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Product endorsement – do you trust celebrity salespeople?

Katie Price advertising Snickers bar by Mars

Do you like Snickers? Well, after this week I know that Katie Price and Rio Ferdinand do, because they’ve been paid by the company to tweet about it. It seems like a bit of fun, but can celebrity endorsement go too far?

I don’t think I’m more likely to buy something because a celebrity likes it. But then perhaps I’m naive – after all, I’d buy something on the recommendation of a friend, so why not a famous person who I trust and admire?

Celebrity endorsement has been around for a while – even Charlie Chaplin attached his name to things in exchange for cash. And if I’m honest, I suspect it wouldn’t be done if it didn’t make money for the company.

From chocolate to cash

Of course it’s easy to say that it doesn’t really matter – after all, a chocolate bar isn’t a massive investment. But it’s not just chocolate bars.

We recently shone a spotlight on over-50s plans; financial products designed to pay out a lump sum to your estate when you die. Our investigation showed over-50s plans to be really poor value, and not the sort of product any Which? staff would want to endorse. But Michael Parkinson does – and so does Gloria Hunniford.

Under-50? No problem. You might want to take out a secured personal loan with FirstPlus, as recommended by Carol Vorderman. (Note: we don’t actually recommend you do this – secured loans can be very risky and were on our 2010 list of top 10 useless financial products). Oh, and FirstPlus had a whopping 86% of PPI mis-selling claims against them upheld by the Financial Ombudsman in the first six months of 2011.

Or if you’re claiming PPI back, and you’d like to use a claims management company (something else we’d advise against) then who better than to recommend one than former professional boxer Joe Calzaghe?

Don’t blind me with glamour

I used to work in sales (boo, hiss) and I was always taught to pitch the customer both a feature of the product and a benefit: ‘Buy this because it does X, and that means you can do Y.’ But by telling a customer the product is also endorsed by a celebrity, you’re telling them nothing more about the product – just giving them a friendly face to sit alongside it.

The idea is that the more a customer can identify with the celeb, the more likely they are to buy the product. Which is fine when it’s a bar of chocolate, but when it’s a huge financial risk it just seems crass.

I think less of companies that need to attach their product to a famous face. It might get you some exposure (in the case of Snickers, whose brand name I’ve been irritatingly compelled to mention) but when it’s something potentially life-changing, I’d want it to be sold on merit.

Tell the customer about your product – sell your product. But don’t use celebrity endorsement to attach some fake feeling of trust or identity. I’m sorry, but unless Johnny Depp is going to come round to my house and sign the paperwork himself, sticking him on your ad seems at best irrelevant and at worst manipulative.

What do you think? Are there any celebrities you’d trust to endorse products or, like me, are you sceptical of ads with added glamour?

Do you trust celebrity salespeople to endorse products?

No - I'm sceptical of products backed by celebrities (93%, 201 Votes)

Maybe - it depends on the celebrity (6%, 14 Votes)

Yes - a celebrity endorsement tells me it's a good product (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 216

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Comments
Profile photo of tpoots
Member

I can’t say that I approve of this Snickers campaign. I think it’s very cheeky paying celebs to promote your product, with the only sign being a ‘#spon’ hashtag. Such a vague hashtag doesn’t really confirm that it’s an ad…does it?

Profile photo of Nikki Whiteman
Member

I thought it was pretty clear as there’s a picture of them with the bar as a payoff, and it’s just … too cheesy to not be an advert. But then perhaps I’m so used to chasing this sort of stuff that I find it easier to spot the ads from the genuine jokes.

Twitter geek alert: I suspect they were hoping that lots of other people would join in and start doing ‘out of character’ tweets followed by a ‘Snickers’ payoff – i.e. if celebs started doing it, and the concept was good enough, individuals would start doing it too. As evidenced by the launch of a competition on their account recently – “tell us about your hungry alter-ego and win a case of snickers”. It’s a nice idea, and a fun concept, but it hasn’t had nearly the success that I think they were hoping for. They’ve only got 800-odd followers for the account!

Profile photo of tpoots
Member

Hmm, cheesy it may be but this is Katie Price that we are talking about! The evidence does stack up to say it’s a blatant advert but still, twitter is a place where people often share photos of their food – would a snickers bar pic really look that out of place?

In regards to celeb endorsements on a whole, I do understand why businesses do it – they can reach out to existing fans and also, on some deep psychological level, I image putting a face to a brand bribes consumers to buy the product.

Member
Sophie Gilbert says:
26 January 2012

Celebrities used to endorse cigarettes, that’s how sceptical we should be of ads with added glamour.

