’Mahony and Meenaghan 1997).

Surprisingly, celebrity characteristics such as credibility and attractiveness were only cited by twenty-five percent of the interviewees whereas in the academic literature (Caballero, et al. 1989; Chawla, et al. 1994; Debevec and Kernan 1984; Klebba and Unger 1982; Ohanian 1990; Patzer 1983,1985) these two variables were believed to be two of the most important factors in getting a source’s message across. Again, the earlier given possible reason for this disparity may be that practitioners think of celebrities ‘in the round’ and so are concerned with the whole person or ‘gestalt’ rather than specific characteristics. A whole set of variables such as the risk of a celebrity getting into public controversy, prior endorsements, celebrity availability and willingness, a celebrity’s profession and whether a celebrity is a user of the product or service was reported to be taken into account in selecting celebrities.

It was pointed out that whether a celebrity is a member of an organisation called Equity, a union for advertising presenters and industry workforce, must be taken into account in choosing a personality. The long lasting strike by Equity members because of the fact that everyone involved in shooting advertisements were not being paid adequate wages was reported to affect decisions. Indeed, sudden increase in utilising football stars in advertisements is partially attributed to the fact that footballers are not Equity members (Table-4).

Table-4 Advertisements involving footballers

Footballer Brand
Gary Lineker Walkers Crisps
Ruud Gullit, Steward Pierce Pizza Hut
David Ginola L’Oreal Elvive
David Beckham Brylcreem, Adidas
Eric Cantona Eurostar, Nike
Ronaldo and Brazilian Nationals Nike
Del Pierro, Zinedine Zidane Adidas
Ian Right BUPA Health Centre, One-2-One
Peter Schmeichel Danepak, Sugar Puffs
Alan Shearer McDonald’s, Braun Razors

This sudden increase in utilising football stars in advertisements can also be explained by the 1996 European Cup and the 1998 World Cup Finals which have enjoyed extensive media coverage.

Criteria commonality

Interviews indicated that considered factors are very much the same in the UK because the advertising industry has creatively developed to a stage where agencies are often condemned when they use celebrities as it is seen to be an easy way out. In fact, an agency manager resented the fact that they utilised a celebrity due to his popularity and fame and as a result the campaign failed.

Six managers believe advertising is more different than similar among countries because of cultural differences which are assumed to affect the considered factors’ weight in selecting celebrities. According to an agency CEO, when using celebrities in Germany, there would have to be a very literal connection between products and celebrities. Utilising Michael Schumacher to endorse motor cars could bring phenomenal results, whereas an endorsement by him for clothing apparel would not work in Germany. People need to see a greater association between celebrities and products. That is very different in the United States where personalities, irrespective of whether they are a basketball player, athlete, or singer, could endorse virtually any product successfully. They can endorse a product that is outside their profession. For example, Michael Jordan, whose effect on the whole American economy was calculated to be around $10 billion in the fourteen years of his NBA career (Fortune 1998), has endorsed a range of brands from different product categories (e.g. Nike, Coke, Wheaties, McDonald’s, Hanes, WorldCom, Oakley, Gatorade). The conventional use of celebrity endorsers; "I am a rich, famous, successful person and I use this product" was attributed as the American way. Interviewees indicated that there were only few such endorsements in the UK. Celebrities are said to be used not only to bring a lot of fame into commercials, but also to transfer their fame and meanings to brands.

One of the respondents argued that in British advertising occasionally humour is turned against a celebrity rather than using the celebrity to say, ‘if you want to look rich and famous use this product.’ According to the respondent, the best Pizza Hut advertisements were ones where celebrities enter in to the humour of the commercial in the nicest possible way and they laugh at themselves. For instance, Damon Hill appeared in a Pizza Hut advertisement with Murray Walker just after the season when he came second and there was a whole joke about him finishing second again. This appeals to the British sense of humour, but also requires the celebrity to say I am big enough to laugh about myself. On the other hand, it is much harder to get American celebrities to laugh about themselves, and this is not the style of American advertising. In the USA, people celebrate success which the British would find embarrassing.

