Celebrity endorsements in ads and social media

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‘Whenever Samsung, Nokia, BlackBerry or any other smartphone company uses a celebrity to hawk their wares, tech bloggers immediately search for instances of that celebrity using an iPhone’ wrote BGR in an article titled, This is easily one of the most annoying things tech bloggers do. The article went on to say:

Often times, the celebrities paid to promote these products in a TV commercial, at an event or in some other advertisement don’t actually use the products they are promoting in their real lives. Shocking though it may be, this is how the world works.

True that. Everyone knows that the actor has been paid to do a job and does not believe that the same brand is likely to be used in real life. This is especially true of product categories & brands ‘below’ the strata of the celebrity. No one is likely to believe that Priyanka Chopra would ride a scooter in real life or that Saif Ali Khan would wear the brand of inner wear he advertises. But there is a difference between traditional advertising as we know it and new media.

On social media, the celebrity is not usually playing a role – at least that’s the common perception. A celebrity’s Twitter stream is meant to be a peek into his or her personal life. So when brands like Samsung get celebrities to tweet about a brand activity followed by general folks discovering that it was not a genuine act, it does strike a jarring note. Imagine a celebrity tweeting about the need to conserve water because many under-privileged kids go without drinking water. People would appreciate his outlook. But if he were to be caught doing exactly the opposite in his personal life, he would be caught out and mocked for not practicing what he preaches. In today’s age, the lines between advertising and other brand content are blurring. A ‘Galaxy11′ campaign where a bevy of football stars come together may have an advertising component but its all played out on digital & social media. It is brand content which has a little bit more credibility than traditional advertising. In that context, tech bloggers mocking celebrities for not using the brand they promote is natural, in my opinion.


photo credit: nan palmero via photopin cc

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  1. Traditional media advertising/promotion is a monologue. Social media is a conversation. So, celebrities using social media for advertising a product for a fee (not that there’s anything wrong with it) will be asked questions and their double-speak’ish behavior questioned if they are found to be using a rival product.

    A celebrity endorsing a car brand in print and TV and using another car brand in real life is very possible. But connecting them may not be that easy unless someone mashes up both and present it in… well, social media. So, the discussion around the celeb’s double-speak happens away from the main medium the communication from the brand happens. On social media, all happen in the same platform/medium, almost next to each other.

    Is this wrong? Of course not – it is an evolution. I don’t agree with your conjecture that a “celebrity’s Twitter stream is meant to be a peek into his or her personal life.”. Things may not be that linear – things are evolving. Most celebs on Twitter in the US have started using that stream as yet another way to monetise their celebritydom and since they own the stream, they mix it up with paid plugs and personal observations. They obviously cannot do that with conventional media since they don’t own it in the first place.

    Ideally, merely the platform/mode of communication (traditional media vs. new media) does not offer any difference. It is the usage by the celebrity that offers a difference.

    So, a brand that chooses a celebrity appropriately (an off-roader car brand picking an actor who actually likes off-roading and talks about it in interviews) may be really talking his/her love for off-roading in print and TVCs too, and endorsing the brand.

    For a non-connect brand that wishes to merely use the celeb’s reach, things can get muddled, offline or online and the only cover is that they are paid to endorse the brand. That… may happen anywhere, traditional media or new media, with the only difference being that in the latter, people will have their say too, usually appended to the paid spot to offer other readers some additional perspective.

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