Profile photo of frugal ways
Member

Buzz marketing is illegal, if any recommendation is made the law states that any payment – for example – must be pointed out, which I’d guess would be almost impossible in a tweet?

My favourite game at the moment is during our afternoon play with the two year old, we have the music channels on, spotting endorsements in the videos.
In one lady gag video, we spotted product placement for roofboxes, laptops, portable music players and sunglasses. It was as if the suits knew it was going to be a hit and mega promoted, so got together a collection of products and endorsements and built the music video around them.

For celebrity I read complete trash, why anyone would buy a product just because a “celeb” has or uses one god only knows. Marketing is king and until the official body taxpayer’s are shelling out for gets a grip of it, it will remain the same way.
I’d also like to see these same “celebs” get a backbone and some scruples.
Do they not realise they lose all credibility when they campaign against say, supermarket practices, then appear in the same supermarket’s adverts?

Profile photo of Nikki Whiteman
Member

Good point on buzz marketing, frugal ways (although ‘buzz’ and ‘word of mouth’ marketing are often confused – the latter’s not illegal and there’s a vibrant ‘word of mouth’ marketing community in the UK. They have their own code of ethics, though, http://wommauk.org/index.php/word-of-mouth-code-of-ethics.html and I would imagine that it includes things such as openness. It would certainly reflect really poorly on the brands if they weren’t open about what they were doing!)

The tweets from katie price indicated payment by including the hashtag ‘#spon’ in the final Snickers tweet – this is supposed to denote that the tweet was sponsored, but would everyone grasp this? Perhaps not.

Agree with you about the scruples – I wouldn’t think any better of a business that used a celeb, but I would think more highly of a celeb who *refused* to endorse a product or service they didn’t agree with.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I detest hero worshiip and dislike most celebrities. I have a distrust of advertising and generally try to avoid anything promoted by celebrities.

Profile photo of Nikki Whiteman
Member

Interesting updates in the Snickers campaign – it appears others agree with you, frugal ways, that it wasn’t clear in the Katie Price and Rio Ferdinand tweets that they were being paid for promoting a product. The Advertising Standards Authority is investigating the campaign to see whether it should have been made clearer.

This, from an ASA statement:

“We are investigating two points: (a) whether it should have been stated in the ‘teaser’ tweets that they were marketing communications and (b) whether the hashtag “#spon” in the final ‘reveal’ tweet made it clear enough that that tweet was a marketing communication.”

I’ll keep an eye on this as I think it’s really interesting. If it does breach advertising codes it could mean the end of other campaigns like this – if it doesn’t then I suspect we could see even more celebs tweeting for cash.

Profile photo of frugal ways
Member

For once it seems that an official body has stepped up to the mark with a quick response, genuinely ignoring the “not enough complaints” syndrome that’s endemic in our regulatory bodies, however, I will reserve judgement until the ASA reports back, as in the past they have often taken months to do anything and they are often powerless to act (cannot believe this is deemed acceptable by those in power – but that’s another battle)

I hope the ASA are aware of the “child” aspect of celebrity endorsements, I’d wager that most children aren’t even aware that individual “celebs” don’t write their own tweets/facebook etc.

As Ian Hislop has already said, “We don’t need more regulation, we just need to enforce the laws we already have in place” if the ASA rule against in this case, then I would hope real action is forthcoming, which will deter others from following the same path.

Profile photo of Lucy Widenka
Member

This is a real bug bear of mine! Some celeb endorsements (like the snickers one) are more of an irritant though for me personally than anything else, it’s the other sorts of endorsement that I think are more troubling. Particularly with someone like Michael Parkinson – a ‘national treasure’ whom people no doubt have a lot of respect for and an intrinsic trust, however justified or not that might be. I’d like to know how much he looked into the detail of the over 50s plan he advertises? Who advises him on the sorts of things he should endorse? Our investigation revealed that these plans are inflexible and, for the majority of customers, they will pay out far less than has been paid into them. People would be better off paying into an ISA. Making a decision about your finances when you are heading for retirement is massively important and making that choice could mean the difference between living comfortably and being short-changed.

Profile photo of srh1957
Member

A “celeb” advertising anything usually puts me off the product.

I only make exceptions for Sandra Bullock…..

Profile photo of Charlotte Fitzgerald
Member

An interesting example has arisen today on this issue involving tweets from some famous footballers and Nike. A piece in Marketing Week reports: ‘The Advertising Standards Authority says the sports brand did not make it clear that the tweets were part of a marketing campaign.’ Full story here: http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/news/nike-given-red-card-for-rooney-tweets/4002286.article