Study: Celebrity Ads Not So Effective After All

A new study from ad tracker Ace Metrix found that celebrities aren’t as influential in hawking products as many marketers think they are.

At least that was the case last year. The firm analyzed celebrity ads that broke in 2010, and found that in most cases, spots featuring celebs weren’t any more effective than regular ads in the same categories. And in many cases the celebrity ads performed less effectively.
“This research proves unequivocally that, contrary to popular belief, the investment in a celebrity in TV advertising is very rarely worthwhile,” said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. “It is the advertising message that creates the connection with the viewer in areas such as relevance, information and attention, and this remains the most important driver of ad effectiveness.”

The Ace study tested more than 2,600 television commercials over the course of last year and found that fewer than 12 percent of the spots using celebrities achieved a 10 percent effectiveness “lift” versus regular ads. And nearly 20 percent of celebrity ads produced effectiveness scores that were weaker on the firm’s effectiveness scale by more than 10 percent.

Scandal-plagued Tiger Woods proved to be the worst celebrity spokesperson of 2010, Ace said. Collectively, Woods’ TV spots were 23 percent less effective than average, and Americans in general, regardless of gender or age, were equally unreceptive to his ads.

“Tiger’s ads in 2010 did very little to inform consumers about the products he was endorsing,” said Daboll. “They were all about Tiger. This was confusing to consumers, and at the end of the day, his endorsement likely cost his sponsors much more than just the fee for his services.”

Woods’ “Did You Learn Anything?” Nike spot was the worst scoring celebrity ad of the year, and 30 percent less effective than regular commercials in the athletic footwear category. Radio Shack’s Lance Armstrong “No Emotions” ad was the second worst performing celebrity spot. Kenny Mayne (Gillette), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Nationwide) and Donald Trump (Macy’s) also starred in some of the worst performing spots.

Oprah Winfrey, on the other hand, starred in three of the most effective celebrity ads of the year including the top performer, for Liberty Mutual, that was 34 percent more effective than regular ads in the category. Two other Oprah ads, for Progressive Insurance, also scored in the top five most effective celebrity ads.

What may have helped boost the scores of the Oprah ads was the message delivered—all three spots talked about the dangers of texting and driving and did not aggressively push a specific brand product.

An Ed Burns iShare spot and a Carl Weathers Bud Light ad rounded out the top five most effective celebrity ads.