Celebrity Endorsement in Advertising – Do Celebrities Promise Something Wrong?
In a capitalistic society, it is all about selling. Times are over when there was only one brand to buy. Nowadays, companies have to fight for attention for their products. A price war has emerged, and commercials are a part of it.
Advertising agencies shoot for different solutions to market their products. One of these options is using celebrities to endorse cosmetics, beverages, fashion, and much more. The goal hereby is as follows: If a celebrity—whom some people regard as a superior individual—uses a product, it has to be good for everybody else. Hence, consumers will buy.
The issue with this is that people believe celebrities, no matter what. Some still think that celebrities know more about life and what products to choose than the average person. Companies do not mind, because their use of celebrities boosts their sales. So is it ethical for a company to use a celebrity’s image to sell products, whether favorable or not, and to sometimes bend the truth by doing so?
A company which fully relies on celebrity endorsement is L’Oréal. The list of their female spokespeople is long: Eva Longoria, Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani, and Jennifer Lopez, just to name a few. According to commercials, these women use L’Oréal to look stunning on and off camera. But looking at their salary and knowing that most have a personal stylist, the chance is slim that they actually use the products. Their image of extreme beauty is used to sell make-up and hair products.
It is even worse when the company uses a celebrity to sell products that are unfavorable for the public, which happened with Paris Hilton’s commercial for Carls Jr. Burger. Even worse, Hilton was rolling around a car, using sex to sell the product. Her image—which involved sex after she became famous for a homemade sex tape—was used to sell fast food, which in no way can be seen as healthy for the general public.
Still, companies know that the image of the celebrity has to correspond with their own image. When Kate Moss, a British supermodel for numerous high-class brands, was caught doing cocaine in 2005, most of her advertisers laid her off, because they feared a bad reputation for their brand.
The commercial use of these celebrities shows that image is everything to a company. As long as the image of the celebrity is betrayed as good and favorable, companies do not mind using this for their advantage. It still comes clear that it seems wrong to use celebrities simply to boost sales, especially if they do not use the product, and to lay them off, if their image changes.
L’Oréal was founded in 1909 by Eugène Schueller. For years, the company has used spokespeople—(mostly female) celebrities of different ages—to advertise its products. Some of the most famous celebrities such as Beyonce or Gwen Stefani hold million dollar assets. Those wealthy celebrities try to persuade consumers to buy the products by claiming that they use them as well. However, many of these celebrities have their personal stylists, and considering their income, it seems rather implausible that they use low-priced L’Oréal products.
Apparently, L’Oréal uses celebrities’ image to sell their products, and it seems to be working. L’Oréal has a good reputation and is a highly selling brand. The question remains if this is due to the products’ quality or actually to the use of celebrity endorsement. No matter what the answer might be, L’Oréal is smart in choosing their spokespeople. All of them are beautiful without being snobby, and support a healthy and understanding female lifestyle. They are real role models for teenagers and adults alike.
However, not all brands seem to choose their spokespeople as wisely as L’Oréal. When Carls Jr. Burger used Paris Hilton, celebrity it-girl, in one of their commercials, the company intentionally used the society girl’s image. Hilton rolled around a car and used sex to sell a burger. Eventually the commercial was banned. Many people probably felt offended by the commercial, especially parents and old-fashioned people. The company and Hilton still seemed to have accomplished their goal. They both wanted more exposure and to get recognized, and the ad and its banishment has definitely helped with it.
There were two major problems with Hilton’s commercial: Portraying fast-food positively and using sex. Hilton, who is mostly admired by teenage girls, therefore is a bad role model. Fast-food as well as sex is not good to teenagers as well as the general public. Parents were probably outraged when they saw the ad for the first time.
Even if companies choose a celebrity who portrays a positive image, this can suddenly turn around. Kate Moss was one of the supermodels of the ‘90s. Although technically too short, Moss had something interesting and fascinating about her, and soon big companies were fighting to have her as their model. In 2005, the year of the cocaine scandal, Moss was working for H&M, Burberry, H Stern, and Chanel, just to name a few.
As a result of her drug addiction, Moss was fired from most of her advertisers. She was doomed as a bad representative of the brand and an even worse role model. But it was not all surprising that Kate Moss was not averse to taking drugs. In 2005, she dated Pete Doherty, front man of the British bands The Libertines and Babyshambles. Doherty was constantly in the news because of drug abuse. It was obvious that he was responsible for Moss’s inclining drug use.
Obviously, the companies feared a bad influence on their sales and reputation. They laid Moss off in order to protect their companies. Although able to claim that her private life should not intervene in her career, Moss understood that her addiction was a problem. She became clean and later separated from Doherty.
The celebrities involved in commercials mostly seem to do it for money. As long as the product coincides more or less with the celebrity’s image, it is easy made money. The companies use celebrities because they feel that this will sell their products better than just random commercials. Consumers’ opinion about celebrity endorsement is probably divided. People are happy to see known faces in ads, and sometimes those ads are especially funny. At the same time, consumers feel betrayed when the advertised product does not work the same as it apparently did on the celebrity in the spot.
According to the Celebrity Endorsement Survey, which conducted over 2019 respondents, only 3 % felt that their buying decision was influenced by celebrity endorsement. Only 22% believe that celebrities actually use the products they advertise. This survey could explain that celebrity endorsements are not very effective. Therefore, there seems no use in company’s use of celebrities. It might help the celebrities to gain more popularity, but it might not help the company in increasing sales.
Whether those commercials are ethically correct can be found out with the TARES test. In most of the commercials, there is some truth to the message. Mostly, the problem with those advertisements is not the truthfulness, but rather the authenticity of the persuader. Believing a celebrity who claims to use five dollar hair products is rather difficult. It is only authentic, if the celebrity fits the lifestyle of the product. Not all commercials show respect toward the viewer, as can be seen with Hilton’s commercial. Many outraged people resulted in the banning of the spot. Furthermore, most celebrity endorsements do not pass the equity part of the test. For example, L’Oréal’s commercials claim that their products can make everyone look like one of the celebrities, but even if a celebrity used one of the products, she would not look the same. The last part of the TARES, which talks about the social responsibility of ads, is not passed either. It does not help society if celebrities boost products simply to make money. Celebrity-including PSAs, on the other hand, would be very socially responsible. Overall, most celebrity ads fail the TARES test and are therefore ethically unacceptable.
So should companies use the image of a celebrity to sell their products? Surprisingly, the cocaine scandal even helped Moss with her career in the long run. After being laid off, she became more successful than before. The same happened to Paris Hilton, for whom bad publicity was always better than no publicity. Because L’Oréal is a prestigious brand, the celebrities’ career is not endangered; however, it is probably not favored either.
How is the influence on the companies’ image? Depending on the image of the celebrity, it can be good or bad. However, it mostly is negative, because celebrities advertise products they do not use. When costumers find out, they feel betrayed. Therefore, companies should be careful with which celebrities they choose. The celebrity should believe in the product instead of just endorsing it for money reasons. Furthermore, the company should not focus too much on which celebrity to use, but rather on how to endorse their products by offering the consumers something helpful and new. At the same time, consumers should act less naïve and look at such commercials critically to notice false promises. Companies, celebrities, and consumers are responsible for the outcome of a commercial, but it is up to the companies and the celebrities to make them more ethical.
- Quote paper
- Romina Müller (Author), 2011, Celebrity Endorsement in Advertising - Do Celebrities Promise Something Wrong?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/183823