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Are celebrities losing their ad appeal?

As the advertising industry continues to evolve, the use of celebrities as brand ambassadors has become a popular and costly option for marketers. However, the question arises, are brands getting a return on their investment when it comes to using celebrities in their advertisements?

While familiarity may breed contempt, brands seem to believe that celebrities, often the same handful of them, can make a difference in their marketing campaigns. The Korean boyband BTS, for example, has become a staple in the world of advertising, with fans even creating a website dedicated to tracking all their endorsements. Similarly, in Hong Kong, the boyband Mirror has become so ubiquitous that a Facebook group called “My wife married Mirror and left my marriage in ruins” was created by husbands of the band’s fans, pleading with brands to stop using the band in their ads.

The overuse of celebrities in advertising has become a global phenomenon, with actors, singers, and even social media influencers becoming human billboards for hire. It’s not uncommon to see them plastered all over billboards, buses, and YouTube pre-roll ads. While the power of celebrity can certainly get brands noticed, the question is when does it become enough?

According to Kantar’s global ad-testing database, Link, celebrities are three times more likely to feature in ads in Asia than they are in other regions. Michael Patent, founder of Culture Group, believes that the same faces are often seen because they work. For instance, BTS, Jackson Wang, and Blackpink are proven to drive brand success. In Asia, where there is a lack of domestic sports stars, we are more likely to see the same faces from the music and entertainment industry than in western markets.

However, the question remains whether celebrities are worth the hefty price tag and whether brands always get a return on their investment, especially when a star is endorsing a number of brands. Cameron Stark, a partner at creative, branding, and design collective Hard Work Club, warns that if someone is the face of a number of competitive brands, the largest brand will benefit from the smaller brand’s advertising. Consumers may not always connect the communication to the right brand if someone is promoting a number of similar products. This is a big problem that is being ignored here. Brands may be advertising for their larger competition, rather than themselves.

Studies have shown that celebrity overexposure results in bad brand recall, with consumers unable to recall brands endorsed by celebrities due to overexposure. As a result, brands need to be careful when using celebrities and ensure that there is a true connection between the celebrity and the product they are endorsing. Authentic collaborations are crucial, as many consumers, particularly younger demographics, seek authenticity in who they follow and aspire to be like. Being labeled a “sellout” could be more of an issue than ever before.

From the brand perspective, it pays to be cautious of celebrities who are already associated with too many other brands. Pre-testing an ad throughout the creative development process is key to understanding how the target audience responds to a celebrity ambassador and flagging any issues early – before any contracts are signed.

As the advertising industry shifts from traditional endorsements towards collaborations, many celebrities are wising up to the potential mutual benefits of brand association. For example, Billie Eilish partnered with Dodge, utilizing ads for their vehicles to launch her own new music tracks, leading to an inspired two-way collaboration.

While celebrities can make a brand immediately relevant to an audience, brands need to be cautious of overusing them and ensure that there is a true connection between the celebrity and the product they are endorsing. Authentic collaborations are crucial, as consumers seek authenticity in who they follow and aspire to be like. Brands need to pre-test their ads throughout the creative development process to understand how their target audience responds to a celebrity ambassador and flag any issues early.

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