The Dangers of the Homegrown Spokesperson

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While the benefits of hiring a celebrity spokesperson can be substantial to a company’s image and bottom line, the pitfalls of a rogue brand ambassador can be even more damaging and long-lasting. This is true regardless of whether the person was a public figure prior to fronting the product or service, or a homegrown spokesperson whose fame came as the result of starring in an ad campaign.

Such is the case of Jared Fogle, the longtime successful spokesperson for Subway, who was recently shown the door by the sandwich chain after criminal allegations concerning child pornography and sexual misconduct with minors came to light. Fogle pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison.

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Under the Influence: Celebrities in the Sales Process

“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement, and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.” –Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo, 1955–1984)

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Captain Kangaroo understood that parents are the “ultimate role models.” What he didn’t say was that for millions of us—three generations of kids—he was almost as influential as our own parents.

One of the most important attributes any person can possess is the ability to influence others. Certainly, influence is even more essential for anyone who works in sales, and its effect is magnified exponentially for any person who plays the spokesperson role in television ads.

But what dynamics make one spokesperson more influential than another? And how can these attributes be identified and evaluated in the context of a celebrity’s ability to truly resonate with the public?

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Today’s Top DR Brand Ambassadors

“If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”-General George S. Patton

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Today’s Top DR Brand Ambassadors

The InterMedia Entertainment (IME) Star Index® currently tracks nearly 1,000 celebrities who are either currently employed, or have the potential to act, as direct response advertising spokespeople. This issue, we concentrate on 25 celebrities who are working in DRTV today—people who represent a national brand and have appeared in television commercials in 2015.

The leading direct response advertising category for celebrity spokespeople is Financial Services, with six current advertisers. The associated products and services cover a broad spectrum of companies, ranging from reverse mortgages to payday loans. Other major categories employing brand ambassadors include Health and Beauty, Charity, Diet Products, Pain Relief, Nutraceutical Supplements, Insurance, and Senior Care.

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Scandal vs. Stability

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No doubt about it: Popularity is, and has always been, fleeting. This is particularly true in the entertainment field, where social media and the 24-hour news cycle can change public opinion so fast it would make Horace Greeley’s head spin. If you have any doubt, just ask Tiger Woods—the ultimate cautionary tale for sponsorship deals.

But how fleeting is popularity? And in the sphere of celebrity spokesperson selection, which types of celebrities are most resistant to, or most at risk for, quantum shifts in popularity?

InterMedia Entertainment (IME) launched the DR Star Index® in 2013 to evaluate and rank the advertising spokesperson potential of top personalities. The Index’s scores and rankings are based on public perceptions of these individuals in six key spokesperson attributes: Recognition, Trust, Influence, Likeability, Attractiveness, and Relevance. Analysis shows that Trust and Influence are the most critical in determining whether a specific celebrity has the potential to be effective in a spokesperson role.

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The Value of Experience

Morgan Freeman

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”—Mark Twain

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In a world defined by instant gratification, the conventional wisdom is that recency equals relevancy—that newer is better, and experience is secondary. This has become especially true with the explosion of social media, where saying it first often trumps getting it right.

So it is surprising that nonagenarian Betty White ranks highest in the most recent InterMedia DR Star Index®, especially since the Index surveys a proportional cross-section of U.S. adult consumers in which the population of the 18–34 demographic exceeds that of other, older age segments. White’s extreme popularity with young consumers of both genders, as well as with older groups, helps her attain a top ranking.

IME set out to determine whether White’s ranking and universal appeal is an anomaly based on singular circumstances, or part of a larger dynamic that could potentially be leveraged by companies seeking a nontraditional brand ambassador to represent their product or service. In other words, does a celebrity’s advanced age preclude him or her from effectively representing a brand targeted at consumers throughout the age spectrum, or can the perceived wisdom and perspective an individual achieves through experience trump the age gap?

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