Execution Issues

This section specifically investigates; types of media used by advertising agencies in campaigns involving celebrities, opinions of managers concerning utilising celebrities in integrated marcom campaigns, international transferability of celebrity involved campaigns in managers’ view, and whether to use one or multiple celebrities in campaigns.

Media usage with celebrity campaigns

Even though respondents indicated that they have used celebrities in all available media, television was the main form of utilisation. They maintained that an agency had to balance expense items in any given campaign budget. As celebrities come with high price tags, not using them in television seemed unreasonable for managers as it would be a waste of money due to the fact that press does not bring personalities to life. Media such as billboards, sponsorship, cinema advertisements, point of sale, posters, press, PR, and radio are generally used to support television advertisements. Managers argued that using celebrities in several media was good for getting a return on investments from celebrity fees. Managers pointed out that many minor celebrities were used in media such as press and direct mail pamphlets, but major celebrities are reluctant to commit themselves to media other than television.

Opinions on integrated marketing communication campaigns

Traditionally, marketing communications elements—advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, and marketing public relations—have been thought about, studied and executed separately, but there has been a distinct trend to integrate these activities since the late 1980s. Reasons for this integration includes cluttered media, advancing database technology, changing media buying practices, increasing importance of below-the-line promotions, and lastly shifting marketplace power from manufacturers to retailers. This trend of integration has been noticed by many academics as well as practitioners (Fawcett, 1993; Kitchen, 1994; Krugman, 1994; Schultz, 1991; 1994; Schultz and Kitchen, 1997; Shimp, 1997). Kitchen and Schultz (1997) point out that there are academics who question whether the IMC phenomenon is just another management ‘fad.’ One response is that most activities in the past have been focused on breaking down marcom activities into definable categories, but IMC requires companies to adopt marcoms strategies that co-ordinate various different promotional elements along with other marketing activities that communicate with consumers. Furthermore, their study, which aimed to discover attitudes of advertising agencies in the UK toward IMC, showed that 100% of respondents agreed that campaigns should be integrated in terms of communication, advertising agency staff are spending 25% or more of their time on integrated programs, and also there is a trend to more, not less, integration.

It appears that there has been a constant move towards integrating marketing communication activities. A good example of integrated celebrity campaigns is one of the World’s leading Pop groups, the Spice Girls, who have not only appeared in advertisements for Pepsi, but also in product launching and PR events. Since anything the Spice Girls do is news for the media, in a sense, companies are able to get free mass media exposure from these comparatively dull marketing communication events. Another example is Pierce Brosnan’s involvement with Ericsson, the Swedish electronics group. The company has not only placed its cellular phone and communications technology in the latest James Bond action movie, "Tomorrow Never Dies," starring Pierce Brosnan, but also used him in its commercials with the headline "Ericsson Made/Bond Approved" (Matthews, 1997).

As companies invest large sums of money in celebrity endorsement contracts, any celebrity endorsement relationship must contribute to larger marketing strategies (Erdogan and Kitchen 1998). Accordingly, campaigns involving celebrities are believed to bring more positive results if they are properly integrated than traditional non-integrated campaigns (Bertrand and Todd, 1992; Rogers, 1997). In order to discover what advertising agency managers think about integrating campaigns involving celebrities, they were asked to give their opinions on the issue.

Ten interviewees responded that integration could be of enormous value for campaigns if agencies can persuade celebrities. Integration could bring instant recognition of a big idea, but for the reasons explained later on, celebrities will not always accept endorsement deals requiring them to appear in more than the main medium—television. According to managers, if an agency can persuade a celebrity to be involved in a brand’s integrated marketing communication activities, the agency should take the celebrity through all available media, though the agency not only has to make sure the celebrity is good enough to be the brand’s front line, but must also justify increased costs. Nike sports wear’s usage of sports personalities (NBA, NFL players, Brazilian Internationals, and athletes) in an integrated fashion was given as a successful integrated celebrity utilisation.

