Celebrities shine in ad campaigns

Dominic Twose
Global Head of Knowledge Management
Kantar Millward Brown

Kantar Millward Brown's global advertising database shows that while there have been successful celebrity-led ad campaigns, the use of celebrities doesn't guarantee a successful campaign. On average, using a celebrity makes little difference to the effectiveness of an ad. There's also little difference overall between the performance on most key measures (including enjoyment and branding) of ads with celebrities versus those without. Ads featuring celebrities in the US, and Central and Eastern Europe, are slightly more involving; but in other regions, particularly where celebrity ads are more common used, this is not the case.

Our recent AdReaction study 'The Art of Integration' which focused on the effectiveness of multichannel campaigns, shared new insights on the use of celebrities within campaigns as opposed to individual ads. Consumers expect multichannel campaigns to deliver basic connective elements like the same logo and slogan across channels. And analysis of our global CrossMedia database shows that the use of connective brand cues does aid impact. All brand cues contribute to campaign effectiveness, and the more cues the better. But, the consistent use of celebrities or characters in campaigns are the cues which most help brand impact. Strikingly distinctive cues can instantly link campaign elements in consumers' minds, and celebrities and characters are a great example of this and work well across both static and video formats. Consumers report that campaigns featuring celebrities fit together better than other campaigns. So, while celebrities might not boost the performance of individual ads, they can boost campaign effectiveness.

However, for celebrities to be most effective in a campaign, the link with the brand needs to be fast and unambiguous. This suggests that the best celebrity campaigns are long-running (to allow the association to wear in); but also, that the celebrity should not be associated with other brands, to avoid misattribution. This is more likely to be a problem in countries like Japan and South Korea, where around 40% of TV ads feature celebrities (compared with Norway, Austria, Croatia, Kazakhstan, El Salvador and Costa Rica, where the proportion is under 3%).

Nonetheless there are pitfalls to using celebrities. We do have examples in our database of ads that were researched twice; once featuring a celebrity and once with unknown actors. In some cases, the celebrity free versions performed better.

To learn more, read my other article, 'Celebrity Based Ad Campaigns: What are the Pros and Cons?'