Advertisers love that we love celebrities

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I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but it is pretty well documented: we are a society that is almost obsessed with “celebrities.” It doesn’t even matter if they are “crazy as a Betsy bug,” as my Grandma used to say (to this day I don’t know what a Betsy bug is). But I do know we like to watch “crazy” unfold right under our noses. As of this writing, who has been in the headlines on all the news shows for two weeks now? Does the name Charlie Sheen sound familiar to anyone? (Did he not learn anything from Mel Gibson about how a rant can and will impact your earning potential?)

As you all know by now, this year’s Oscars were relatively lackluster (And that’s not just my opinion. Viewership was down 12 percent this year from last.). Beyond the red carpet, celebrities, made their mark during the broadcast’s commercials. I know this because I work for The Nielsen Company, the leading market research company in the world and we track, measure and analyze trends and consumer behavior around the globe.

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Even though I am always fascinated by our behavior as consumers in all areas, and the conditions and trends that influence that behavior, I always especially love that which has to do with advertising. Because this is where you—Joe and Josephine Average Consumer—can most effectively wield your power. It is after all you who marketers and advertising agencies are trying to reach. It is your choice to purchase a product—or not. And, our love of all things celebrity-driven inspired this year’s prominent trend of celebrity ads.

For advertising Nielsen surveys a representative sample of TV viewers to obtain a “Recall Score,” which determines which brand of an ad that viewers were exposed to during a particular program can be recalled within 24 hours. According to Nielsen not only did brand recall for this year’s Oscars jump 9 percent over last year, those celebrity ads stood out. The strongest celebrity ad in terms of brand recall was the Best Buy’s Buy Back Program ad hyping 4G, 5G and 6G phones featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber. (Did you know that the old hippie-looking guy at the end was Bieber in disguise? Don’t feel bad, neither did I!)

According to the report, consumers also remembered the Venus razor spot featuring Jennifer Lopez singing, dancing and chasing her children on the beach. (What I remember is how amazing over-forty Jennifer looked! This ad inspired me to refresh my “If Jennifer Can Do It So Can I” New Year’s resolution to hit the gym more regularly. Originally inspired by Jennifer Hudson, I’m adding Lopez to my mantra too.) The American Cancer Society commercial featuring Celine Dion singing “Happy Birthday” was the sixth recalled spot. In the spirit of full disclosure, the most recalled ad was an M&M’s commercial where a robber threatens to eat the animated M&M during a convenience store holdup (but aren’t those little M&M guys sort of “celebrities,” too?).

Viewers might have actually recognized the Best Buy ad and Stella Artois beer spot (where Adrien Brody’s serenading of a beer moves women to tears) from their debut during this year’s Super Bowl broadcast (which, as you already know, was the most-watched U.S. telecast of all time, according to Nielsen ratings). Spokesperson Joan Rivers is responsible for GoDaddy.com being singled out as the company enjoying the largest increase in post-Super Bowl traffic of any other site—a 41 percent increase in U.S. visitors during the week following the game compared to the week before. That ad certainly raised awareness. I don’t know about you, but before Super Bowl XLV, I did not even know what GoDaddy was, which is exactly what advertisers hope for when shelling out the millions to produce and broadcast these commercials: awareness. Volkswagen and travel site HomeAway.com also saw double-digit gains (27 percent) in web traffic during the week following the game. Mercedes-Benz saw an increase of 9 percent in web visitors. Even FOX, which broadcast the Super Bowl, benefited with an 11 percent increase in traffic to its site following the game compared to the week before the annual “de facto TV watching American holiday.” So just when you think your guilty pleasure of tracking celebrities is no big deal…think again. For advertisers counting on celebrity spokespersons to peddle their products, it’s everything. You’re everything because you buy those products. So more power to you.

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