On the other hand, two respondents were somewhat sceptical about extending celebrity endorsements to multi media. They believed that integration was a dangerous word as agencies can try to integrate campaigns for the sake of integration, but this may backfire. Thus, agencies have to carefully analyse every kind of communication technique in its own way. Accordingly, they argued that celebrities were much more effective when they were animated in television than on static media. Of course, if there is a good reason for a multi media solution, it is essential. They also claimed that the additional cost of using celebrities in other media might outweigh the additional benefits.

Even though building-up a whole marketing communication campaign around a celebrity(s) makes complete sense, most celebrities are reluctant to sign such deals for four reasons.

 

  • First, they are very concerned about their exposure. Should they sign a deal for more than the main media, they know their picture can be stuck all over the place and they would lose control over their exposure.
  • Second, they do not want to be too closely associated with a particular product that may cost them other potential deals.
  • Third, they are uncomfortable with some media, as they are motionless. Comedians work well on television since it is animated, which allows comedians to present their personality. For instance, Henry Enfield is only comfortable with television and radio because his humour comes into life in these mediums.
  • Last, but not least they may be unable to sign for some media as their previous deals prohibit them. For example; a celebrity might be endorsing an alcohol brand in print and his/her deal prohibits them to endorse any other products in print.

In sum, agency managers believed that if a celebrity is good enough for a firm’s front line, benefits from integration exceed costs. If the celebrity is willing to be involved in an integrated campaign, integrating campaigns involving celebrities would bring better results than traditional campaign execution tactics.

International transferability

In the literature, it has been argued that celebrities with world-wide popularity can help global marketing communication attempts (Kaikati, 1987). In order to discern what advertising practitioners think about transferring campaigns involving celebrities globally or internationally, they were asked to comment on the subject. It should be noted that the academic dispute on the difference between the terms ‘global’ and ‘international’ was dismissed in order to prevent confusing practitioners. Therefore, responses should be treated as answers for transferring campaigns to another nation or nations.

All respondents argued that celebrities were as transferable as their fame world-wide. With celebrities, agencies try to bring instant shorthand for campaigns. In this respect, a planning director believed that celebrities with international recognition were more valuable internationally than nationally as the need for instant shorthand is greater in the international arena. Of course, transferring campaigns to countries where celebrities are not known does not make any sense. For example, Jack Dee and John Smith’s no nonsense straight-talking pint of beer campaign would not make sense in countries where Jack Dee is not known due to the fact that Jack Dee would be seen as an ordinary consumer. Most transferable celebrities are suggested to be film stars because everybody around the world sees their films. Campaigns involving sports people in world sports such as football, basketball, car racing and athletics (e.g. Ronaldo, Michael Jordan, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, Carl Lewis), pop stars (e.g. Spice Girls, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson), and supermodels (e.g. Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell) are also argued to be transferable. Television stars like all the cast of Friends, and Seinfeld may transfer to countries in which their series are run. It was claimed that Ford Puma’s McQueen advertisement worked well in the western world.

Respondents contended that in deciding to transfer a campaign to other countries the brand subject of the campaign is an important factor. The more a brand is international/global, the easier it is to transfer campaigns for the brand. If a brand is not internationally known and an international celebrity is endorsing the brand, it is more likely that consumers would remember seeing the celebrity in an advertisement, but could not remember what the advertising was for (the vampire effect).

Another important point raised was the campaign objective. In order to execute campaigns internationally, they needed to be developed keeping global objectives in mind. Developing international campaigns was deemed to be a difficult task because of cultural differences. International advertisements are about pure endorsement rather than humour. With international campaigns the cost of acquiring celebrities increases and the number of suitable celebrities decreases. Agencies have to work out to which countries a celebrity’s fame transfers and consider the brand’s business within those countries. For example, because Australia and South Africa buy their television coverage from the UK, Damon Hill and Murray Walker are well known in these countries, but Pizza Hut only ran its advertisement with these two celebrities in Australia and did not run it in South Africa because Pizza Hut’s business was not enough in this country to justify television coverage. An accounts manager argued that if the goal is to save money, which is the most often given justification for global/international campaigns, with global endorsement deals, agencies had better not use a celebrity unless the celebrity is entirely global.

