Do Brands Need Celebrity Ad Campaigns To Be More Effective?

Would you buy a product that your favorite cricketer enthusiastically recommends? If you answered yes, you are one among a million others who have been doing so since the 1800s. That’s right. The story goes that the first celebrity endorsement ever took place in 1760 when a pottery designer made tea sets endorsed by the Queen of England.

In 2019, 50% of brands in India feature celebrities compared to just 20% in the US, and is growing at an annual rate of 15-16%

Source  : TechSci Research

In India, brand marketing has leaned heavily on celebrity endorsements for a long time. Be it cricket or movies, we’ve had everyone from retail to telecom to service industries playing into the adoration of starstruck fans.

This has posed an interesting question – creativity vs. celebrity, which one’s better? Do you rely on your creative juices or on the magnetism of celebrities to attract consumers? The latter is, of course, the easier way out. And also, perhaps, more powerful in a country like India where movie stars and sports players are considered as gods.

Why celebrities increase the effectiveness of ad campaigns?


Traditionally, marrying the celebrity’s expertise to the product was considered to be most effective. It doesn’t seem to apply to Indian advertising, though. Virat Kohli can sell anything from tires to face washes, driving up sales simply on fan power. The audience associate their feelings towards a celebrity with the brands they endorse. The more adored the celebrity the more the intent to purchase.


That brings us to the second reason for the effectiveness of celebrities. Looks, familiarity, and likeability are the top reasons for consumers to buy celebrity-endorsed products.

Multiple mediums

Celebrity endorsements are powerful and effective because they function almost like a 360-degree marketing campaign. They are able to reach diverse audiences through multiple channels – television, social media, and traditional mediums like print and outdoor ads.

Brand equity and recall

Celebrities can add heft to a brand by strengthening recognition and recall. They enable brands to stand out and expand your audience base.

The overall brand value of the top 20 celebrities in 2020 is estimated at $1.0 billion

Source  Duff and Phelps Report

The risks of celebrity endorsement

There are two sides to everything, and celebrity endorsements are no different.

Reputation changes

Celebrities are humans, and humans are fallible. Tiger Woods is probably the most famous example of brand endorsements being derailed when his reputation went south. Woods was the brand ambassador for Gatorade, Accenture, and other well-known brands who ended their relationship with the golfer soon after reports of his infidelity came out.

Endorsing too many brands

Amitabh Bachchan endorses more than ten brands, and sometimes that can work adversely. When celebrities spread themselves thin, they lose credibility.

A gamble for brands

Unsurprisingly, celebrity endorsements cost a lot, and it’s a huge risk that brands take when they sign on a celebrity.

Changing brand trends today

Brands are increasingly moving away from roping in celebrities and repositioning products as being more accessible. One of the best examples of using real people in ad campaigns comes from Dove, which used compelling visuals and videos showcasing honest opinions. The chart-topping Real Beauty campaign’s wild success came from a mix of emotionally appealing storytelling and purpose-driven branding.

“Nothing is more efficient than creative advertising. Creative advertising is more memorable, longer lasting, works with less media spending, and builds a fan community…faster.”

– Stephan Vogel, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy, Germany

Source  HBR

Creativity vs. Celebrity

Does relying solely on creativity work? Stephan Vogel, Ogilvy Germany’s Chief Creative Officer, would agree. So does the HBR research that proved that creative campaigns were considerably effective. There’s more originality, uniqueness, and artistry involved in campaigns that were built on creativity.

Should you go with celebrities?

The decision to go with celebrity and influencer endorsements eventually depends on your budget and overall company goals. If you have the money for it, celebrities can enable wide brand reach within a short time. However, there’s no guarantee that the campaign would be successful. In India, though, celebrity endorsements win by a wide margin over good old creativity. Celebrities nudge out even mascots, according to a fairly recent study, when it comes to building trust and driving sales.

The bottom line? Focus on your audience. Creativity might be required to pull in a younger crowd, and celebrities might work for an older audience. Do your research, and you’ll know your path.


About the author:
Satyajeet Ratnaparkhi
Account Director & Head of Operations
Square One Communications LLP.

Satyajeet takes the lead as the Account Director and Head of Operations at Square One, bringing with him an expertise of 7+ years in the advertising industry.
He is avid movie buff, is extremely passionate about sports in general and winning games in particular.

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