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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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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?

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.

Sophie Gilbert says:
26 January 2012

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

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?

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

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.

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.

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

I only make exceptions for Sandra Bullock…..

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

This is an old Convo that attracted little, and brief, interest. Do we not care when public figures use their status to persuade us to buy something, and particularly when they are a bit misleading.

Carol Vorderman tell us we should use Sun Life because they are not a newcomer. However, like many brands, they are not the Sun Life of 1810. They were taken over by AXA and then sold to Phoenix Group, with a variety of ownership in its history, . The implication that their experience and values set them apart from other companies seems to mislead when they are now controlled by others.

But do we care? Seemingly not.

It says a lot about the public figure when they get paid to endorse financial products that are never worth it and I especially dislike the one on releasing the equity in your home.

The one that really gets me is Phillip Schofield telling you to sell your car at rock bottom price with ‘We Buy Any Car’ although he suggests it is very little below what you would get anyway. He wouldn’t need the money, but very few people are that well off and will need the most they can get for their old cars.

You have probably seen Ian Botham advertising the Revitive. I bought one years ago before it was ever advertised. It now costs about 4 times what I paid for it. Is that the result of the cost of the celeb?

I take more notice of an advert with a squirrel in it, but I couldn’t tell you what it was advertising !!! 😬

Thank goodness for recordings and a fast-forward button.

Quite right, Alfa. Why should we take any notice of what millionaires recommend, especially when they have not done anything exceptional to acquire their wealth? Having said that, Baron Botham was pretty exceptional in his playing days but I don’t care a toot about what he says on TV.