Use of multiple celebrities

It was argued that answers to the following questions would help agencies in deciding how many celebrities to utilise for a campaign. Is it better to have different celebrities who appeal to different people within the target audience? Is one celebrity enough? How long is the campaign supposed to run? How much money is going to be spent? What media it is going to be run in?

Using multiple celebrities or a single celebrity partially depends on the time scale a campaign is using to have impact. If the campaign has a long-term strategy, agencies would be more careful because potential downsides are much more than potential upsides. The longer the time scale, the more substantial the brand, and thus, the less likely a campaign would stay with a particular celebrity. In the case of using multiple personalities, none of the celebrities may be specifically associated with the endorsed brand or vice versa. An interviewee claimed that if a campaign has a large advertising and media budget, multiple celebrities would be introduced in order not to bore target audience. According to the same manager, people change and the way they relate to brands also changes. Therefore, the sort of personality used to endorse a product should be different for different age groups. For example, two celebrities may be used to give slightly different attitudes to brands. In a lot of cases a brand has a wide range of consumers and sometimes the use of multiple celebrities is needed to cover the whole target audience, though it must be made sure that each celebrity’s values reflects core brand values. What this interviewee seems to be implying is that the audience/market segments that exists in the target audience/market. More specifically, following Baker’s (1996) footsteps, the manager accepts differences in the target audience/market and tries to adjust promotion strategy accordingly.

On the contrary, another manager believed that a celebrity is the mouthpiece for a brand in communicating messages to target audiences rather more effectively than any other voice. The personalities of celebrities are very strong and they can rapidly change perceptions of a brand. If a campaign has two or three celebrities, then whose personality is the brand trying to take? In this case, there is a great chance of confusing consumers about the brand’s identity. In order to prevent this possible confusion, when managers have genuine reasons and means to utilise more than one celebrity for a particular campaign, they should make sure every and each celebrity must possess compatible meanings that are sought for brands.

Conclusions and Further Research Avenues

This paper has explored on advertising agency managers’ point of view regarding celebrity endorsement strategy. Findings revealed that managers see media clutter as the biggest challenge for marketing communications practitioners nowadays and utilise a celebrity endorsement strategy to overcome this challenge. A celebrity campaign to bring desirable campaign results must support a good idea and there must be an explicit fit between celebrities and brands. While deciding on a particular celebrity, a range of criteria are reported to be taken into account and these criteria’s importance was communicated to be very similar in the UK, but it would differ across countries mainly because of cultural differences.

The most preferred medium for celebrity endorsement strategy was television although using several media was seen as an effective way to get good return on investment since celebrity fees are usually high. Accordingly, managers thought integrated celebrity campaigns were affective, but getting celebrities to sign such deals was argued to be very difficult. Lastly, managers argued that using multiple celebrities or a single celebrity depends on the time period over which a campaign is planned to have impact, campaign budget, and variance in target audience characteristics.

These findings have a number of implications for both theory and practise. At the theoretical level, the research suggests that the celebrity endorsement strategy has become an important component of marketing communications strategy for firms in today’s competitive environment. For practitioners, the findings highlight some of ‘dos and don’ts’ of celebrity endorsement strategy. For example, managers should not suggest celebrity campaigns just because it is easier to get clients to accept them or they are out of creative ideas, but they should have genuine reasons. In a way, these findings provide guidelines for managers planning to utilise and execute celebrity-based campaigns.

Since this research was exploratory and had a relatively small sample size, there is a need for confirmatory research with a larger sample testing hypotheses derived from the findings presented in this paper. Moreover, because the research involved managers working within large advertising agencies, further research involving managers from all sizes of advertising agencies is needed in order to confirm/revise/reject the findings. Researchers interested in the subject may wish to duplicate the research in other countries which may provide a basis for cross-cultural comparisons of managers attitudes towards celebrity endorsement strategy.

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