Using celebrities in advertising campaigns has its ups and downs, according to this old marketing pamphlet I recently ran across, Profiting from Celebrity Presenters. It covers all kinds of celebrities, including actors and athletes, but I was most interested in what it had to say about the use of musical celebrities in advertising.
The pamphlet was published in 1978 by FCB, one of the oldest advertising firms in the US, because the use of celebrity endorsers was a major advertising trend in the 1970s; research firm Gallup & Robinson found that the use of celebrity endorsers increased by 71% from 1962-1979.
The FCB pamphlet was intended to help clients and employees anticipate and avoid the potential pitfalls of hiring celebrity spokespeople. It also provided some funny anecdotes about past ad campaigns involving famous folks.
The 32-page booklet was written by future novelist (and future Barnes & Noble creative director) Glenn Kaplan and gives an insider's view of the marketing industry as well as insights into audience attitudes toward musical pitchpeople:
Following a short-lived 1977 campaign for tractors, touted by country music stars, Prairie Farmer magazine conducted a survey among prospective tractor buyers. Although these consumers are fans of the singers used in the ads, 89.1% said that stars carried no influence whatsoever when it came to buying agricultural heavy equipment. Said one respondent, "Jimmy Dean and Ernie Ford don't give two hoops in a hailstorm about a farmer or the brands they promote."
|Tennessee Ernie for Massey Ferguson|
For example, the real-life Jimmy Dean was personally invested in the Jimmy Dean brand of breakfast sausage, since it's named after him, but that didn't prevent the company from
unceremoniously dropping him as a spokesman in 2004.
Dean was understandably unhappy about it. He said at the time, "The company told me that they were trying to attract the younger housewife, and they didn't think I was the one to do that. I think it's the dumbest thing, but you know, what do I know?" (Ironically, the company started using him in their television commercials again after he died.)
|Pat Boone for West Bend|
Pat crops up again in the chapter about government regulation, because his next advertising gig was for an acne medication called Acne-Statin, and it resulted in a landmark legal decision.
Pat—a man who seemingly never had acne in his life—claimed in the ads that his daughters used Acne-Statin to stay acne free. But it was all just a big pimply lie.
|Pat and Debbie Boone for Acne-Statin|
Profiting from Celebrity Presenters sees the silver lining in this ruling, noting that "this new hard line can only enhance the quality of celebrity commercials, giving them even more credibility with the public." I suppose that should give me more faith in the veracity of Dionne Warwick's commercials for the Psychic Friends Network.
The pamphlet concludes with an appendix of case studies: short accounts of advertising campaigns that featured celebrities such as Shirley Jones for Sunbeam; Flip Wilson for Sea & Ski; the Smothers Brothers, Bob & Ray, and Joan Rivers for California Prunes; Arthur Godfrey for Leisure World Retirement Community, etc.
In a refutation of the pamphlet, a newspaper clipping was folded up inside the copy I found. Written by Elizabeth Brenner for the February 22, 1981, edition of the Chicago Tribune, the article is "Marketing: Real people could outshine stars in ads."